A/N: Here's the last chapter. Thanks to everyone who stayed with the story through the long breaks and big thanks to everyone who left a review. Standard disclaimers apply and all the place mentioned in Cardiff are real. Read and Please Review!
Max ran down the pier and dove into the water, disappearing under the waves. She was slightly disoriented for a few moments, but movement below told her the direction she needed to go in. Moving through the murk it was hard to keep track of her quarry but Max followed the alien as it moved further down.
Reaching out with her hands, she felt the webbed feet brush against her fingers and gave a burst of speed to grab onto the creature's ankle and closed her hand around it; yanking it towards her. The creature started thrashing around, trying to break free, but Max refused to let go. It was slow going as she made her way to the surface with the alien in tow, fighting against the current, and Max started to feel a bit light-headed; she hadn't realized how deep they had gone. But she refused to give up and continued on, however now her lungs were starting to burn from holding her breath for so long and there were more than a few times when she had to stop in order to reorient herself.
Max looked up to the surface and saw that she was still a long ways away. Dark spots started to appear in her eyes but she continued on, wondering where the hell everyone else was. The creature had just about given up on breaking free, only struggling every now and then, but it must have sensed that Max was getting weak because it chose that moment to break free and try to escape. But Max wasn't going to let that happen. Swimming after the creature, she used the last of her strength to capture it again and then knock it unconscious. Taking hold of the alien once again, Max started back towards the surface. However, darkness started to creep over her eyesight and she stopped moving up. Feeling herself starting to sink again, Max wondered how long it would take for her to come back to life this time.
As the black took over, Max dimly felt movement near her. The last thing she was aware of was a pair of strong hands grabbing onto her, then the next thing Max knew she was gasping for air while coughing up the water she had swallowed. Blinking the water from her eyes she saw that Jack had hold of her and Evan was headed towards them. "I'm fine." She said, trying to break free of his grasp.
Jack had watched with the rest of the team as Max went into the Quay to follow their quarry and waited for her to resurface. When the minutes started to pass by without her surfacing he started to worry and then when more than enough time had gone by decided to go in after her. Jumping in and swimming down he had spotted her; seeing that she was on the verge of drowning. Quickly moving, Jack reached her just as she was losing consciousness. Grabbing onto her and the alien before it slipped out of their grasp again, he made his way to the surface. Sputtering, he hollered, "Lorne get your ass over here!"
As Lorne made his way towards Jack, Max regained consciousness and tried to escape his grasp. "No you're not." Jack replied, not letting her go and once Lorne had their captive helped Max navigate to the pier.
Evan dived into the water and swam over to Jack, taking the webbed foot from his boss' outstretched hand. Fortunately it was only a short swim back to the pier where Evan handed off the alien to Ianto and Tosh who quickly secured it. Shivering in the cool air, he made his way over to the SUV and got out the blankets.
Making his way to the trio Evan offered them to Jack and Max, "Here."
"Thanks." Jack replied as they each took one. Standing, he looked at Evan who was just as wet as he was. "Head back to SUV, we'll be along soon. I just need a few questions answered about our newest guest."
"Will do." Once inside the SUV he turned on the heat in an effort to warm up and dry out. It had been a few months since the Ripper incident and he was still working through what he had learned during that time. Evan still felt betrayed that Max had slept with his boss and friend and at times he felt like the simplist thing was to just quit Torchwood and walk away from it all, but at the same time Evan knew that he had an obligation to the SGC and Jack as well as the fact that he couldn't ignore decades of marriage. Watching them talk through the window, he wondered what his next step was.
Max stepped out into the twilight and lit up while looking out over the water; ever since coming back she had taken up smoking again and wondered if it had anything to do with what happened on Atlantis.
"That was a stupid thing to do."
Max glanced at Jack, who wore a neutral expression, while asking, "We got him didn't we?"
"Then I don't see the problem."
"You nearly died Max." Jack was getting slightly pissed off at her heroics, feeling like she was heading down a road that he had gone down before and knew that it wasn't going to end pretty. He didn't want her to push everyone who cared about her away and end up alone like him.
"Even if I had we both know that it wouldn't have lasted."
"Damn it Max, you need to talk with Lorne. Tell him everything so all this can stop. You're not going to change anything with these stupid heroics." Jack said angry at both of their thick-headedness and refusal to talk to each other. It was starting to mess with their work and if it didn't change then he'd dismiss both of them from Torchwood; agreement with the SGC be damned.
