Choices

Jack has no idea who the two men are, but he immediately recognizes them as trouble. As first, his conscious mind can't figure out why he is reacting to them. The men look perfectly ordinary for this time (32nd century) and place (a small taverna on Port Korinthos space station). Both are drinking beer. One is biting into a souvlaki wrap that – according to the menu display – contains "only the highest quality vat-grown protein". They're not drunk or belligerent, or paying too much attention to their fellow customers. They're minding their own business. So why is Jack's hindbrain screaming mauve alert?

He lets his gaze drift over them again as he scans the room, ostensibly admiring the fake antiques that decorate the walls. Then, sipping his retsina, he studies the mental snapshot he's captured. He may not have a truly photographic memory, as the Doctor does, but 51st century genes and Time Agency training give him the ability to focus when necessary.

As if his thoughts have drawn the Time Lord's attention, the Doctor murmurs, "Jack? Somethin' wrong?"

"I don't know," he replies, continuing to concentrate on the mental image. "Just give me a minute." Two men, of average height, both wearing the earrings that are fashionable for spacers in this region. One sports polished onyx cabochons; the other, triangular silver studs. Two typical specimens of the era, middling prosperous, nothing unusual about them… yeah, that's it. They're just too typical, as if they were ordered from a catalogue. They blend in too well. No eccentricities of dress or manner, nothing that might draw excessive interest. Even their earrings are ordinary. Jack tenses, though he's careful not to let his reaction show. He knows one group of people that make a habit – a policy – of blending in, wherever and Iwhen/Iever they may be.

Jack lifts his glass of retsina. His smile and his relaxed posture tell anyone who might be watching that he's engaged in a light, meaningless conversation. "We've got a problem. The two men sitting in the rear booth—"

"—are Time Agents," the Doctor finishes for him. "Yeah, noticed that, thanks. Knew they had to be time travellers – the timelines around them look like a cross between a corkscrew and a pretzel. Messy." He doesn't need to add a disapproving stupid humans! Jack can hear it clearly enough in the frosty silence without actual words. "An' bein' human and in this century, that makes them either Agents or rogues – and they look too spit an' polish to be rogue. You know them, Captain? They after you?"

"Don't recognize them, for what little that's worth." Jack doesn't bother to remind the Doctor of the two-year gap in his memory. "They don't seem to be noticing me. Any good hunter can pretend indifference, but I really don't think they're here for me." He stiffens in his seat. The Time Lord has identified the Agents by the disturbances that time travel caused in their personal timelines. The Doctor's own time signature is strong and distinctive. "Doctor, we may lack your time senses, but the Agency has some pretty sophisticated chronon detectors."

The Time Lord snorts. "Kiddie toys. 'Sides, I'm shieldin'. They're not gonna detect anything I don't want them to detect." After a pause he adds, "Shieldin' you, too."

"Thanks." Even now, having been aboard the TARDIS for a couple of months, it still surprises Jack whenever the Doctor makes a particular effort on his behalf. Perhaps he would feel more certain of his position in the TARDIS's crew if the "crew" was larger. Instead, it's just Rose and himself, and he can never expect to equal Rose's place in the Doctor's hearts. He knows that the Doctor trusts him, because he allows Jack to protect Rose from danger and to tinker with the innards of his precious TARDIS. He has been given his own key to the timeship. Surely that is recognition enough? And yet… and yet… Jack pushes the thought away. He's travelling with a Time Lord, for gods' sake, and how many people have ever been granted that privilege, in all of time and space? Damned few, he's willing to bet.

He risks another glance around the taverna, this time assessing the number and location of customers and staff. Not many. By the time he and the Doctor finished their business at Honest Al's Junque Emporium, it was well past lunch, as reckoned by station time. If trouble does develop, at least there won't be too many civilians to worry about. And thank all the gods that might be that Rose is spending the weekend – eleven centuries and a few million light years away – on Earth, at a "hen party" for a cousin of her friend Shireen.

As Jack's gaze travels the room, the spacer with the onyx earring stretches, rolling his shoulders and extending his arms. It's an ordinary gesture of an ordinary man easing muscle tension after a long work shift. No one would think anyone of it – except someone like Jack. Someone who happens to be trained in the covert sign language of the Time Agency. That ordinary gesture means, Do you require assistance?

