Disclaimer: Torchwood and Doctor Who are most certainly not mine.
Summary: Against his better judgment, the Doctor stops into Cardiff for a quick visit, intending to discover what exactly makes Jack tick. He walks away with a little more than he bargained for. Jack/Tenth Doctor, Jack/Ianto.
Notes: Spoilers through the end of Series 3 of Doctor Who, and A Day in the Death, Torchwood-wise. Enjoy.
I'll Promise You Tomorrow (While Denying You Today)
The Doctor stood with his feet planted firmly, hands tangled behind his back, neck craned up towards the sky. His brow was drawn, mouth thinned into a hard line, dark gaze sweeping over the open courtyard stretching out before him. Roald Dahl Plass looked exactly the same as how he'd left it—how he'd seen it last, catching five after Jack's departure and before Martha's.
His eyes gauged the movement by the water tower before he actually saw the figure step down onto the pavement, as if out of nowhere. Even at that distance, the good captain was a striking figure, all dark hair and blue eyes and that long military coat.
Jack Harkness crossed the plaza in the blink of an eye. Before the Doctor could wave in feeble greeting, Jack had slowed to a halt, panting, in front of him. The grin hadn't quite faded from his face, but confusion flickered there, too, when he raised a hand to his head in mock-salute and declared, "Doctor."
The Doctor nodded his head, peering intently over Jack's head and dangling his lean body over the railing. He pulled at one of his pinstriped cuffs absently. "Just thought I'd stop by."
Jack thumbed his braces and wheeled around, sweeping one arm out to encompass the entire Plass. "Well," he said, "would you like to come in?"
The Doctor pursed his lips, tossing the Captain an experimental, long-suffering glance. "I would like that, yes," he agreed at Jack's subsequent smile, hoisting himself over the railing with a grunt. His trainers slapped the pavement in time with Jack's boots, and he tossed a few looks around as they passed pillar after pillar, waiting.
"So. Martha stopped by."
There it was. The water tower loomed over them, endless and beautiful, and the Doctor couldn't be bothered to appreciate the sight. "Did she?" he asked easily, as Jack motioned him up onto a specific slab of pavement—he'd sensed the perception filter cast over it from ages away. "Yes, well. How is she?" Before Jack could answer, the rock beneath their feet stuttered into motion. The Doctor nodded appreciatively as not one of the pedestrians strolling by batted an eyelash as he and Jack began to descend.
"What?" Ah, yes, Martha. "Oh—well. You know, busy life, moving on."
The slab continued to go down, even after a roof had closed over their heads and an expanse of grey opened up beneath them. Machine upon machine blinked below the Doctor's feet, each attended to by a human, watching, waiting.
"She told me it was her choice," Jack said, and something in his voice made it both a question and a melancholy triumph. At his words, the people below glanced up and gathered by where the lift would soon be landing.
The Doctor waved at them. One waved back. "Yes." Alone again. "Yes, it was."
As the slab shuddered into place and Jack stepped down, turned back, and offered the Doctor his hand with a majestic smile, their eyes met. The Doctor just stood a little straighter and stared hard into Jack's face. Come with me, he tried to say.
Jack dropped his hand and looked away. "Welcome," he said, eyes on his team, "to Torchwood. Guys, this is—"
The Doctor made a great show of wheeling his hand and bending in a little bow. "The Doctor, at your service."
Jack landed a tentative hand on his shoulder (when had Jack ever been tentative?) and pointed to each of the humans gathered before him in turn. "Doctor, meet Gwen Cooper," a pretty black-haired girl, nice smile, big gap between her two front teeth, easy to remember, "Owen Harper," sour-looking dark-haired chap, very pale, unnaturally so, "Toshiko Sato," a cute Japanese girl, the one who had waved to him before. "And," Jack continued, making a big show of smiling at the last member, "this is Ianto Jones."
