Disclaimer: Not mine, sadly, because I can think of many things I would love to do with Capt'n Jack…

Summary: It had only been a day, one day, not a year, not that year. Jack returns to Torchwood after the year that never was, but memories are not so easily reversed.
A/N: This is un-beta'd so all mistakes are completely mine.

Safe

"I kept thinking about that team of mine…"
Captain Jack Harkness, The Last Of The Time Lords

The tunnel opened out, dark and damp. Memories licked at his conscious, burning with the touch of a lover, and he couldn't hold back the shudder. He knew, of course, that outside the mid-afternoon sun shone bright and clear, that people walked around without a care or worry, but down in this tunnel he found it hard to cling to that knowledge. Picking up speed he headed further in; gripping tightly to the elevator as it dropped him down into the ground.

Far from increasing his discomfort, the descent seeped some of the tension from his muscles. The further down he went, the further away his memories were. A far cry from the man who made a living wandering the stars.

The large cog door rolled open, disappearing into the wall with little more than a quiet groan, and then suddenly his senses were filled with the familiar.

The sound of computers whirring, alien technology beeping and humming, the distant squawk of the pterodactyl; the sounds of life.

And then there were the smells; the tang of slightly less than fresh coffee, the musky scent that seemed to seep from the underground bricks and that elusive smell that was the heart of the hub, something that was only noticeable after a long absence.

He stood within the cage for several moments, eyes closed, allowing the familiarity to overwhelm him. It had been so long – too long – since he had been here, but it still felt like home to him. Still held the power to push away the pain and horror of the outside world.

Opening his eyes he looked out, almost smiling at the unaccustomed neatness of it all. Ianto had been busy. His heart clenched at the thought of the young Welshman, and he automatically drew his arm up to look at his watch. The right day, the right time. Only a day had passed in this timeline, since he had left. So much in just one day.

He had expected to have been seen before reaching the Hub. Every entry and approach was covered by cameras after all, but he had arrived unnoticed, and he could see no one around. Panic tried to claw its way out of his body, but he resisted, iron will forcing it back down. It had only been a day, one day, not a year, not that year.

Had he been arrogant in assuming he would find them here waiting, watching for him? They each had their own lives. Perhaps his disappearance hadn't been worth their time.

Jack…help!

He shook his head to dislodge the voice, so full of pain. No, they did…would…are waiting for him, he knows that. It's just a matter of finding them.

A deep breath and he fully entered the Hub. His footsteps heavy but silent, another habit learnt in that year that never was. For the first time he's almost happy for that lesson, because when he finds his team he's glad for silence.

The Master had delighted in learning his occupation. It hadn't taken the Time Lord long to realise that he could stand against pain without flinching, that he would die without submission and begging. Mere days of searching and he found a weakness, one of only few. Torchwood Three.

Chained to the wall, he had watched impotently as a large screen was placed in front of him, the Master entering after it, manic grin plastered to his face. It had been the first time since he had been moved away from the Doctor that he had actually started to worry. When the screen had lit up, splitting until it was filled with every view of the Hub's cameras, the worry had transformed into full blown terror.

Even though the Master had spent time telling him that his team were alive – for now – that insane grin had done little to placate him.

The screen had been turned off before he could see for himself that they were indeed alive, and another round of torture and death had followed.

When he had dragged himself out of the darkness he had been met once again with the view of the hub. As if knowing he had woken sound filled the silence, and he could hear the voices of his team. He had known then that all the security measures he had put in place years before had been worth the work. The Hub had been locked down the moment the Master had declared war.

The first death he witnessed was Owen's. A few days into the attack and food resources had started to deplete. Owen, ever the man of action, had volunteered. The last words to the team had been his own battle cry – See you in hell – and then he disappeared. The scene had shifted and he had watched as the young doctor barely got passed the tourist office when he was struck down. The screen filled with red blood and screams, and the man that had been Owen Harper crumpled to the floor. The Master entered, the remote in his hand making the camera zoom closer, and he prayed for death when he saw he name on the man's lips. Jack…Help!

He had almost begged then, for death, for the release the few precious moments of nothing would give him. But he hadn't. He couldn't let the Master win.

Ianto had been next. His strong, brave Ianto. Rations lower still, he had left knowing he wouldn't last, but hoping. Always hoping.

