The Doctor and the Daffodils
Jack had argued vehemently against the assignment. To start with, there was the issue of the daffodils.
"I'm as comfortable with flowers as the next man - more comfortable," he'd pointed out, "but really, carrying a bunch of daffodils into a military base?"
"It's a UNIT case," his boss had said. "I'm not pretending I like it, but we've been told to cooperate, for once. They want daffodils. We have daffodils. We've got better things to store than plastic daffodils. Be a good fellow, Jack; a nice trip to the country can't hurt?"
Jack, grumbling, had given in eventually and with a crate of plastic, and apparently harmless, flowers on the seat beside him, was driving to UNIT headquarters. And it was a nice drive, at least, bowling through the English countryside on a bright day. So long as he could avoid traffic accidents, it appeared to be a fairly safe assignment too. No death today.
The guard at the gate - a handsome young soldier in unbecoming khaki - examined his Torchwood identification and waved him through. Jack parked outside the impressive house and got out of the car with his crate of plastic daffodils.
He was met at the door by another soldier.
"Sergeant Benton. Welcome to UNIT. I'm told you have some daffodils for us?"
Jack displayed the crate. "Couple of dozen, picked up around Cardiff. Where'd you want them?"
"Science department. Our scientific advisor wants to look at them," said Benton. "If you'll follow me, sir?"
He led the way down corridors that were bright in their military precision, populated by more men in khaki and men and women in white scientists' coats. It was about as far removed from the dingy Torchwood hub as could be - yet, Jack thought, this place seemed more of its time than Torchwood. He started to resent the mission a little less. It was, after all, good to get out of Cardiff occasionally.
Benton pushed open a door. "After you, sir. If you'll wait here, I'll go and find the Brigadier for you. He wanted to thank you for dropping off the flowers." Saluting, the sergeant disappeared, and Jack turned to the room.
He froze, staring in disbelief at the large blue box dominating a corner of the room. It was still and quiet, but it sang to him. It had been over a century, but as he gazed, it felt like only moments since he had heard the roar of the engines fading away.
Jack put the daffodils down on a table, and moved towards the police box, reaching out a hand to touch the battered wooden side.
He snatched his hand away and turned to see a figure in the doorway. Blonde, petite, wide mouth currently frowning at him. Easy. Jack smiled.
"Please don't touch that," the girl said, coming into the room. "Oh, more daffodils."
"Captain Jack Harkness, Torchwood Institute," Jack said, holding out his hand. "And you are?"
"Jo Grant," the girl responded, shaking, and returning his smile. "Scientific assistant."
"It's just a box," said Jack, gesturing at it. "Was wondering what it was doing here."
"That's classified," Jo Grant told him, picking up a daffodil and twirling it between her fingers. "Anyway, it's locked."
Jack put his hand in his pocket, and felt the warm metal of his own TARDIS key on its chain. He perched on the edge of the table. "So, Jo Grant, what do you do as a scientific assistant?"
"Oh, I help out, here and there," she said, wide-eyed. "Get equipment. Run errands. Offer advice."
"Do you now? And who do you work with?" Jack asked, meeting her eyes and playing the charm for all he was worth.
She opened her mouth to answer, but the door opened again before she could speak.
"That would be me."
Jack looked up. One of the newcomers was clearly the Brigadier; a uniformed, serious-looking man with a moustache and an air of efficiency. The other made Jack's senses ring just as much as the police box in the corner - but surely not? How could the man he had last seen in leather and wool be this velvet-clad dandy? How could someone's face, someone's manner, be that different? A body swap? What had that old file said about Time Lords?
"Captain Jack Harkness," he said, after a moment, standing up. "Understand you wanted some daffodils, sir?"
The Brigadier stepped in. "We're very grateful to you for bringing them all this way," he said. "Had a little problem the other week and the Doctor here wanted to do some more tests. We found our batch of daffs had sort of melted."
"No problem," said Jack. "I was, er, admiring your box."
The man in the velvet coat looked up from the plastic flowers, and gave Jack an intent look that was somehow at odds with his appearance. "How do you know it's my box?" he asked.
Jack indicated Jo. "Your delightful assistant here instructed me not to touch it, therefore I figured it had to belong to you. Odd thing to find in a lab, a blue box."
"Not especially," said the Doctor - if this was the Doctor, and all evidence seemed to point that way. "Who are you, anyway?"
"He's Torchwood, Doctor, I explained that already," the Brigadier broke in.
"Not from round these parts," the Doctor said.
"Not really," Jack agreed.
The phone on the wall buzzed, and Jo answered it. The Doctor was still scrutinising Jack intently.
"For you, sir," said Jo to the Brigadier. "They want you in the communications centre."
"Bother," the Brigadier said. "Well, must be off. Jo, will you show Captain Harkness out?"
"Certainly!" dimpled Jo. Jack shook hands with the Brigadier and the officer disappeared.
The Doctor turned to Jo. "How about a cup of tea for the captain, before he goes? Would you, Jo?"
She nodded, and hurried off. The Doctor folded his arms, and Jack was suddenly reminded of his Doctor, unimpressed in the middle of the Blitz.
"You're really not from around here, are you?" the Doctor said. "You're Time is flowing around you, Captain; it's not right."
Jack took a deep breath. "You don't know me?"
"Never set eyes on you before," said the Doctor, "but that doesn't mean I don't know what I'm talking about."
