Lucy hummed softly to herself as she sorted books in the back room. It had been a whole year since everything that had happened with Harry, and she was finally feeling like she could be alright.
May popped into the room.
"Almost finished?" she asked.
Lucy looked up.
"Almost. I was going to finish these boxes," she said, wiping her dusty hands on the sides of her jeans and brushing a blond wisp of hair out of her eyes.
"Ok. But don't take too long, I'm waiting to go to lunch with you."
Lucy grinned as May left the room. They had become close friends in the past year; almost sisters now. They did everything together, even though now Lucy had moved out of May's apartment and was finding her own place to live. She turned back to the boxes of books, and threw another raggedy paperback onto the pile.
"Lucy?" May called from the store.
"I said I was coming, May!" Lucy called back, with a good-natured roll of her eyes.
"It's not that. There's someone here to see you."
Lucy scrambled to her feet. They must be the people from the adoption agency, even though they said they weren't coming till tomorrow.
"I'll be right there!"
Lucy hurried into the store, and then froze. There were four people in the small store. The pale man with the dark hair wore a decided scowl on his face, while the pretty woman standing next to him beamed. A man in a leather jacket idly browsed a shelf of books behind them. But Lucy wasn't looking at any of them – her eyes were fixed on a familiar dark skinned face.
"Martha?" she choked out.
Lucy took a few stumbling steps forward, and hugged her old friend. She had thought about the events of that year so much these past few months, and it seemed so strange that Martha should be standing before her.
"Lucy! I'm so glad to see you!" Martha said.
"I'm so glad to see you too! What are you doing here?"
"Why? Didn't you miss us?" asked a voice that had echoed in Lucy's dreams for the past year. Her heart stopped beating.
"Jack?" she whispered.
Martha drew away, and Jack stepped out from behind a shelf.
Lucy devoured him greedily with her eyes. He looked exactly the same as she remembered him, right down to the long, blue captain's jacket that he wore. He grinned at her, and her mouth went dry, her heart speeding up in a heavy staccato rhythm.
And then he laughed, and snatched her up, crushing her in a giant hug.
"Lucy!" he exclaimed happily.
Lucy laughed. She couldn't help it.
"Jack!" was all she could manage. "Jack! Jack! Jack!"
Jack drew away, and brushed his fingers over her cheek.
"You look better. Happier."
"I am better. I haven't forgotten, but it's getting better."
The pretty woman behind Jack cleared her throat loudly.
Jack made a face.
"That's Gwen's way of reminding me to mind my manners," he said conspiratorially to Lucy. He let her go, but kept an arm around her shoulder.
"Team," he said, addressing the people who were with him, "This is Lucy Cole, one of the bravest women I know. Lucy, you already know Martha. This is Mickey Smith," nodding to the man in the leather jacket, "Gwen Cooper," to the pretty woman, "And Ianto Jones," to the pale man whose scowl seemed permanently fixed on his thin face.
A memory pulled at Lucy's consciousness – Jack had talked about his team during the year that never was.
"Gwen and Ianto," she said. "I remember you talking about them. But where are Owen and Tosh?"
Ianto's face hardened.
"They died," he said shortly.
"Oh, I'm sorry," said Lucy, glancing up at Jack.
"Yeah," said Jack. "Me too." Then, he smiled at her. "But enough of that. We were in the neighbourhood, thought we would stop by and say hello."
"So how did you two meet each other?" Gwen asked conversationally.
Jack and Lucy exchanged looks.
"Would you believe I was chained up at the time?" Jack asked.
"Kinky," Mickey murmured.
Ianto scowled further.
"It would have been, if I wasn't being killed every other day. I guess after a while he got tired of it, cuz he stopped."
Lucy, remembering her fateful bargain with Harry, said nothing.
"So what's the real story?" Gwen insisted.
Lucy made a face.
"It's sort of hard to explain, actually, without messing up the Time/Space continuum."
Gwen nodded sagely.
"One of those," she said.
Martha's watch beeped. She sighed.
"Sorry we can't stay longer," she said. "We really only dropped by to see how you were doing."
"I think I'm doing alright," Lucy said, glancing around the shop. "I'm happy here, and May and I are on our way to a beautiful friendship. I think I might even be able to think about those times without it hurting."
"I know what you mean."
"Jack, I'm sorry, but we should go," said Ianto, with a look of triumph on his face that Lucy didn't understand.
