Disclaimer: I don't own Torchwood, or Doctor Who. Did you honestly think I did?
The thick door rolled away with a somewhat mechanical whine to reveal an impossible, haphazard, and yet…somehow organised collection of oddities. Series of stairs and metal walkways, computer workstations where the monitors seemed to glow with life while the ever-present dripping of water and slightly grungy walls stood as the barest reminder that they were in fact, underground. And who could forget the tall metal spire reaching up through the high ceiling and through the Plass above? Or the occasional screech of a pterodactyl echoing up from the tunnels?
The Hub. Jack took a deep breath, letting the familiar scents of the Hub wash over him and ease some of the tension still knotted in his shoulders. He was home. Or as close to a home as he had ever come. He was back where he belonged, and the Year that Never Was…never was. His team was still alive. Tosh, Own, Gwen, Ianto – Oh God, Ianto! They were all still alive.
There was an odd smile on his face as he turned to the man next to him. Brown-haired and skinny as a rat, this man was dressed in a pinstriped brown suit, his long brown coat discarded (and most likely forgotten) somewhere.
"Well Doctor…Torchwood Three. Here we are. How d'you like it? Torchwood One was, well, you know, Canary Wharf and all. Torchwood Two is some guy in Glasgow. More often drunk than useful – unless you were after a good drink, of course. Torchwood Four's missing. Been missing so long I sometimes wonder why we still bother to call it 'missing'."
Jack had noticed, the past two days, that the Doctor was rather…well, depressed. Perfectly understandable of course, considering all they'd been through on the Valiant…and the Doctor had just lost the last Timelord apart from himself (although Jack suspected there was far more to that relationship than the whole 'last-of-my-race' thing). And of course, the cannibalised TARDIS was still a glowing wreck of a paradox machine…
The Doctor hadn't been able to fix her (yet), and it was surely unhealthy for the Timelord to spend all his time around something so wrong. So Jack had offered him a place at Torchwood until things worked out for the better. Jack might seem wrong as well, but in comparison to the wrongness of a paradox machine…well, it was better for the Timelord to spend his time with Jack than inside that. Wasn't it? Jack knew the Doctor was hurting, knew from his tiny glances that all the Doctor wanted to do was run, off to new worlds, new lives, so wrapped up in the lives of others that he simply forgot, all the while running. And now he couldn't. Didn't even have the Tardis to comfort him.
So much loss. So much loss, after so much hope, and nothing to show for it. Nothing to mark that Year, because it had never even existed. It had affected them all, really. But the Doctor had become withdrawn; his usual chatter had died, dwindled to a forced reply here and there. And so, Jack found himself filling up the silences more and more with his own voice, his own inane chatter. It wasn't enough, but it was better than the silences. Silences were dead. And dead was not something Captain Jack Harkness could stand right now. He knew the Doctor felt the same – he could feel his gratitude. And so, he kept going, for both their sakes.
A few hours later, the sun rose over the Bay, and Captain Jack glanced at a watch – most likely Gwen's – which he had found behind the couch. The fact that he had been looking behind the couch at all only served to emphasise how little there was for him to do.
"Doctor?" he called, "They should be here soon."
Oh well, it wasn't like he had really expected one. Jack wandered down the stairs and found the Doctor standing at a bench covered with unsorted alien artefacts, methodically sorting them into piles. His hands passed over a greenish necklace with an alien inscription on it, a piece of cloth which was transparent and then glittering in turns, a pen which looked suspiciously as if it were there by mistake and was actually the property of one Doctor Owen Harper, and an object which vaguely resembled a gun, only alien, and with a coiled golden wire twisted around the outer frame.
"Jack," The Doctor exclaimed, waving the object at him, "You do know you have a modified Chula healing gun, right? It's about three quarters full with nanogenes. Remember the last time nanogenes were let loose on this world?"
It was by far the longest speech Jack had heard from the Doctor in days. He shrugged, masking his surprise.
"No idea. My team must have picked it up while I was uh…away. Still, nice to know we have it I suppose. Might come in handy one day.'
The Doctor just gave him a look. For a moment - just one – Jack felt as if everything was alright. As if...this was the old Doctor. Before the Valiant.
Jack turned as a light flashed and the door rolled away with a whine again. It was impossible (or at least, he liked to think so) to get into the Hub without making any noise. His team stepped through, laughing at some joke Gwen had just told. She and Owen walked in first, with Toshiko and Ianto bringing up the rear. They looked cheerful and only a little worse for wear after an early morning alien chase.
It was perhaps, a credit to them that it took all of three seconds to fall silent and have their guns out and ready.
"Jack?" Gwen whispered, eyes wide as if she could barely believe it.
"It's me." Jack sighed, a surge of emotion springing up inside him. They were alive!
"Yeah, sure. And how do we know that?" Ah, Owen. Feisty, hot-tempered Owen. His voice was laced with steel and utter disbelief.
"Look at him Owen. It's Jack!" Toshiko's voice piped up from behind.
"Yeah. Or another shapeshifter. The last one was Suzie for fuck's sake!"
"Those shapeshifters go fuzzy round the edges when you stare at them for too long. Jack doesn't. Well unless you-" Ianto caught himself. "Well. Either way, I'm more concerned with the man over there with the alien gun."
The Doctor dropped the healing gun back onto the table. "I wasn't going to do anything, I swear! Honestly, what is it with Torchwood and guns?"
"He couldn't have done anything either. That's a sort of 'healing gun'. Filled with nanogenes. You might want to take a look at that Tosh. Interesting things, nanogenes. Trust me."
"Yeah. And if you're not Jack, we can't. Easiest way to prove it?"
Owen pulled the trigger.
Jack's world exploded with a loud bang. His chest was on fire, and then, suddenly, he was falling backwards, and waiting. Waiting for the floor to catch up with him, waiting for the darkness he knew was coming. His last moment was one of panic, utter panic, and slight surprise that he hadn't landed on the hard, cold metal, but rather into something softer.
A/N: Normally, I detest notes. 'Specially at the end. If you liked this, please review. Cause otherwise...well, I won't think it's good enough to continue.