As I am a professional writer and have work to do to get paid, I have decided to deal with these thudding plot bunnies in the traditional manner - I will inflict them on others. Please see my Profile for the Challenges of the Month. July Challenges are now available, and what a twist for one of them. If you'd rather do June's, instead, I'd love to hear from you. Thanks to all those who have participated thus far - we had an exceptional turn out for June II for example. The new challenges will run through the end of July. Please let me know when you respond to a Challenge so I can read and review.

DarkAngel31's challenge for July II was a tough one. She asked for a meeting between Captain Jack and everyone the Doctor left behind on Earth between the time Jack arrived there after "Parting of the Ways" and the time he left for the adventure in "Utopia". She also required me to include a Doctor, although whether anyone interacted with the Doctor or not was up to me. Her time frame was specific: it had to be after or at the very end of their travels with the Doctor. I agreed, with the single amendment that only canon companions counted. Thus, this list:

Ian Chesterton & Barbara Wright (sometime c. 1963), Dodo Chaplet (July, 1966), Ben Jackson & Polly Nameless Blonde Chick (July 20th 1966, technically never left), Victoria Waterfield (time unconfirmed, presumably 1968ish) sorry, BB, I misheard or something... I officially blame it on JACK mishearing, so THANKS!!, The UNIT set - Dr. Liz Shaw, Jo Grant, Sarah Jane Smith, John Benton, Harry Sullivan, Mike Yates, the Brig, et al. (The 1980's), Tegan Jovanka (c. 1984), Ace - could be any when, Dr. Grace Holloway (1999/2000)

This story is in two parts, with part one being set in the 1960's, and part two being set in the 1980's and after.

Many Meetings

Part 2

In early 1980, Torchwood had a complete breakdown, forcing the closure of all branches except the original in Glasgow. Jack, relieved at having no assignments while they tried to reorganize, set out again on his mission to find the Doctor. He still kept tabs on Cardiff. The Rift was stable and sealed and hardly ever dropped anything weird during this time period, but he kept a weather eye on it just the same.

Six weeks later, he was bored out of his mind and wandered into UNIT HQ to sign up. The man in charge, one Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (try saying that three times fast), had Jack locked up immediately. Apparently, it was bad form to be able to locate top-secret military headquarters and meander in unannounced.

"I was with Torchwood," he defended himself, to the fellow who'd been sent to take his statement.

"That's not going to endear you to the Brig," the fellow, whose name-tag read "Yates", informed him. "If you worked for them, you know why they were chartered."

"Yes," Jack admitted. "And I know something else you don't, so if you don't mind, I really need to talk to your Brigadier. Or the Doctor, I can talk to him instead."

Yates pulled his service revolver and leveled it at Jack's head. "Who told you the Doctor was here?" he demanded.

"The Doctor told me. Will tell me. Look, it's complicated. Get your superior down here, it's better if I talk to him."

The Brigadier seemed to have decided it was a better idea to let him rot. They had him relocated to an even more top-secret military prison and kept him in a cell that was hardly big enough for him to lie down in. Jack rather thought Torchwood was more humane. Sorta.

He escaped and, because he had nothing better to do, he wandered back to UNIT again, just to let them know he was loose and they might want to do something about the locks. He stopped at a cafe before he handed himself in, though, and met a pretty, ginger-haired lady, who was rifling through a briefcase, crying, and swearing all at the same time.

"What's wrong?" he asked, and bought her a coffee.

It took her awhile to open up, but when she did, it was with a huge, frustrated tirade. "Dragged me here from Cambridge University. Made me work with that man. And he doesn't need an assistant with a doctorate, honestly he doesn't. It's not like he isn't brilliant, you understand, because he is. His mind is positively staggering. But do you have any idea what it feels like to go from being the most gifted to someone who knows she doesn't know a hill of beans and never will? There's nothing I can do for him, there's nothing I can say that helps. Nothing I know is ever new to him and I just can't take it any more, I can't."

"Then resign," Jack said. He knew, somehow, that they were talking about the Doctor. "Don't let them make you feel worthless. I'm sure he doesn't want that for you and if you feel like you aren't making a difference here, go somewhere where you can. I'm sure that's what he would want, even if he doesn't want you to leave."

"You talk as if you know what's going on."

"I've an idea," Jack said. "Been there, you know? But I wasn't ready when it ended. You are, anyone can see that. Let it go. Move on, be fantastic."

She smiled faintly and reached a hand over the table. "Dr. Elizabeth Shaw," she introduced herself.

"Captain Jack Harkness," he replied, and offered her a cheeky, come-hither grin.

He waited a week before confronting the Brigadier again, long enough for Liz to collect her things and leave. He didn't want her to have to see him again, since she'd been very embarrassed by her actions that night.