"And say what? That I was on Atlantis before I was there the first time, nearly got him killed, told him everything and then Retconned him so he'd forget?" Max answered while looking at Jack. She knew he meant well, but at the same time wished that he'd stop sticking his nose where it didn't belong. "That's going to go over well."
"Just talk to him and see what happens." Jack replied before heading inside.
Max just sighed and turned back towards the water, thinking about what Jack had said. It was true that she needed to talk with Evan, but at the same time they needed to be in a room together longer than five minutes. It was frustrating, but Max didn't want to push too hard and end up pushing him away instead of fixing everything. Walking back inside, she headed down to the Hub to finish up the inventory in one of the Archive rooms and saw that Evan was still working at his desk and for a second paused, watching him stare at the screen while wondering what was going through his mind. He hadn't said anything about the incident at the pier, making himself scare the rest of the day.
Jack's words echoed in her head and Max realized that she didn't have anything to lose by walking over and talking to him. Taking a deep breath, Max moved towards Evan and as she did so realized that it would take more than just a talk to heal the rift between them. And in that moment it took to cross the floor knew that she was willing to do whatever it took.
"Want some coffee?"
Evan looked up to see Max standing beside his desk with an awkward smile on her face. After everything at the pier he had kept his distance, which wasn't out of the ordinary nowadays, but at the same time wanted to make sure that Max was okay. He still found it hard to understand her new-found ability (in all honesty, that was the only way he could think about it) and wanted to be there for her when she needed it. But at the same time Evan didn't want to give her any false hope since he was still trying to sort out his own confusion over everything. "Coffee?" he echoed, not sure what the question meant.
"Yeah, I wasn't sure how late you were going to be and thought you'd like a break. There's a little café near here that's open late and they have really good stuff. Ianto told me about it and was just wondering if you'd be interested in grabbing a cup." Max knew she was rambling, it was a nervous habit that appeared whenever she became flustered over something, and took a deep breath to gather herself.
"Actually I'm just finishing up here." Evan replied as he closed out the file that he had been working on and stood.
"Oh. Sorry, I didn't-"
"That's okay. See you tomorrow?" Evan interrupted as he picked up his jacket and put it on.
"Yeah, see you tomorrow." Max echoed dimly. She could feel her face heat up with embarrassment and turned around to leave. She made it five steps when she paused and turned around. "What's so different this time that you can't ignore? We've been through so much worse than this before. I know what I did was wrong, I didn't mean for it to happen. You know Jack...for what its worth I'm sorry." The words came out in a rush, she hadn't planned to say all of that; it had just come out but she meant every word of it.
Evan looked back at Max with a mixture of surprise and hurt. That had been the second time she had said she was sorry and he knew that she meant it. "I still need time." He replied simply, looking at her heartbroken face. Turning around, Evan headed towards the paving slab but paused and glanced over his shoulder. Seeing Max still standing by his desk, he locked eyes with her and said, "Rain check on the coffee though?"
"Sure." Max replied as a soft smile appeared on her face. As she watched Evan move towards the surface felt a tiny bit of hope; at least he still wanted to get coffee with her. That was a step in the right direction if nothing else.
"Hey!" Max ran down the street after the suspect and tried to keep him in sight while at the same time trying not to run into the other people that were on the sidewalk. Rounding the corner she activated her headset, "Jack, I've got him in sight!"
"By the Arcade."
"Lorne's right by you, meet up with him and try to nab the shifter before he makes it to the cathedral; I don't want to lose him in the crowd."
"Easier said than done-why doesn't he try to keep track of a shape shifter in a crowd?" Max thought to herself as she continued to run. Heart pounding, she struggled to keep the shape shifter in sight but the crowds grew thicker the closer they got to the Metropolotan Cathedral. Rounding a corner, she slowed down as the cathedral came into view and Max realized that she had lost him. Coming to a stop in the middle of the sea of tourist groups, school children and people enjoying the nice weather, Max tried to catch sight of him while at the same time realizing that he could have changed appearance in order to blend in with the rest.
Evan appeared and spotted Max searching through the crowd. "Lost him?" he asked once he was near her.
"He's somewhere, he has to be. Check the crowd by the shops while I check the church." Max said moving towards the building.
"Be careful!" Evan shouted as she moved away from him. He was glad that things between them were finally fixed and that as a result they trusted each other even more than before, but that still didn't stop Evan from worrying about something horrible happening to her everything they had to chase down one thing or another.
Max turned to give him a smile, "Aren't I always?" As Max crossed the green she got the feeling that something wasn't right about all of this. What it was exactly she couldn't figure out, there was just a constant thought in the back of her mind that the whole thing was off.