Ianto Jones was a worried-looking young man done up in an impeccable grey pinstriped suit, framed by a red shirt and a black tie. He looked like Jack's type; the Doctor eyed him carefully, wondering if it was Jack who was having him done up in that getup. For now, though, the Doctor just smiled and ducked his head in greeting. Ianto Jones, Gwen Cooper, Owen Harper, and Toshiko Sato all nodded back.
With no warning, the Doctor spun on his heel and made for the nearest machine. It blinked blue and red; idly, he spun the nearest dial and listened to Toshiko Sato cry out in protest. Her shout was almost drowned out by the sound of her heels clacking against the metal flooring as she raced over to intercept him. Before she was halfway across the room, he'd moved on to the next contraption. "Lovely toys you've got here, Jack," he called over his shoulder. "Very fancy. But then I expected nothing less. I only hope," he calmly pressed a large red button in the centre of the nearest console and moved on, ignoring the deafening beeping that started up, "you know how to use them."
Almost immediately, Owen Harper jogged over and shut off the alarm. "Oi," he snapped, as the Doctor passed him. "You! Stop mucking about!"
The Doctor whirled around, eyes almost comically wide. "I'm sorry," he said, blankly. "What are you?"
The Doctor frowned. "You're not giving off any body heat, and yet you're obviously human." His brow furrowed further. "You're not dead, are you?"
Owen gaped at him, but no sooner did the Doctor flash him a fleeting smile and prepare to go on analysing than Jack's hand landed hard on his shoulder, steering him away.
"But, Captain," he protested, as he allowed himself to be propelled up a set of long metal walkways and onto a thin, winding staircase. "I still have questions."
"Don't you worry," Jack muttered. "You can ask as many as you like once we're in my office."
"Hey!" the Doctor heard Owen roar from below. "Jack! Just who the bloody hell does he think he is?"
Jack didn't bother answering as he pushed the Doctor through his office's open door, stepped in, and shut it securely, cutting off all noise from below. The Doctor wandered over to the glass walls and peered down into the main area of Torchwood Three's base. Toshiko Sato was still fussing over the computer he'd just adjusted; Owen had given up in disgust and returned, sulking, to the autopsy bay; Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones stood side by side, staring rather despondently up at Jack's office. Ianto held a blue- and white-striped cup of coffee in both hands.
"So, Jack," the Doctor said, giving Ianto a bright smile that went unnoticed or unwanted, and was not returned. "What do you call this place, then?"
Jack moved to stand next to him against the glass. "The Hub," he answered. "Is it my turn to ask a question?"
The Doctor felt Jack's sidelong glance on his face, and looked more intently at the cornucopia of technology spread out below him. "Do you have a question to ask?"
"Why are you here?"
"I told you," the Doctor replied promptly.
Jack's stare went blank.
The Doctor turned, confusion flooding his face. "Oh, have I not told you? Must have forgotten. Oh, dear. Bit distracted, I'm afraid, what with—" He cleared his throat, squared his shoulders, and planted his feet. "Well! Anyway. There isn't a reason, Jack. No worries."
A wide, white smile spread across Jack's face, and he shook his head, laughing. "I think I know you a little too well to believe that."
The Doctor adopted a wounded look. "No, really, it's true! I just wanted to come visit. Is that a crime, Captain?"
The grin faded from Jack's ever-youthful cheeks, with bemusement rapidly taking its place. "No, of course not, but—" he started.
"Ah-ah-ah." The Doctor waved an index finger and made a few tsk-tsk noises until Jack was quiet again. "But nothing. Like I said, no worries. I may have been a bit lonely, that's all, and Martha's rather out of the question; she's gone off to the country with her mother, I believe."
Jack cracked another beautiful smile. "So I'm your last resort?"