DamnDamnDamnDamnDamn! He can't pretend not to have seen the signal. It was perfectly timed for the moment he looked in that direction. He can either reply or pretend ignorance. Either path is strewn with hidden pitfalls. Are they sure he was an Agent or are they just trying to confirm a suspicion? Do they know who he is and his current status with the Time Agency? Too many questions and not enough data, but if he is going to reply, it had to be right now, because a delayed response will raise unhealthy suspicions. It's like jumping into the Vortex without coordinates, but he has no choice. He pushes back a lock of dark hair from his face, then scratches behind his right ear. No assistance needed. Do not contact. He delivers the second part of the message with a finger flick that indicates he is with an uninvolved civilian. Somewhere, in a back corner of his brain, Jack imagines the Doctor's reaction to that description, and doesn't know whether to laugh or shudder. One thing is certain. If it all suddenly goes pear-shaped, Jack's top priority will be to keep the Doctor as uninvolved as possible.

There is no reply from the two Time Agents, and Jack allows himself to hope, though not to relax. He takes another sip from his glass, still smiling a smile that he does not feel. He murmurs, "They suspect. Used an Agency hand code. I tried a bluff. Whatever happens, just stay out of it. They probably think you're a small-time smuggler or someone like that. Beneath their notice."

The Doctor's brows shoot up. "That's a bit insultin'. Well worth noticin', me."

At the rear of the taverna, the two Time Agents rise, leave some credit chips on their table, and begin to stroll forward, looking well-fed, relaxed, and uninterested in anyone around them. Then, as they come parallel to the table where Jack and the Doctor are sitting, they pivot in a move as coordinated as a dance. Each man holds a compact blaster at chest height, their bodies blocking any view of the weapons from the rest of the room.

"Let's keep this calm and quiet," Onyx Earring says.

"Very calm and very quiet," echoes Silver Earring, whose blaster is trained on the Doctor.

Jack silently curses Port Korinthos' weapons policy that forced him to leave his favourite blaster behind in the TARDIS. He still has his hidden backup piece, but there is no way he'll have a chance to retrieve it. Not in front of two Time Agents who know all the same tricks. "Is there a problem, gentlemen?" he asks, turning his palms upwards in an age-old gesture of innocence and peaceful intent.

"No problem," Onyx Earring replies, "as long as you cooperate." He appears to be the senior of the two.

"Cooperation is my middle name," Jack assures him. He resists the temptation to add a cheerfully lewd comment about just how cooperative he can be, given the right opportunity.

Onyx nods. "They'll be very happy to see you, back at Headquarters. You've become an annoyance. It was a mistake to get too ambitious. Should've kept your cons small, like the other gutter rats." There is no tone of enmity or anger in his voice, only a mild contempt.

Onyx glances at the Doctor. "You'll be turned over to station security. If they don't have anything on you, you'll be released. We have no interest in you."

"That's a mistake. Very interestin' bloke, me." He's wearing that goofy grin that looks harmless and means all kinds of trouble.

"Yeah, sure you are," Silver Earring says. "Shut up."

"Stay out of this," Jack hisses at the Doctor. "It's got nothing to do with you." How can a being with an intellect the size of a galaxy be so damn stupid?

"I don't take orders from you, Captain," the Doctor says, a hard edge creeping into his voice, "An' it's got a lot to do with me. I'm the one that's gonna have to explain to Rose why you're not on board the TARDIS when I go to pick her up. She'll be unhappy, an' then Jackie will be angry, an' I'm not havin' Jackie Tyler angry at me if I can help it. I'm also the one that's gonna have to re-align all the gravitic stabilizers without help, so don't think you can go swannin' off with these two an' not have me say somethin' about it."

"I told you to shut up," Silver growls, and he waggles the blaster meaningfully.

The Doctor doesn't even spare him a glance. "Right, then," he says to himself, as if coming to a decision. He turns to Onyx. "I need to talk to your supervisor."

"You need to talk to— who the hell do you think I am – your messenger boy?"

The Doctor gives him Annoying Smile #11: If-you-insist-but-you-won't-like-the-answer. "I think you're a Time Agency flunky with barely enough authority to decide what sort of jam to put on your toast in the morning. You're not cleared for this, sonny boy. Your supervisor probably isn't, either, but that'll be a start."

Onyx is obviously annoyed, but he's too well disciplined to lose control just because a civilian prisoner is mouthing off at him. He looks at Jack. "Explain to your smuggler friend that he's not helping you any by messing in Time Agency business."

