Title: The Slow PathAuthor: stolendreams
Warnings: None really
Spoilers: Up to 'Captain Jack Harkness' for Torchwood and the Doctor Who episode 'Aliens of London'
Summary: Owen can't open the rift; Jack and Tosh are left to find their own way back.
AN: With thanks to my grandfather for his description of dancing in the middle of the main road on VE day. And lots of love to my betas Shaz and Jo. This story takes place after the events of CJH but assumes that the Jack/Jack relationship went no further than the hand holding scene.
Written for the twdwficathon, request was for Jack/Tosh, with some mention of the doctor and some good dialogue.
They share a room because that's what couples do. They share a bed because she needs him to hold her and keep her safe. The elderly couple who are letting them have the room for the night have the room right next door, so Tosh buries her head in Jack's shoulder to muffle her sobs. It's 1941, she hasn't been born yet, she's sharing a bed with a man whose real name she doesn't know and she's never been more lost in all her life. And yet she's safe, she's with the Captain.
"I think I worked it out," Jack announces, striding through the door.
Tosh's head snaps up immediately from the equations she's scribbling on a piece of paper. Three days and all she's come up with are a thousand different ways to prove that no matter how hard you try you can't divide by zero, she has a hunch that attempting to open the rift with an equation that involves dividing by zero will end in the universe imploding. Three days of working out new ways to end the universe and he strides in saying he's worked it out? But one look at his eyes and she realises that's not what he meant at all.
"We'll move just outside Cardiff," he says. "I can get a job in a factory. I'm not going to actively fight this war again, I've done it too many times, I can fake a disability of some kind, maybe I'll develop a limp. We'll get you a job in a school, you can teach math to kids, not as high paid as your old jobs but it'll do. We'll get married before we move, we can blend in, get ourselves a small house, act like any other couple."
Tosh waits until he's finished. She waits until his whole plan is laid out before her before she says anything. Then very quietly she stands and puts her pen down next to her useless equations.
"It's been three days Jack. You might be happy to give up and settle down but I'm not. I have a family and a life back home. I don't want to be Mrs Harkness, or Harper, or whatever it is you're calling yourself today. I don't want to teach children how to count to ten. I want to go home, go back to my life."
She watches his face as he talks, watches the smile fade; and her heart breaks a little as she realises he's just as lost as she is. But she doesn't allow herself to tell him its okay, because it's really not, instead she shuts herself in the bedroom and stays there for the rest of the day. When night falls he slips into bed with her.
"I'm sorry," he says softly.
"I know," she says quietly, "me too."
"We'll wait a while," he says, "but we can't wait forever, even in a city we stick out. We can't afford to draw attention to ourselves."
She lets him reach out and pull her into his arms, and rests her head on his chest. "I'm scared," she admits.
"I'll take care of you," is his reply. It's the same thing he's been saying for days but somehow in the darkness, with the images of the useless equations hovering in her mind, it's the most comforting thing she's ever heard.
"I can't do it," she admits. Two days have passed. Two days in which she's found fifteen different ways to make the universe implode and one which she thinks will leave the universe intact but make her and Jack explode.
Jack stares at her for a long moment and then nods. He strips his RAF greatcoat off and folds it on the table.
"Find a box to put it in, I don't want to lose it," is all he says before he disappears out of the door.
Two hours later he's back with an odd expression on his face, half amusement, half sorrow. Just as she's about to ask him what's going on he drops to one knee in front of her and holds out a ring.
"Toshiko Sato, will you marry me?"
She can't help it, she giggles. The sight of her Captain kneeling in front of her holding out an engagement ring and seriously proposing to her is so unexpected that she can think of no other way to react. He grins too, the half sorrow in his eyes disappearing temporarily behind the amusement.
"You know, if I'd known you were going to propose when you hired me I would have been ecstatic," she laughs.
"Still waiting for an answer," he points out.
"Yes," she tells him and allows him to slip the ring on her finger. "But if there are any secrets bigger than the time-travelling and name-stealing thing you have to tell me."
All she gets in response is a wide grin, before he jumps to his feet and lifts her off the ground, spinning her round and laughing.
They marry and he moves them to a small town, barely more than a village really. Tosh never asks him how he does it, but somehow he finds them a perfect little house and manages to pay for it. He follows his plan, almost to the letter, and gets himself a job in a factory. She's relieved when he doesn't develop a limp though, she's not convinced she could spend the next few years watching him fake limp everywhere.