Not finding him on the outer grounds of the church, Max moved inside. In a stark contrast to outside, it was cool and dark with no one around. Footsteps echoing as she moved further into the church, Max kept a hand on her gun and eyes open. Not finding anything in the main sanctuary, she raised a hand to her headset to find out if Evan had any luck when she caught movement out of the corner of eye. Looking up in time to see a figure move out of sight, Max headed for the stairway and reached the middle level in a few minutes.
When she arrived it was as empty as the main level. However that didn't dissuade Max and she continued moving down the hallway; rounding the corner when the shadow jumped out towards her. Max reacted instinctively, lashing out with her arm while stepping to the side and connected. The shadow fell and Max saw that it was the shape shifter. Not pausing, Max grabbed onto the shifter and dragged him to the wall where she tried to pin him while getting out the restraints. But, while Max was slightly distracted in getting the restraints the shape shifter slithered out of her grasp and ran down the hallway towards the steps, moving up the flights of stairs quickly.
Max chased after and was slowly gaining on him while firing off a warning shot that chipped the stonework above him as he rounded a corner. "Stop or next time it'll be your head!" she shouted as she continued to run after the shifter. Soon they reached the end of the stairway and Max couldn't help but inwardly smile a little, there was nowhere else for him to run.
The shape shifter ran down the corridor while turning his head and hissing; baring his sharp teeth and Max sped up trying to catch him. Suddenly he stopped and reversed direction, heading towards her instead of away. Barreling into her, the shape shifter pushed Max into the wall; she felt her hand lose its grip on her gun and heard it skitter across the floor.
Refusing to give up without a fight, Max landed a few hits and after ducking a punch, managed to break free and ran towards the stairs while hoping that Evan and Jack were on their way, if not already inside the building and could hear the struggle from below. Making it a quarter of the way down the corridor Max suddenly felt a hand grab her jacket and pull her back; the shape shifter had caught her and, grip still on her, moved towards the railing. It happened quickly, Max saw where she was headed and tried to stop but was unable to, the shape shifter tossing her over the stone railing.
As she went over, Max made a desperate grab to keep from falling. Skin tearing as she gripped the stone, she wondered how long she could hold on before her arms gave way. But she wasn't able to find out because just as she had completed the thought, Max heard the sounds of a scuffle and then slightly wild hair appeared. "What are you doing here?" she asked as he grabbed her arm to help her up and over.
The Doctor just grinned, "Couldn't let you fall now could I?"
"I suppose not." Max replied once she was standing on the stone walkway. Wincing slightly at the pain coming from her hands she continued, "But really, why now?"
"I was tracking the same thing you were." The Doctor said as he looked over where Evan and Ianto were subduing the shape shifter. "Followed him to the church and met up with the Major and Ianto outside; we got inside in time to see you disappear up the stairs."
"Well then, your timing is improving." Max commented as they made their way down the stairs, following Evan and Ianto. "And it's actually Lieutenant Colonel now." She continued after radioing Jack to meet them outside the church. "Has been for a while, actually."
"Congratulations; they finally figured out how brilliant he is!" Stepping outside, the Doctor hung back as Jack got out of the SUV and they wrestled the shape shifter into the boot. He saw how they made it seem almost effortlessly, knowing that they had done it countless times before and would do it countless times afterwards. Knowing a little of what they had all gone through after he had messed up their arrival, the Doctor could see that they were stronger and closer to one another than before as a result.
"You coming?" The question broke the Doctor out of his thoughts and he looked over to see that Max had paused with her hand on the car door.
"I'll meet you at the Plass; need to pop in on an old friend first." He replied flashing a quick smile. "Promise."
Max could see that he meant it and nodded her head, closing the door. As they drove back to the Hub, she wondered why he had come back after so much time had gone by and hoped that he had some answers to the questions she still had.
The day had been warm, but now that the sun was setting the wind from the Bay was starting to rapidly cool things down. Shivering a little, Max tugged on her jacket and scanned the crowd of people walking across the plass for the familiar face.
"Should have known that you'd keep watch in front of the TARDIS."
Max turned around at the voice and saw that it was Jack, followed by Evan, and that they were carrying cups of coffee. Taking the one offered to her, she smiled a little, "And I should have known that you'd watch with me."
Jack was about to reply when he spotted the familiar brown coat. Raising his hand to catch the Doctor's attention, he smiled a little. "Didn't think you'd show." He said as the Time Lord got closer.