Jack wishes it were that simple. He has a terrible suspicion that the Doctor is going to try to "help" him by being imposing and intimidating. The Doctor does intimidating very well. He has a frigid stare that causes minor bureaucrats to tremble, and customs agents to hide under their desks. He could probably intimidate a glacier. But the Time Agency is something else entirely. The Agency could – and does – teach courses on ruthlessness, brutality, and coercion. A Time Agent, especially a Supervising Agent, is not going to release Jack on the say-so of a random traveller, just because he has a glare, an attitude, and a good bluff.

"We don't call in a district supervisor to talk to every whinging petty criminal, mister."

"Doctor," the Time Lord corrects him. "Just 'the Doctor,' and there's nothin' petty about me, sonny boy. You can tell your district supervisor that I have a confirmation code for him. Now, he won't be cleared for it, so I'll just give you the middle five characters. Aleph Four Gimel Six Omicron. Got that? He'll probably have to bounce it up a couple of levels to find someone who Iis/I cleared, so to speed things up, tell him it's Department 391 business, all right?"

Silver's voice is thick with derision. "Are you sure that's all you want?"

Travelling with the Doctor is always a learning experience. At first, Jack didn't think there was much that could surprise a jaded ex-Time Agent, but the Doctor keeps proving him wrong. He's also had to change his assumptions about the laws of physics and how the Universe functions. Right now, Jack is learning that there is a temperature colder than Absolute Zero. He knows this, because he can hear it in the Doctor's voice. "Make. The. Call."

Onyx stares at him. At last, he turns to Silver and a look passes between them. "I'll take the responsibility. Go back to the ship. Contact District."

Silver is none too happy, but he follows orders. It takes a while before he returns. Jack knows that the call has been sent in an encoded data squib to District HQ, then relayed up the line to GHQ.

Silver returns with a sealed, written reply, which he hands to Onyx. The senior Agent opens it cautiously, as if it were something alive and dangerous that might bite. "Well, Doctor, it seems that there actually is such a code, but it's not quite the one they were expecting."

Jack stifles a chuckle. With the Doctor, nothing that you get is ever quite what you were expecting.

"Also," Onyx continues, "the records indicate that there should be some kind of physical component."

"There is, an' I've got it safely tucked away. I won't be getting' it out until I'm face-to-face with someone who has the authority to give me what I want."

"And just what is it that you want?" Silver growls.

"Him," the Doctor says simply, jerking his thumb in Jack's direction. "I want my crewman released, an' a guarantee that this won't happen again the next time I run into some of your trigger-happy goons."

"Your 'crewman' is a disgraced Time Agent and a wanted criminal. You can't possibly have any information that's valuable enough to make the Agency overlook his offences," Onyx says stiffly.

The Doctor leans back in his seat, as relaxed as a cat on a sunny windowsill. "You can't possibly imagine what I have," he says softly.

Jack, meanwhile, feels an icy lump growing in his throat. He doesn't know exactly what the Doctor is up to, but it seems as though he's preparing to trade something for Jack's freedom. Information? Valuables? Time Lord tech? Whatever it is, Jack isn't worth it; isn't worth the risk of dealing with the Agency. He wants to tell the Time Lord to stop being an idiot, to walk away while he can still do so safely.

By mutual agreement, the four of them relocate to the hostel room that the Agents are using as their temporary base. Small though it is, Jack knows it's much more spacious than the interior of any Agency timeship. Onyx requests Jack's back-up weapon, which he relinquishes after a wordless conference with the Doctor. Then it's more waiting. Neither of them is bound, and they are permitted to move around. Jack expects the Doctor to be pacing the room, but he is motionless on a rickety chair, lost in thought.

Jack tries to talk to him, to ask about his plans, to dissuade him from taking this risk. The only reply he gets is a reproachful look and a "Y'worry too much, Jack."

Word comes again from the Time Agency GHQ: someone has been dispatched to interrogate the prisoner and the informant.

"Nah, I don't much fancy interrogations," is the Doctor's only comment. Onyx tells him that he doesn't have a choice. "There's always a choice," the Doctor replies. "Just gotta be willin' to take the consequences. You willin' to take the consequences of your choices, sonny?"

Onyx ignores him. Jack watches the Doctor for a signal. Two against two does not make for wonderful odds when only one side is armed, but he's reasonably sure that he can stay alive long enough to create a distraction for the Doctor's escape. He looks to the Doctor for orders, and gets only an emphatic shake of the head. Wait.