She gets a job in a school, just like he suggested. She teaches seven year olds everything from times tables to grammar and punctuation. It turns out Jack was right, it is the perfect way to blend in. After a few weeks at the school she stops being 'the Asian woman' and just becomes Mrs Harkness from the school.
Before Pearl Harbour things are starting to fall into place. She's the young Asian woman who teaches at the school and he's the handsome American who was injured flying for the RAF and now works in a factory. They go to church every Sunday, hold hands and smile and laugh when they're together in public, from the outside they're the perfect couple. In reality it isn't bad. Tosh isn't in love with him, and he isn't in love with her, but she does love him. It might not be the stuff that fairytales are made of, but it could be a lot worse.
Then Sunday, December 7th dawns and her whole world shatters. Monday morning the older children scream insults at her, by Monday afternoon the little ones are copying them. On her way home people she usually talks to turn away as though she is invisible. One teenage boy throws stones at her until she is forced to run the rest of the way home.
Jack doesn't get home for another two hours; she spots him walking up the road and opens the door to greet him. They've been doing it for a couple of months now, she meets him halfway up the road and they walk home together, holding hands and keeping up the act for the neighbours. Today, when she takes hold of his hand though, she hangs on tighter than usual, feeling his reassuring strength beside her. They've almost made it home, they're almost safe and then suddenly a male voice stops them. It's the teenage boy from earlier.
"You're American aren't you?" the boy asks Jack. Jack nods but doesn't answer, she can feel the tension in him, he knows trouble's coming.
"What are you doing with a Jap then?" the boy asks. "Didn't you hear the news?"
Jack squeezes her hand a little and then lets go, instead sliding his arm around her shoulders. He turns her away, guiding her safely towards the front door, aside from the protective way he's holding her close and the kiss he presses into her hair it's as though the boy hasn't spoken. Inside he shuts the door and gently turns her to face him, studying her to see her reaction.
Acting purely on impulse, she pulls his head downwards, meeting his mouth with hers. For a moment she sees surprise in his eyes, and then it's gone and he's in control again. His lips part, tongue exploring her mouth. She presses closer, one hand tangling in his hair while the other fumbles with his belt buckle. He pulls back without warning.
"You sure?" he asks.
In response she kisses him again, but before she can get his belt buckle undone he pulls her hand away and does it himself, guiding her to the bedroom with his other hand on her back, unzipping her dress. The dress is abadoned in the doorway of the bedroom, his trousers are not far behind.
Afterwards, they lie side by side on a bed which, until that moment, had never been used for anything but sleeping in.
"Owen owes me fifty pounds," she says suddenly and giggles.
Jack raises his head at that and stares at her in a mixture of amusement and disbelief. "You're thinking about Owen? Now?"
She giggles again, "No, I'm thinking that you're definitely not gay."
"What does me being gay, or not as the case may be, have to do with Owen?" Jack is looking more confused by the minute and slightly worried too.
"We had a bet," she explains. "He said you were gay."
"Oh, and what did you have your money on?" Jack asks, the worried look has gone, replaced by amusement.
"That you'd fuck anything gorgeous enough," she says with a grin.
After Pearl Harbour nothing is quite the same. For one thing she's having sex with Jack, and for another nobody ever looks at her or talks to her quite the same again. Time passes, the way it always does, except that she stops counting the days, weeks and months since they got stuck here. It's easier not to know, just like it's easier to forget that she'll be nearing a hundred years old by the time they get back to the 21st century.
8th May 1945 arrives and, even though she knew the war would end, she still finds herself just as happy and excited as everyone else. Jack takes her out, insisting that she lived through the war so she has to celebrate victory. He holds her hand and kisses her right in the middle of the street, people stare but she doesn't care, the war is over in Europe and in three months Japan will be defeated too.
People are dancing in the middle of the street outside the shops and Jack pulls her into the middle of it. Out of the corner of her eye she catches women staring at them, they're making up the steps as they go along, she's Japanese and he's American, but it's not for any of those reasons. They're jealous because she's the one the handsome young American is dancing with.
He spots a photographer and makes sure to get their photo taken, they both grin for the camera and hope that Owen, Ianto or Gwen will find it and understand that they survived the war.
"You haven't aged."
She hadn't exactly meant to say it like that, only it's 1948 and he doesn't look a day older than when they arrived. She on the other hand has clearly aged. She can see it in the mirror, and even more obviously when she looks at the little black and white photo of them that someone took in their first few months here.