Jack was looking at Lucy again, with those endless blue eyes of his that seemed to look right into the depths of Lucy's soul.
"Can you give me a minute?" he asked.
Martha grinned, and herded the others out of the store. Ianto was the last to leave, throwing a baleful look in Lucy's direction over his shoulder.
"They mean well, but I wanted to talk to you alone."
Lucy nodded, her heart pounding again.
Jack brushed a few strands of her hair out of her eyes.
"I've thought about you this year," he said.
"I've thought about you too," Lucy admitted. "Especially when the Daleks came."
Jack rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly.
"Yes, well…" he trailed off. "The Doctor needed some help. And who am I to refuse to help an old friend?"
"You saved the world again," Lucy said.
"I'm getting really good at it. You could say it's my specialty."
"Yes, it is. Yours and the Doctor's. Is he with you?"
Jack shook his head.
"Nah, he's off travelling again. Martha figured that she would see what working with Torchwood was like."
"She left the Doctor?" Lucy asked.
"Maybe she just missed me," he gave her a roguish grin.
The gesture was so familiar that it made Lucy's heart ache. She pulled Jack close, burying herself in his shirt, drinking him in, memorizing every part of him.
"Are you learning me by heart?" Jack asked, with a smile.
Lucy shook her head.
"I've spent so long talking to you that I feel like I already know you by heart. You are inside my heart," she whispered.
Jack kissed her forehead, and held her close once again.
"You saved my life, you know," Lucy said, her voice muffled in the fabric of his shirt. "I think I would have died if not for you."
Jack shook his head.
"I only told you what you already knew."
"But I needed someone to say it out loud."
Jack tightened his arms around her, leaning his dark head on the top of her golden one. They might have stayed that way forever, in their own world, taking comfort in one another and forgetting everything else, but Jack's watch beeped.
He sighed forlornly, and let his arms slide out from around Lucy. She instantly regretted the loss of contact.
"And you really can't stay?" she asked.
Jack shook his head.
"I'm sorry. My team's waiting for me. I really only wanted to make sure you're alright."
Lucy took stock of herself, of the life she was building for her life.
"I'm alright," she assured him.
"I thought you would be. You should get married, you know. Have kids. Start a family."
Lucy smiled rather sadly.
"There was one man. After him, no one else compares."
Jack stroked her cheek, but didn't reply.
"I'm adopting two little girls," Lucy blurted out suddenly.
"You are?" Jack sounded surprised and pleased.
"After that Dalek attack there were so many orphans. I'm taking two. Jack, I've got it."
Jack looked confused.
"Our house. I found our perfect house. It's a little cottage with a white fence around a garden, and flowers everywhere, and I even bought a red chair to go in the living room." She looked up into his eyes, and made a final plea. "Come live with me? We can have our family after all."
Jack's eyes were sad.
"Oh, Lucy. My reasons for leaving haven't changed."
"I know that," Lucy said with a sigh. "But it was worth a try."
Jack leaned down, and brushed his lips gently against hers in a feather-soft kiss.
"You will always have a special place in my heart, Lucy Cole," he said. "You're an amazing woman, and don't you forget it."
Lucy didn't want the moment to end, but she knew that it must. And she knew that she had to stay goodbye to him while she still had willpower left. If he stayed any longer, she wouldn't be able to pick up the pieces when he did leave.
"Goodbye, Jack," she whispered.
"Goodbye, Lucy," said Jack. He gave her one final kiss, and then he turned and walked out of the shop. In the open doorway, he paused.
Lucy looked up.
"Just… be fantastic," he said. And then, he walked out of the door, and was gone.
Lucy smiled to herself. Be fantastic? She rather thought she would.
Author's Note: The End!
I've had those closing lines in my head since the first day I wrote this story. This ending is bittersweet, but I think it fits Lucy's story perfectly. She's going to be happy, with her daughters and her house, and she doesn't need a man to cling to. She's learning to be independent after the abuse she's suffered. And something tells me that that's not the last time she'll see Jack.
Thank you to everyone who took a chance on this story. I know it was unusual, and at times downright dark and gloomy. But your reviews have been my light, and I've thoroughly enjoyed them. Thank you to I am the Lev for giving me the idea in the first place and letting me run wild with it, and to Maestrodamus for his unfailing support and encouragement. And to all of you who reviewed every chapter. Bless.