They wait. It is five hours before the "someone" makes an appearance. An icy prickle travels up and down Jack's spine. It could be worse. He knows this man. Colonel Josiah Quintrell, Intel Division. Jack worked in Ops, and doesn't know him well, but he knows his reputation. Brilliant, cold-blooded, devious. They say he's honourable, by which they mean that he won't pretend to smile when he stabs you in the back. By Time Agency standards, that practically makes him a saint.

Quintrell's dark eyes scan Jack, analyse and catalogue him before he turns his attention to the Doctor. "Colonel Josiah Quintrell, Time Agency. You've had my archives department spinning like quarks for the past few hours, Doctor. Archivists get terribly agitated when you ask them to gather information on someone who doesn't exist."

"I'm not Tinker Bell, Colonel. I won't blink out of existence jus' because you refuse to believe in Time Lords."

"I believe in Time Lords, Doctor. There's enough evidence, if you dig deeply enough. I don't believe that you're one."

"An' the bioscan that you ran, jus' before you came in?"

Quintrell nods, conceding the point. "That you have two hearts proves nothing. Mutant, surgery, gene mods, maybe even some kind of mixed-breed – doesn't matter. There haven't been any Time Lords for centuries."

"Last of my kind, me." Just for a moment, the Doctor's eyes are bleak with memories. "You strike me as a busy man, Colonel – too busy to come traipsin' across the galaxies to speak to a fairy tale. So, if there aren't any Time Lords, what brought you all this way?"

Quintrell hesitates, then shrugs. "Maybe I want to believe in at least one impossible thing before breakfast. Chandra, here—" he indicates Onyx "took a chronon reading off you that was way off the scale. But his sensor is a field unit. Maybe it's malfunctioning. This is a lab model, freshly calibrated." He produces a handheld device and points it at Chandra. "Right. Chronon reading that exactly matches his official logged temporal transit hours." He aims the device at himself, then at Silver, nodding with satisfaction each time.

"Chronon reading." The Doctor's tone is a cross between amusement and disdain. "Might as well calculate interstellar travel in furlongs per fortnight. Measuring accumulated chronon particles 'stead of the artron energy within them—"

"Artron energy can barely be sensed, let alone measured accurately," Silver interrupts. "Golvani's Law says—"

"Golvani? Don't make me laugh. That's humans for you – muckin' about with stuff they can't detect, let alone control, an' then makin' up laws to hide how much they don't know." The Doctor waves a dismissive hand at the chronon sensor. "But since that is the best that you lot can do, recalibrate it to decades 'stead of years."

Quintrell frowns, but makes the change without comment. Again, he takes readings on himself and his two men. Then he turns the device towards the Doctor. He takes four readings before switching off the sensor and putting it away. "Something has to be wrong. A millennium – it can't be."

Jack lifts his brows. "Lying about your age, Doc? You keep saying you're only nine hundred."

"Close enough. I don't live a very linear existence. Got other things to keep track of. An' don't call me Doc!"

Quintrell looks at Jack. "He's convinced you?"

"I'm a practical man. I believe in gravity, Newton's Third Law, and the Doctor." Under other circumstances, Jack would mention the convincing evidence of the TARDIS. No one, including the Time Agency, has dimensionally transcendent technology. Better not to mention the timeship just now, It might stir some up some unfortunate desires. Not that an attempt to steal the TARDIS would get very far, but it would be just one more complication they don't need.

"Assuming for argument's sake that you are a Time Lord, your confirmation code doesn't match. You're not CIA."

"I've done a few jobs for the Celestial Intervention Agency." The Doctor's expression of distaste tells Jack that he didn't do those jobs willingly. "An' the confirmation code I've got overrides the CIA."

The Colonel looks unhappy. "It does, but Archives can't identify it."

"'Course not," the Doctor says dismissively. "It's a Presidential code. Overrides everythin'."

Presidential? Jack's heart sinks. Bad enough that the Agency has a surviving Time Lord in their hands – now that they know he's high-ranking, they'll be all the more eager to hold on to him.

The Doctor pulls a small object from his coat pocket. It's a white disc, engraved with an odd figure-eight pattern. Quintrell produces another disc, identical to the Doctor's. As they come closer, both discs chime softly. "How do I know you didn't steal this?" Quintrell demands.