"Oh you know me; right place, wrong time." The Doctor replied with his trademark grin. "Which is one of the reason's I stopped by. I'm still rattling around in the old girl and was wondering if both of you and would like to pop off for a few quick trips."
Max didn't know what to say. She wanted to immediately say yes, that she'd love to go exploring across the universe with the Doctor and Jack, but she remembered what had happened the last time she went off with the both of them and how her and Evan were finally in a good place right now; had been for a while and she didn't want to throw that away just to gallivanting across space with the Time Lord. Smiling, she shook her head while saying, "Sorry, but I'm done with space adventures; I've got everything I need right here."
The Doctor's face fell a little but it recovered quick enough that no one said anything. "Well that's good, excellent even." He said, truly glad for the both of them. "What do you say Jack? It'll be like you hardly left."
"You know that I can never turn you down, Doctor." Jack replied with a grin. "Just let me put a few things in order and then we can be off."
As Jack called Ianto to set everything up, Evan led Max to the side while asking, "Why say no?" He had been surprised at her answer, thinking that she'd say yes because Evan knew that she lived for that sort of thing. He did as well, never getting tired of chasing down aliens or stopping an artifact from destroying the planet. And even though it had been years since he had seen the Doctor, he still got that sense of excitement whenever the man appeared; wondering what was going to happen next.
And also because he knew that the Doctor might hold the answer to Max's ability to cheat death-they still had no idea if it was permanent or temporary and Evan didn't want to continually wonder if it was his last day to spend with her.
"It's like I said, all I need is right here." Max replied truthfully. If the Doctor had shown up six months ago then she would have jumped at the chance to go with him, to get away from everything and just go traveling with him. But the circumstances were different and she was fine with staring at the stars from her vantage point on Earth; not wishing she was among them. "Besides, we just got settled into the new flat and things are good for us now. I don't want to ruin that by go running off with the Doctor."
"Who says that it will? Go." Evan urged Max, knowing that she was feeling the same itch wondering what adventures and wonders lay out there that he was.
"You sure?" Max asked with a questioning look, wondering if she could just go and play among the stars.
"Yes I am." Evan replied one last time, giving her hand a quick squeeze. "Now go and have one hell of a time."
"I will." Max gave him a good-bye kiss and then headed for where the Doctor and Jack were standing, in front of the TARDIS.
Evan watched as they headed inside and just before Max disappeared she turned around and gave him a smile and a wave. He returned the wave and then the door closed, the all too familiar sound of the TARDIS soon filling his ears. Evan stood there, watching the blue box fading until it was completely gone. Looking at the water sculpture, Evan realized that he was the head of Torchwood for the time being again and wondered what was going to happen next. Turning around, he realized that he should start to look for someone new to help with everything and realized that there was a Sergeant Davidson that Torchwood had interacted with in the past and had always been helpful; once back in the Hub, he should give the Sergeant a call and see if he was open to the idea to join the team.
He had only gone a few feet when a sudden wind picked up and a wheezing sound filled his ears. Pausing, Evan turned around in time to see the blue box that had just disappeared start to solidify; not sure what to make of it, he waited for the door to open. It finally did and a red head appeared. Taken aback it took a while for his brain to connect the dots and just as she reached him managed to stammer out, "M-Max?"
Max grinned and ran a hand through her short and colored hair, "You like? Thought it was time for something different."
"It is different." Evan said laughing a bit while glancing at his watch. "But how did you have time to do all of that in five minutes?"
She tilted her head to the side while asking, "Five minutes?"
"Yeah, that's how long it's been...at least for me."
Max laughed and shook her head, "Well, the Doctor's improved his timing I'll give him that-its been a few years for us. But that isn't why we came back; this is." Eyes sparkling she stretched out a hand, "Want to come?"
"Why not? There's room for all of us. And I know that you want to come, it was in your eyes before we left."
Evan looked at her hand, hesitating. His mind was shouting that he wanted to go, to travel among the stars again; seeing people and places that he might not be able to otherwise, but there was still one question that made him pause. Glancing up, he asked, "What about your...'ability'?"
Max shook her head, "It was temporary, I'm just regular old me now." Seeing the look of confusion appear on Evan's face she continued, "It's a long story, one that I can tell while we travel."
Evan was silent, thinking. Then he broke into a smile and took Max's hand, "I'm sure it's one hell of a tale."
"That it is. Let's go." Max replied, starting towards the TARDIS. As they neared the door, she asked, "Where do you want to go first?"
Evan looked at the worn blue wooden door and thought. So many places and times swirled around his head that he didn't know what to pick first. As they moved inside he asked, "What about World War Two?"