"I thought..." she trails off, not really sure what she'd thought,"you said you'd been here, in this time, before, but I thought you meant some kind of time travel. You've been alive over sixty years?"
"Longer," he replies, his eyes challenging her to push further.
"I don't know. It's complicated."
He's got that closed off look in his eyes again. The look that tells her that there's hurt hidden below the surface that he's not prepared to reveal. She knows he won't open up until he's ready, knows him well enough by now to know that pushing him will get her nowhere. But there's a thin golden band on her finger reminding her that his secrets shouldn't stay secret from her, and a picture in her hand that clearly demonstrates they have.
"You married me Jack. I don't care if it was convenience, you said the vows and you promised you'd take care of me. Now what? Ten years time you start introducing me as your mother? Twenty years time you switch to grandmother? When were you going to tell me? I know you like to have your secrets, but it's not just about you anymore Jack. You promised to take care of me, you married me and you couldn't even tell me you were never going to get any older."
Tears streaming down her face, she shoves the photo into his hands and walks out of the door.
He finds her two hours later sitting watching the river. He presses a kiss to her forehead before dropping down to sit beside her in the grass, she notices he's wearing his RAF greatcoat again and has a bag slung over his shoulder.
"Last time I was in the 1940's I lived through all of it, I flew for the RAF. The time before that was just a quick visit, that was when I took his name."
Tosh almost opens her mouth to protest that she hadn't asked about last time or the time before, except he's sharing and maybe he's not exactly answering her questions but it's a start. So she keeps quiet and waits to see if there's more to come.
"When I took his name I was trying to con someone. That was when I met The Doctor and it all went a little wrong."
"You met The Doctor?" Tosh blurts out, even though she'd been going to keep quiet and let him finish his story.
"So did you," he smiles. Before she can think of a reply to that he's grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet, "come on, we need to walk."
"What?" It's the only thing she can think of to say.
"Walk. We need to walk. This direction."
Jack pulls her along by her hand, the barely concealed excitement on his face worries her but she's too confused to worry about where he's taking her, "I haven't met The Doctor. I'd remember that, unless..." she trails off as the pieces fall into place. "You retconned me?" She attempts to pull her hand out of his but he holds on and keeps walking.
"No, of course not. Torchwood One retconned you. I read the file and realised they should have hired you."
"But why don't I remember? I've heard about The Doctor lots since I joined Torchwood shouldn't something have tripped my memories? Gwen remembers everything we wiped from her mind."
"Because you need the right event to trip your memories. Suzie talking about the glove and the gun and then shooting herself was what Gwen's brain needed. You... well I'd probably have to find a pig and crash some kind of spacecraft into the Thames. We can try it if you want, but it might get a bit complicated."
He's still pulling her along, practically jogging now, and glancing at his wristcom constantly. Tosh tries to form a reply, tries to understand what pigs and the River Thames could possibly have to do with The Doctor, or with her for that matter, but it's hard to think when she's being dragged along so quickly. "Jack!"
"Nearly there," he says as though she's supposed to know where 'there' is or why they are going there.
"There," he stops and points. Tosh has to look twice before she's convinced she's seeing what she thinks she's seeing.
"There's a door," she eventually says
"In the middle of the field."
"Eddies in the space time continuum."
Before she can think of anything else to say Jack is pulling her forward again, throwing open the door and dragging her through it.
Tosh stops dead on the other side of the door. She hadn't exactly had time to work out what was going on, but she'd sort of assumed that on the other side of the door they'd still be in the same field. Only they're not. They're standing in the middle of a street. Jack is grinning at her, looking ridiculously proud of himself.
"I was hoping for something a little closer," he tells her, glancing around himself, "but it's better than nothing. Welcome to 1972"
"1972?" Tosh is aware that it's the fifth time she's asked in the past half hour but she can't quite get her head round it yet.
"You know you're supposed to be the clever one, good thing I didn't bring Owen, his brain would have melted."
"So, there was an eddie in the space time continuum which caused the door to appear in the middle of the field, and going through that door landed us in 1972?"
"Exactly. Owen wouldn't have been as much fun at night either."
"Owen hasn't been born yet," Tosh points out, only half listening. "An eddie in the space time continuum?"
"A small localised temporal disturbance."
"A mini rift?"
"It's not tied to a specific place."
"So a mobile mini rift?"
"More or less."
"So you knew this was going to happen?" Tosh asks, deciding not to pursue the issue.