"Bio-coded to my DNA," the Doctor replies calmly. "Quit stallin', Colonel. You know who you're dealin' with – now it's time to deal."

Quintrell nods. "As I understand it, you want this man – currently calling himself Harkness – released to your custody."

"More or less. I want Jack Harkness – currently servin' as my crewman – officially assigned to me, an' I want the Agency off his back."

"And what does the Agency get in return?"

"You get to continue." The Doctor's voice is still calm, but much colder. "Y'know, I remember when the Time Agency was founded. The High Council debated whether you lot should be allowed to fiddle about with time travel. It was a narrow thing, but the CIA argued that you might be useful. Maybe it's time to reconsider that decision."

Only Jack's years of training keep him from openly gawking. He's seen the Doctor pull off some huge bluffs, but this one is beyond outrageous.

Quintrell is staring at the Doctor, apparently trying to decide if the Time Lord is joking or crazy. "Are you proposing to declare war on the Time Agency?"

"Not war, Colonel. An' you should be very grateful for that. You don't want to see how I wage war. You really don't. Nah, I'm jus' thinkin' that maybe I should suspend your licence. Those gimcrack ships of yours are easy enough to disable."

"It might take a while," Jack adds helpfully, "but I don't think the Doctor has any particular plans for the next few centuries."

The Colonel tries a new approach. "I was really hoping that we could settle this in a friendly way, Doctor. If you think so little of Agency technology, then perhaps you would be prepared to share some of your people's advances."

Jack waits for an explosion of sarcastic words or scornful laughter, but the Doctor only looks thoughtful. "You might have a point, Colonel." He reaches into his pocket, and removes a greyish pebble. "This is kelosite, a mineral that attracts chronon particles. Under the right conditions, it's luminescent. You jus' have to reach inside the stone an' excite the chronon particles." He holds the pebble up, and it begins to glow softly. "A simple teaching tool. My people used to give them to children of six or seven, to help stimulate their time senses. Catch!"

As soon as the pebble leaves the Doctor's hand, the glow fades. Quintrell looks down at the stone, frowning. "This is hardly what I had in mind."

"I know what sorts of things you had in mind, Colonel. Master the kelosite, an' I might – might – consider givin' you somethin' more advanced. Now, getting' back to business, it was always understood that the CIA could claim the services of a Time Agent when needed—"

"This is absurd! The CIA is long gone. Your claim has no legal basis."

"All right, then. Different claim." The Doctor's voice takes on a formal tone, though his rough northern accent remains unchanged. "This man is joined to me and mine. My hand is placed over him in protection, in all places an' in all times, for the rest of my lives." The words sound as solemn as a vow or a legal judgment. Suddenly, the tall man in the leather coat reminds Jack of a medieval prince: arrogant, powerful, and utterly confident of his lineage and his authority.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"It means that Jack Harkness is mine, Colonel, and that the Time Agency has no more claim to him. Go tell your superiors – an' be very, very sure that they believe you – if the Agency interferes again with me or mine, I will I shut it down."

"You can't—" Quintrell begins to say, but then falls silent. Glancing at the Doctor's face, Jack can see why. The haughty prince is gone. In his place is a predator: ancient, ruthless, and ready to strike. The feral look in his eyes speaks of cruelties witnessed and horrors committed, beyond the boundaries of sanity. Jack has seen that look before, though not often, and never (thank the gods) aimed at him. It is a look that only a fool would challenge, and the Colonel is no fool. "You would," he says wonderingly.

"Yep."

"For him?"

"I protect my own, Colonel," the Time Lord says, and the words are both a promise and a warning.

The Colonel nods. "I can't speak for the Agency, but I will convey your message, I think I can make them understand the… situation."

"See that you do. We'll be leavin' now. Don't try to follow us." The Doctor waves Jack towards the door, and whispers, "Don't look behind you. On my signal, run." He doesn't wait to see if Jack obeys. "Colonel, you can keep the kelosite, but there are some things I didn't tell you about it."

"Yes?"

"The stronger you are, the brighter it gets. An' if you get strong enough, you don't need to be touchin' it."

Out of the corner of his eye, Jack sees a dazzling flare of light fill the room behind him. A few spots dance before his eyes; the Time Agents must be nearly blinded. He throws open the door, and sprints into the corridor. The Doctor follows, pausing just long enough to slam the door. A quick burst from the sonic screwdriver jams the lock.