Irony came in the form of a stray bullet meant to protect, but which brought only death. He had watched the tins fall from his lover's arms, watched as they rolled the short distance to the Hub's entrance. Watched the rain as it splashed hard against the pavement, puddles bleeding red. Anything to avoid the look of pain and defeat on a face he had seen frozen in ecstasy. The Master had made sure he saw it anyway. His name again, a dying sigh – Jack – and then a small smile that would forever remain unchanged.

His heart shattered and his mind died before the Master had even raised a hand. He welcomed the pain of the whip, drew pleasure from the feel of skin peeled from muscle and bone. Looked straight into the face of his torturer, but as his body finally gave in it was still Ianto laying still and broken that followed him into the darkness.

Still it didn't stop, and seeing the determination on Gwen's face as she left to help the resistance left him begging her to stay in the Hub, safe. Toshiko echoed his words, but still she left, never once looking back. There had been a cry ripped form her throat when she passed the bodies of her two friends, but she had kept on moving. Finding a group, she stuck with them but she had seemed to be looking for something, even as she helped to secure the children and heal the injured. It was then that he remembered Rhys.

Barely a day after she had left, and just when he started to hope that she would be safe, a fight broke out amongst the rebels, a flash of metal, a scream and he knew it was over.

She didn't die shouting his name, didn't sigh it in a last moment of pleasure, instead, as the crowd dispersed with fast movements, she dipped her fingers into the blood around her, and draw his name on the granite floor. She never finished the "k".

The Master didn't come that night. And he knew then that he was losing.

Toshiko was the last. Always so optimistic it hurt more than death to watch bitterness and cynicism grow inside her. Only a day after Gwen's departure and he could see that she wouldn't be the only survivor. Mere moments before midnight she pulled out his gun, one he left hidden in his desk draw, and shot the pterodactyl. In the cells she shot the weevils one by one, crystal tears sliding down her face with each body that fell.

Returning to the main room, she had switched off power to everything but her computer. And in the light of her screen, a team picture of them all, she put the gun to her head. We tried Jack, I tried. But we can't all live forever. I hope you got far away. And then it was done, and she lay sprawled across her keypad her blood overflowing and spilling onto the floor. Dripping down the arm that fell with his gun.

And he had begged. He had pleaded. He had broken. And the Master had laughed. Long and low. Short and bright. The sound chased him into the darkness, it dragged him back out again. It didn't stop when he saw them all behind his eyes, alive, running to him as he returned from three days of death. It got louder when he saw them all dead, laid out before him. It was there now, when he closed his eyes and he saw them fall.

The paradox reversed, the year undone, and no one dead. But it was the curse of those who fought that they remembered. He remembered.

Looking now, at the four of them entangled. Owen wrapped around Gwen, hands holding her close, safe. Toshiko, her head resting against Ianto's shoulder, his arms keeping her tucked into his side. The laughter faded, drifted into the distance, behind the image of a man brought to his knees by the power of belief.

He shifted, slowly dropping down onto the floor. Content to just sit and watch. No fear.

Gwen stirred first, a hitch in her breathing, and a tensing of her muscles. Then her eyes were blinking open and her gaze locked with his own. There was no time to tell her to wait, to move carefully so the others could sleep, because in one movement she was in his arms, and he was holding her close.

Owen, woken by Gwen's movements followed next, and he too was pulled into an embrace. He hoped they didn't notice that his hands gripped them tighter than before, that his fingers felt Owen's chest and Gwen's side feeling for the wounds that wouldn't be made.

Their reunion had the effect of waking Toshiko and she flew at him much the same as Gwen. His hand held her head close, fingers in her hair, and he couldn't help the whisper that fell from his lips. So brave.

And then there was Ianto. Looking at him with the same expression he had a year…no a day ago when he had come back to life. But this time the Welshmen was the one to initiate the kiss, and he found himself holding back a sob as he breathed in the man's life.

They fell where they sat, laying across one another, each holding on to one part of him, as though he were about to vanish. They told him of the search for him, of coming back to find him gone. He accepted the accusations in their voices, he welcomed the guilt, because they were alive, and the year hadn't happened.

And then it was his turn, and he hesitated briefly over what to say, but these people had been the one weakness that could break him, the one strength that could put him back together, and so he opened up and told them. Told them everything. Because they were alive. And they were here.

Safe.