"No, I've been scanning for other temporal disturbances since we got here, that one only popped up about five minutes before I came to get you. Didn't really have time to explain it all to you, it wasn't going to last long."
"But you knew going through the door would bring us here?"
"More or less."
It isn't really an answer, but she's too stunned still to take much notice. He hands over the bag he's been carrying, stored neatly there is her laptop, their mobile phones and a couple of books that Jack has picked up over the last few years. He's been ready and waiting for this moment. She smiles and lets him pull her to her feet and lead her down the road. She doesn't know if they're even still in Cardiff but they're a hell of a lot closer to the twenty first century than they were an hour ago and that's enough for her.
"I was born in the future," he tells her one Saturday morning.
"So was I Jack," Tosh reminds him, barely listening, concentrating instead on scanning the paper for a job opening that might be good for her.
"No, I mean your future. The 51st century."
That stops her in her tracks, she stares at him but there's no smile, he's not joking with her. This is real.
"How did you end up here?"
"It's complicated; I travelled in time a lot."
"So that's why you don't know how old you are?" She gets only a nod in reply.
Jack finds her another job teaching school children, he fakes her references, her birth certificate, even forges them a new marriage certificate so that it looks as though they were married in 1965.
He keeps them in a small town outside Cardiff, desperate not to stray too far away from the rift, but equally wary about what will happen if he accidentally runs into himself. Tosh is already dreading how much more complicated it will get when she herself moves to Cardiff in thirty years.
By 1977, the year of The Queen's Silver Jubilee, Tosh starts to see signs of ageing every time she looks in the mirror. Every night Jack kisses her and tells her how beautiful she is. She presses her body to his and tries to pretend that she is like him, that her body hasn't changed since their first night.
June arrives and he insists on them taking part in the street party that's being thrown for the Silver Jubilee. She dances with him again, this time there are no exact steps to worry about, just people laughing and dancing any way they want too. After a while a young woman asks Jack to dance. The woman is beautiful, blonde hair, skinny, at least twenty years younger than Toshiko. She's not stupid, she can see the look in Jack's eyes as he takes in the woman, so she nudges his arm and tells him to go. No matter what, she knows it's her he'll be with come nightfall. Jack is a flirt, but their marriage isn't just convenience anymore, there's something more. It might not be the love of fairytales, but it's so much more than the simple friendship they started with.
Before the party ends she makes sure they are both caught on camera together. She doesn't know if anyone will find it, but she hopes they will and that maybe it'll remind them to keep working on getting them back.
By 1980 there's no escaping the fact that she's ageing and Jack isn't, they don't have long before people start to notice that the American RAF captain doesn't look a day older than when he moved in eight years ago. They can't go far from Cardiff, they need to be nearby just in case something happens with the rift and gives them the opportunity to get back where they belong. They also can't go to Cardiff since Jack himself is currently working for Torchwood Three and Jack assures her that running into yourself at an earlier point on your timeline can damage the time line, not to mention cause all kinds of confusion.
Instead they move to another small town. Another place that neither of them have any memory of ever visiting. Tosh is starting to think that by the time this is over she will have lived in all the towns and villages within a ten mile radius of Cardiff.
She gets herself a job at the local school again, a tiny part of her worries that she's forgotten how to do anything more complicated than her times tables, but after fifteen years it seems too complicated to have to fake yet more references and qualifications just so she can do a different job. Jack forges himself yet another birth certificate so that his age matches his appearance and gets himself another office job.
Three years later she's given up hope of finding another way to jump through time. She doesn't celebrate her fiftieth birthday, anymore than she has celebrated any of her other birthdays, but that doesn't mean she's forgotten.
"We have to move," she tells Jack, "we're going to start again; I'll say you're my nephew or something."
Jack nods and doesn't argue. Two week later he's found them a new town, a new school for her, a new office job for him, and their latest marriage certificate, the one that claims they were married in 1968, is stored carefully with her laptop and the other marriage and birth certificates.
Their last night in that house is their last night together. Tosh has a feeling Jack would continue to sleep with her for as long as she wanted, but she doesn't want that. He's still perfect and she's not. Half the women in town would throw themselves at him if they thought he was single, she's seen the way he looks at them and she won't hold him back. His apologies for not getting her out sooner, while she attempts to commit every part of him to memory. Tomorrow they will take off their wedding rings, she will wear them on a chain round her neck and they will start yet another life.