…..

As soon as they reach the TARDIS, the Doctor takes her into the Vortex. He bends over the console, checking settings, but not inputting any coordinates.

Jack's heart is still pounding, but he forces himself to lean nonchalantly against a coral strut. "That was quite a speech you made back there, Doctor. Some of it sounded almost like a ritual."

The Time Lord does not look up from the readout he is studying. "Yeah. Took it from a House-binding— never mind. Dunno why I used the old words. Meant them, though. You belong on the TARDIS."

"It sounded like you were saying that I belonged to you." Jack is careful to keep his tone light.

The Doctor remains bent over the console. "What I said was that you were mine to protect. The words bind me, not you."

That makes his place clear enough. A dependent. A responsibility. What did you think he would say? Snap out of it, Jack. You're alive and free, which is a lot more than you expected two hours ago. Aloud, with deliberate casualness, he says, "And that was some bluff you pulled. I think Quintrell bought it – hell, I nearly bought it myself." Despite his sour mood, he can't help grinning at the memory.

The Doctor finally looks up. There is no answering grin on his face, and shadows of the predator still haunt his eyes. "What bluff?"

Jack Harkness – the glib, smooth-talking seducer, raconteur, and former conman – struggles to find words. "You really would… for me…"

"Said so, didn't I?" The Time Lord flips several switches. "They've been getting' too big for their boots for a few centuries. Needed talkin' to." His hands fly over the instrument panel, and Jack recognizes the familiar pattern of setting destination coordinates. "Time we were goin' to get Rose. S'pose Jackie will want us to stay for tea. An' Rose will talk of nothin' but girlie stuff for days." The fearsome being who threatened to dismantle the Time Agency looks more than a little uneasy.

It's clear that the Doctor considers the other topic closed, but Jack can't let this moment pass in silence. There are too many unspoken words weighing down on him. "Doctor, I don't know what to say—"

"You talk too much," the Time Lord grumbles. There is no annoyance in his voice, only good-natured forbearance. "Humans. Always chatterin'."

"Doctor."

The Doctor sighs and looks up, meeting Jack's intent gaze. His face is calm; watching, waiting.

"Relational rituals like that usually have two parts," Jack says, as dry and precise as any anthropology lecturer at the Time Academy. "So… what are the words that would bind me?"

Something flickers behind the Doctor's impassive mask. "No," he says bluntly, "I don't want that, Captain."

Jack nods stiffly. "All right. I understand." You don't want me.

"No, you don't," the Time Lord growls. "I shouldn't have used those words. Should've left them in the past, but I wasn't thinkin' clearly." He begins to pace the room, hands jammed into the pockets of his leather coat. "The other half of that ritual would bind you, all right. Obedience an' service an' obligation. For life. I don't want that from anyone, 'specially you."

No wonder I was thinking it sounded medieval. Homage, the Academy lecturer in the back of Jack's mind recites, from the Old French, homme, man. A feudal ceremony in which a vassal publically acknowledges himself to be his lord's man. The free-spirited Doctor would chafe at the rules and restrictions of that bond. So would Jack, and yet part of him finds the thought tempting. To belong to someone… And he is looking at the only person in the Universe to whom he could honestly make such a pledge.

"I had to pretend to claim you," the Doctor continues, "because that lot only understands possession an' control. Idiots."

There's a knot the size of a small asteroid in his belly, but he has to ask, has to know. "Pretend?"

"Already chosen you, hadn't I? Did that a while back. The difference between a claim an' a choice is that choosin' has to be on both sides." The stormy blue eyes look at him; look into him, seeing all of him, and accepting him. "You're free to choose, Jack. You can choose to be on the TARDIS with Rose an' me. An' you can choose to go."

Relief and joy flood into him. Maybe this is a fairy tale, after all. Jack looks at the prince who was ready to slay a dragon for his sake. "I made my choice a long time ago, Doctor." The choice— and the consequences. This life is no less dangerous than the one he left behind in a vaporised Chula warship. He may be dead or maimed or imprisoned before he reaches forty. He probably will never be loved as Rose is loved; may never have a chance to explore those intriguing, sardonic lips. Doesn't matter. Right now, Jack Harkness is sure of the one thing that does matter: he has been chosen. Not merely accepted, but wanted. Whatever the future may bring, in this present moment, he is living happily ever after.