He thought she was beautiful, but he didn't think she'd ever agree with him.

The next round with the Brigadier went better, simply because he made a point of cornering the man in his office and refusing to be thrown out. "Go on," he offered, when the Brigadier leveled his service revolver at Jack's chest, "shoot me."

"I've looked you up since our last meeting, Captain Harkness, so I don't think I'll waste the ammunition. Why don't you tell me what you're after?"

"I need to know... this is complicated. It has to do with the future, the Doctor's future, and I've got to protect that every way I can. If I'm in the wrong time, he can't even know I've been here."

The Brigadier studied Jack's face. Those eyes, Jack thought, would learn eventually to read everyone like a book. Or they would learn to distrust everyone on principle. This man, this warrior, would either become like the Doctor or trying not to do would destroy him. "The Doctor is here because this is where the Time Lords put him. Does that help you?"

"Yes," Jack said, sadly. "Yes, it does. I can't see him, it's too soon. And Brigadier, you need to know this, because it is very important. You absolutely cannot allow him to find out that Torchwood is after him. Timeline-wise, he's too young to take them. I'm doing everything I can to keep them from finding him. You should, too. Are we in agreement?"

The Brigadier considered him again. "How serious are you?" he asked at last.

"If it were possible, I'd die for him," Jack said, sincerely.

The Brigadier held out his hand. "Good then. We have a deal."

They shook on it, and treated each other with respect thereafter.

Jack took to wandering the world, finally winding up in Australia. He'd decided, since he had the time, that he would look up the native Australian people and learn their lore. It was a beautiful mythology that had never been truly lost, but Jack didn't know enough about it, he was certain.

However, before he even got out of Queensland, he encountered something that, for some reason, set his teeth on edge. There was nothing overtly wrong with it, just a man and a woman walking together down the street. However, the woman's eyes were blank, utterly absent, and the man, dressed in jet black velvet, had a strange, blue, star-fire gaze.

Jack followed them. He made a small tactical error, however, and allowed the man to get a jump on him down a small, disused alley.

"I am the Master," the man said coldly, meeting Jack's eyes and staring deeply into them, "and you will obey me."

"Yeah, see, that's a problem," Jack replied. "I've never been very good at obeying anyone." Then, he lashed out with a fist and punched the dark, sinister stranger in the mouth.

It should have clued Jack in to what he was dealing with when the Master, although yelping in pain, did not come up spitting blood. Jack shouted at the girl to run and kicked at his assailant, his body remembering what he'd been taught more than two centuries ago by a wreck of a warrior who had never wanted to be one.

The so-called Master was fast, faster than he had any right to be, but Jack knew his craft well. The alien martial art he was using was one of strength from defense, but Jack had learned to use it offensively when he had to do.

"Interesting," said the Master, backing away from Jack, toward the girl who was standing stark still, as if petrified. "I don't know if you know this, but humanoids can't actually perform the maneuvers you are attempting."

"That's what my teacher said," he replied and lashed out with a well-timed blow, designed to cut the Master off from his quarry.

It worked, but the Master came up from his dodge holding something that was either a weapon or a - well, a toy for private home use. Jack wasn't entirely sure which, but decided he didn't care, and laughed.

The tip of the device unfurled and bright energy exploded from the end of it. Jack felt every cell in his body collapse in on itself. It was the strangest, most unnatural sensation, but he shook it off and lunged for the Master again. The Master looked at his weapon in fierce disgust, flung a quick jab into Jack's solar plexus, and then disappeared behind the nearest trash bin.

Still the girl stood there, staring into nothing.

As soon as he could breathe again, Jack moved to go after the man, but there was a sudden, familiar, all encompassing wheezing, grinding noise. Jack stared at the trash bin in horror as it began to disappear.

When at last the alley was empty, save for Jack and the girl, he turned to her to try to shake her out of her trance. He tried snapping fingers, calling, even shaking her. Nothing.

Well, he'd done his best. He lowered his head, gently placed his lips over hers, and kissed her hard. It was something he'd discovered over the years. With a bit of care, whatever it was that made him like he was could be transferred. Along with the gift of immortality (if you could call it a gift) he had been granted the kiss of life.

The girl abruptly came to and, quick as blinking, slapped the hell out of him.

"Hi," he said politely, wincing and clutching at his jaw. "I'm Captain Jack Harkness."

"What do you think you're doing?" she demanded. Her quick eyes darted around carefully. "Where the hell am I? What is going on?" She prodded him sharply in the chest to punctuate each sentence.

"I just rescued you from something that would appear to be a Time Lord psychopath who calls himself the Master. Any of that make any sense to you?"

"Oh, not him again!" She swore viciously, in an alien dialect that Jack knew for a fact she could have only picked up in one place.

"Where's the Doctor?" Jack asked.