Jack buys them tickets for Live Aid, insisting it's an event that she shouldn't miss. She nearly points out that rock concerts weren't really her thing even when she was young and in her own time period, but his smile persuades her to give it a try. In the anonymity of the crowd he stands behind her and slips his arms around her waist, they sway in time to Sting singing Every Breath You Take.
They make sure to be photographed as much as possible, a tiny part of Tosh worries that Owen will think that since they've made it to 1985 he might as well give up and leave them to live the next twenty years, but she smiles for the camera and hopes that Ianto will talk sense into him.
In 1993 she turns sixty, it's also ten years since she and Jack stopped being husband and wife and became aunt and nephew. They've moved again, another town where nobody will know that Jack hasn't aged. Jack marks the day with a simple bouquet of flowers. She fingers the wedding rings still hanging around her neck and realises that the only way they're going to make it back to 2008 is by living out the next fifteen years.
She retires from the fifth school she's taught at in 1998. Ten years to go until she's back where she started and a decade has never seemed like such a long time.
The millennium arrives and Jack insists they attend the party being thrown in the town. She stands and watches people celebrate the coming of the new millennium and wishes they knew what the next few years will bring. She has a feeling that they wouldn't be laughing or joking quite so much if they knew that within the next few years the country will go to war.
When Jack finds a newspaper photographer to take their photo she tries her best to look like she's having the time of her life.
When 2008 arrives she is seventy four years old and has started claiming to be Jack's great aunt. Two days after they would have gone to the dancehall Jack takes her hand and they walk side by side to the millennium centre. Somehow she hadn't been able to face going there on the exact same day they disappeared. She still worries about how they will react to her, it's alright for Jack, physically he hasn't changed.
She is about to head for the entrance to the office, but Jack leads her to the invisible lift with a grin.
"We're going to make a grand entrance," he explains, then without warning reaches around behind her and unfastens the chain that their wedding rings are hanging from. He slips his back on his finger and helps her to do the same. "We've been married forty-two years, why hide it from them?" he asks.
He presses a button on his wristcom and the familiar sound of the motor underneath them kicks in, his arm slides around her waist as the lift starts to descend and she finds herself leaning into him, trusting him not to let her fall.
If it wasn't for the guns being pointed at them, the reaction to their arrival would have been funny. It takes three gentle reminders from Jack before Owen finally lowers his gun, Ianto's and Gwen's went down the second Jack smiled at them. They all look just as they did in her memories, forty years of thinking about them and having photos taken for them and praying that they'll work something out has left her memories of them clearer than she thought possible. Although she's fairly certain that Ianto didn't have quite so many bruises when they went away, and that Owen's arm wasn't in a sling.
The stunned silence lasts for too long, Jack's grinning, clearly waiting for one of the others to say something. Gwen looks as though she may faint. Ianto keeps opening his mouth to say something, then thinking better of it and closing it again. Owen can't take his eyes off her.
"What happened to you two?" she asks after a moment, indicating Owen and Ianto.
Gwen, Owen and Ianto all stare at her as though she's insane and then, without warning, burst out laughing. She's relieved to see that Jack looks as confused as she does. Still laughing Gwen steps forwards and throws her arms around Jack. Ianto steps forwards and holds his hands out to Tosh, helping her down from the platform with a smile.
Out of the corner of her eye she realises that something is different. It doesn't take her long to work out what; a huge board has been set up on one side of the Hub. It's been covered in pictures, notes, newspaper articles and print-outs. Stepping closer she realises that every single it is about her and Jack. There's every single one of the photos she remembers posing for, plus a lot that she doesn't remember being taken, a copy of their marriage certificate is up there, a newspaper article about the school she was working at in 1975 that included her name.
She doesn't have to look to know that the hand that lands on her shoulder is Jack's. She reaches up to cover it with her own, feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work that Ianto, Owen and Gwen must have put in over the last two days to gather all the information.
"So, Owen, what happened to your arm?" Jack asks after a moment. "Myfanwy get a taste for doctors again?"
"Your bloody tea boy tried to kill me," Owen replies, scowling in Ianto's direction.
"How many times do I have to say it?" Ianto replies. "If I was trying to kill you I'd have been aiming for your head, not your shoulder."
"You're just a crap shot is all."
"I'm better than you!"
"And to think you actually missed this," Jack whispers in her ear. Tosh just smiles, watching Ianto and Owen launching into an argument that they have clearly had several times over the last two days.