"Right," Jack said, as much to himself as to the Doctor. "I'm in your future."
"Well, you're not in my past!" the Doctor exclaimed. "I would have remembered. So if you know me, don't you know about the laws of Time?" He looked, Jack thought, more than a little angry - but it was a different sort of anger from the cold, superior fury of the Doctor he had known.
He met this Doctor's eyes. "I wasn't planning on bumping into you. Didn't know you were here."
"I can't have been terribly communicative, then," said the Doctor, frowning. "Wait - I suppose this means you met me elsewhere, not here?" A smile crossed his face, lighting up the eyes. "So that must mean oh, wonderful!"
The Doctor was fumbling in his pocket, pulling out a key. "My TARDIS. That means I fix it, eventually!"
"Is she broken?" Jack asked, then, realising, "are you stuck?"
Opening the TARDIS door, the Doctor paused. "Yes. And, yes. I'd hoped to give her a new dematerialisation circuit, but it didn't work."
Jack tried to imagine his Doctor - all manic energy and intense emotion - stuck in one place, and failed. "God, I'm sorry," he said. He crossed the room, and looked inside the box. "Wow."
The Doctor was fiddling with the console, which was much sleeker and less cluttered than Jack was used to. This TARDIS - no, the same TARDIS - was newer, colder. Jack was not sure he liked it.
"Can I help?" he asked, nevertheless.
Brushing off his fancy jacket, the Doctor raised his eyebrows. "Help?"
"I helped - will help - you, before," Jack said, "with repairs, and so on. You even let me alone with her." He remembered lying on his back, fiddling with that extrapolator, back in Cardiff in the future, bathed in the golden light of his Doctor's TARDIS.
"Extraordinary," said the present Doctor. "I haven't let anyone touch her since - well, for years." He pressed a button, frowned at the lack of response, and shrugged. "Clearly today is not the day to fix her. So, Captain Harkness, as you're here, tell me how we meet."
Jack moved aside to let the Doctor exit the TARDIS. "What about the laws of Time?" he asked.
The Doctor gave him a conspiratorial wink. "Between you and me, Captain, I'm not exactly in the good books of my compatriots at the moment. If I break another law or two, it won't make any difference. I'll forget you."
"Forget me?" Jack grinned at him, finally beginning to recognise the Doctor beneath the blond hair and bowtie. "Never."
"I'll have to," the Doctor said, "unless you remember me remembering you in the future?"
"Past, actually," Jack said, "and no, you don't - won't - remember me. You'll pick me up in the Blitz, 1941."
"Am I alone?" the Doctor asked, sitting down and taking a daffodil out of the crate.
Jack shook his head. "No. You're with a girl. Rose."
"Pretty name," commented the Doctor.
"Pretty girl," said Jack. "Thing is - Doctor - when you pick me up, I'm well, I guess I'll be a bit creative with the truth. But I can improve. I do. I learned from you, about being a better man. I tried, anyway - I'm still trying."
"Calm down, man," the Doctor said, laying a hand on Jack's arm. "Dear me, whatever do I do to you?"
Jack looked at the hand. "On a space station, in the year 200,100, you leave me behind. We're fighting the Daleks, Doctor, you and me and Rose, and you leave me behind."
The Doctor glanced down at the daffodil, and prods it with a scalpel. "Not the Daleks again. Can't seem to escape them. Well, I'm sorry, Captain, if it's any help."
Gazing at the Doctor, Jack realised what he had subconsciously known for some time. This Doctor had yet to experience the battles and the losses that would define him - that had defined him. He was trapped, and there was clearly frustration and wanderlust, but not that burning anger. Not yet. He took a deep breath.
"Yeah," he said. "It helps. A bit. I still don't understand what happened to me. I can't die, Doctor."
The Doctor raised his eyebrows. "That would explain what's not right about you. Why Time is playing up around you. I'm afraid I can't really help you more, though. I rather think I need to know what happened to you first, to stop you dying, before I know what's wrong with you. Sorry." He cut into the plastic of the daffodil. "I would love to investigate, of course, but that would be more risky than I can afford to be." Peering at the daffodil's interior, he added: "Will I regenerate again, before I meet you?"
Regeneration. That was it. A final piece of the puzzle clicked into place in Jack's mind, fitting in with all the various bits of rumour he had sought out about the Doctor. Not a body swap; a new body. He nodded.
"Oh." The Doctor looked down at himself. "Ah well, can't be helped, I suppose. I'm getting rather fond of this one, despite everything. I hope it doesn't happen for a good long while."
"Couldn't say, sir," Jack said. "Well, I'd better be off. Got to get back to Cardiff, and between you and me, I can't wait for faster cars to come along."
Getting to his feet, the Doctor held out a hand. "Good to meet you, Captain Harkness. I'll make sure I forget you."
"If you can," said Jack, with one of his broadest grins. He shook. "See you when I see you, Doctor."
"Absolutely," agreed the Doctor. "Well, go on, then, off with you!"
Jack gave him a textbook salute. Shaking his head, the Doctor sat down again and returned his attention to the daffodil. Jack turned, paused to pat the TARDIS's cool, silent side, and left.
He found himself unaccountably cheerful on the way back to Cardiff. Seeing the Doctor - even the wrong Doctor - had been an acknowledgement, a reminder, that there was a Doctor out there, somewhere. One day, the right one would come along and answer his questions. Until then, there was work to be done.