"I don't know," she shouted, "and I really couldn't care less!"

Then she burst into tears.

It took Jack three very strong drinks and two hours to find out that the woman was an air hostess called Tegan Jovanka, that she used to travel with the Doctor, that their parting hadn't been under the best of terms, and that the Master probably thought she'd be handy bait for another trap. In the things she didn't say, he realized that the Master was an old enemy of the Doctor's, that he had killed someone close to Tegan, that she had seen too much death and destruction, and that she loved the Doctor desperately and therefore had to leave him before she died inside just to stay with him.

Jack proceeded to build her a bio-damper out of a few small parts he found in a local electronics store, some fast microprogramming from his wrist computer, and a delicate silver locket on display at the jewelry shop across from the electronics booth. Then, he gave her Ian and Barbara's number and left her to her grief.

He could have offered her some scanty comfort, but she would have been pretending he was someone else. Normally, that idea didn't bother Jack but he wasn't going to do that this time.

Not when he would have been pretending to be someone else, himself.

Once Torchwood managed to successfully reach behind themselves and find their collective rear-end, they recalled Jack to Cardiff and ordered him to use his UNIT connections to drop in on a top-secret gathering being held at an old manor house two hours north of London.

Jack called around and arranged to get himself invited to what turned out to be, pretty much, an alumni social. He and the Brigadier had a laugh over it and invented several detailed reports of what Jack had supposedly "overheard" at the event. Then, they went back out into the garden and Jack discovered that the Brig was, among other things, a grill master.

The most interesting people (and a couple of aliens) were popping in and out all afternoon. Jack had his heart set on shagging the Brigadier's attache, a tall, broad-shouldered soldier by the name of John Benton. All he got for his pains were several blank looks and, eventually, a right hook to the jaw. The entire time, Benton hadn't so much as twitched a facial muscle at him.

Jack was convinced it was true love.

Then he met Harry Sullivan and decided it might be easier there. If he yelled "Doctor" at the most unlikely moment, Sullivan, a Naval surgeon, at least couldn't say for sure what he meant. Unfortunately, that way was guarded by a beautiful journalist with dark hair and dark eyes. She was called Sarah Jane Smith, and she was positively exquisite. Looked like a bit of a screamer, in Jack's studied opinion.

She seemed to think Harry was too innocent for him. For herself, she was entirely too sensible to fall for a word that came out of Jack's mouth. Jack vowed then and there that he'd at least get her to blush for him, even if it took him the rest of his unnaturally long life.

Jack hoped and hoped the Doctor might turn up, but it didn't happen. It seemed he wasn't the only one disappointed. A pretty blonde called Jo Grant wanted to thank the Doctor for his kindness to her when she left to be married, and the nice card he'd sent her at her subsequent divorce.

She was hanging off the arm of the guy Jack remembered as Mike Yates, so Jack could see she was happy now. Jack could actually remember having seen a painting of her in the TARDIS. One of the Doctors had apparently had a tendency to art and had done several portraits of former companions. Hers was one, Sarah's another, and there was that odd pose of two girls back to back, one brunette, one blonde, with somehow identical eyes, even if they looked nothing alike.

He didn't see either of them at the party, nor did he run into the fabled Ace, but he had a good time and enjoyed himself immensely. Even if he did have to sleep alone that night.

On Millennium Eve, everything came crashing down around Jack's ears. He came back to the Hub to find that the team leader had massacred the entire group. He gave Jack the whole place before he blew his own brains out all over the TV he'd been watching.

Jack could scarcely believe that any of this had happened. He started the clean up so he wouldn't have time to grieve or worry, but even the cleanup had to wait when, scarcely six hours later, alarms all over the place let him know that something was happening half-way around the world that would destroy the planet and possibly most of the entire local group. He had an idea what it might be, because he had seen the phenomenon before. Someone had opened the Heart of a TARDIS.

He jumped on the Rift Manipulator and, with effort, kept the Rift closed so that it couldn't help the disaster along. Still, everything went very, very strange, Jack's time-sense (such as it was) went stark, raving bonkers, and then, abruptly, everything stopped. The Millenium ticked by and the world went on and no one even noticed anything had been wrong except Jack.

The Rift spit out one anomaly, a girl on a time-traveling motor bike. After asking Jack for directions and offering to blow him to kingdom come if he flirted with her, she was gone again. Jack stared at the spot where she had been (for exactly sixty-three seconds before she vanished again). He hadn't even got to ask her her name.

Grimly, he finished the clean-up at the Hub. Then, he opened the envelope his late boss had left for him. It was insane, because the note read, "Congratulations, Jack, you are the proud owner of your very own Torchwood, Cardiff." Jack wondered how he could possibly have missed this kind of sickening lunacy.

He placed a quick call to let Torchwood, London, know he was flying to San Francisco to check on some anomalies there. He didn't bother to tell him that he was the only survivor in Cardiff. If his plans were to work, the rest of Torchwood had to have no idea what had happened here. It wasn't like this would be the first time they had lost track of an entire branch. No one had heard from Torchwood Four since the mess in the 80's.

It took half a dozen different modes of transportation to get him to where he needed to be in San Francisco, but Jack endured them, all the while damning his vortex manipulator for being broken. Then, he had to use the thing to track down any signs of what had happened because time had been folded over the area. Even Jack's limited time sense was enough to make that out (the Doctor used to tease him about the primitive nature of the skill that made him the pride of the Time Agency).

In the end, on impulse, he checked for traces of time travel radiation, and was led to a beautiful lady doctor by the name of Grace Holloway. Having had years to practice, this time, he managed to ingratiate himself to her by the simple expedient of nearly getting killed right in front of her house.

Aside from being blonde and gifted and almost intoxicatingly beautiful, Dr. Holloway seemed to be possessed of a deeply caring nature that admirably suited her choice of careers. So, when he told her he was actually looking for the Doctor, he made a point to let her see something he normally kept well hidden: everything that more than two centuries of wandering and wondering had done to him.

In the end, she told him about the events of Millennium Eve and the man who had risen from the dead in her morgue, stowed away in her car, stolen her peace of mind, and almost accidentally healed her soul. Jack could only figure that her Doctor, as she described him, was one of the very young ones. He was gentle and sweet-natured, it seemed, with the unerring ability to get into trouble (some things never changed), and a dress sense that seemed to have been highly effected by festive, holiday air about him. He tried to imagine his Doctor in a cravat and couldn't manage it.

Jack decided that, whatever else the Doctor might have, a time machine, a nose for secrets, a magnetic personality that perpetually dragged trouble in his wake, he also had an unrepentant thing for blondes.

Thanking Grace for her help, Jack left her to her packing up of momentos of an ex-boyfriend with the help of a young friend of hers, Chang Lee. From what Jack understood, Chang was going to dump them in the Bay for her before he left town. Jack stopped by the alley where the TARDIS had been located, checked all the seals for rift-like activity, and flew back to Cardiff.

The first thing he did with his new rank upon his return was call up the files on the Doctor. He flipped through them, digitized records of page after page of details going back to the moment of Victoria's formal malediction. At the last, there were copies of pictures: portraits done in several media, drawings of various types, photos and, finally, various digital and satellite images. Jack culled through them, isolating the men he knew to be the Doctor from the others he was unsure of.

He could confirm the man in the leather jacket. He could confirm the gentleman in the opera cape and velvet smoking jacket. He could confirm the guy in the technicolor coat, as he'd been the talk of that UNIT party Jack had attended years ago. Thanks to Grace's description of her Doctor, he could confirm the beautiful man with the long curls and the olive velvet frock coat. He could confirm, but only because of the woman in the portrait with him, that the original "Sir Doctor of TARDIS" was, in fact, the Doctor. There she was, her charming smile rendered sinister by the artist's conception at Victoria's behest. She had been painted as a young girl, far smaller than she should be from when Jack lost her on the satellite. Still, there was no escaping the blonde hair or the cheeky tilt of her head. Dame Rose of Powell Estate was Rose Tyler, the Doctor's Rose, Jack's Rose, and she was still with him.

Jack let himself breathe a sigh of relief and moved on to the pictures he couldn't confirm.

Well, he knew for sure that the sinister man in black velvet was not the Doctor. He was reasonably certain that the young cricketer was probably just an innocent by-stander - his face was too sweet to be the Doctor's, although the veggie in the man's lapel gave Jack pause. He was rather convinced that the guy in the scarf was the Doctor, because he was sure he'd seen that scarf in the TARDIS. He was going to tease the Time Lord mercilessly about that one for years.

There were other faces that made for entertainment, like the young woman with golden hair and luminous blue eyes. But the one that made Jack laugh so hard he very nearly stopped breathing was the whole, huge section devoted to a theory one of his former colleagues had proposed around 1910.

Jack had never realized that they had been trying all these years to prove or disprove to themselves that he, Captain Jack Harkness, actually WAS the Doctor.

He sealed the files, hacked Torchwood, London, and scraped the records clean of everyone but the future Doctor in the brown suit. Then, he gifted them with a virus, which he named 'Bad Wolf' on a whim, to make sure the records wouldn't turn back up and that all trace of Rose vanished from the system. She was far more vulnerable than the Doctor.

He sat back in his new office and smiled a little. It had taken a tragedy, but he could do this. It was time to turn Torchwood into something that was good for the planet, useful to the human race.

After all, the twenty-first century was when everything changed. They had to be ready and, for as long as Jack was here, he could help.