The Doctor turned back to the window, grinning. "I guess you could say that, yes." He jabbed a finger at the glass and said, "So, go on. Tell me. Tell me about this amazing institute you so dutifully changed in my honour." Pause, then—light-hearted, easy: "I'm very disappointed at the lack of statues in my image. And here I'd been expecting banners, portraits, tributes coming out of your ears."
When Jack's smile came out more like a grimace, the Doctor couldn't help but think back on that year, on sitting in the abandoned warehouse, both unable to look away. "Sorry," Jack replied at length, with forced cheer. "I'd been planning to put some up for Christmas, but you took me by surprise. A few more months and you would've arrived at a Hub strung with little red and green lights shaped like your face, Doctor."
The Doctor's mouth dropped open, his lips forming a comical 'o'. "Is that so?" he asked, excitedly, running a bony hand over the glasses in his suit's breast pocket. After a moment of hesitation, he whipped them out and put them on, intent gaze washing over the Hub. "I'm sure if I look hard enough I'll find something."
Jack shifted his weight from foot to foot and watched the Doctor's stare flit from corner to corner. "Well, I've got Ianto dressing just like you, see?" he said, laughing and pointing as said young man crossed the room beneath them, four cups of coffee on a silver tray in his arms.
"Pinstripes and all," the Doctor agreed. "But where are his glasses?"
Jack smiled again. "Oh, I only allow him to take them out when we're alone."
The Doctor whirled around, startled. After just watching Jack's frozen face for a moment, he leaned back and let out a loud, short peal of laughter—laughter from low in his belly, uncontained, frivolous. "So, Jack," he said, a playful note to his voice, "when you and Ianto are alone, you ask him to take on my persona? My, but I do feel honoured."
Caught off guard, Jack fell silent, his jaw falling slack, mouth moving pathetically over unvoiced denials. The Doctor's eyes glittered in amusement, and Jack quickly gathered his thoughts, straightened, and replied, a little too quickly, "Well, it was his idea. He asked and I just couldn't say no." Feeling a little hot under the collar and all too eager to change the subject, Jack surreptitiously undid the topmost button on his shirt. "So, you said you wanted to know about Torchwood," he said, willing all the smoothness and charm back into his voice.
The Doctor eyed him, his slow smile drooping and eventually disappearing as Jack raised one arm and pointed down, indicating the Hub below with one broad sweep of his hand. His face grew serious, almost grim, and he reached out, catching the delicate jut of bone at Jack's wrist.
Jack almost jumped when the Doctor's hand closed around his forearm, and he swallowed hard when he met the Doctor's gaze, harsh and fathomless behind his thick-rimmed glasses. Mouth suddenly painfully dry, Jack licked his lips and averted his eyes, trying to stop them from wandering down to the Doctor's parted lips.
Damn. Jack forced his eyes back on the workstations, back on Ianto, walking about obliviously. Carrying on as usual. Now-empty coffee mugs in hand (the Doctor hasn't let go) and Gwen working away at her desk (is he going to?) and Owen puttering around in the autopsy bay (I don't want him to) and of course Tosh, bent over her computers again.
"Jack." The Doctor drew out the one-syllable name as if it was a goddamn confection, popping the 'k' sound as he'd done in the door of that reactor room so long ago.
Jack squeezed his eyes shut, briefly, then turned to face him. "Sorry—I'm a little, uh, distracted. The Rift's been acting up a lot lately. My team's very capable," he added.
The Doctor's grip on Jack's wrist loosened, but his fingers still hung about his friend's tanned arm, a gentle caress. "I don't doubt it," he agreed. "They look like they've faced their fair share of aliens."
"Oh, more than," Jack laughed. Even to him, though, his chuckles seemed forced and thin.
"Look at me, Jack."
Jack looked up at the ceiling. No. And he turned, obediently, to stare into wide eyes. "Yeah?"
The Doctor appraised him silently, looking as if he was caught somewhere between unimpressed and extremely amused. "Something the matter?" he said. His eyes narrowed, not altogether playful. "I think Martha's been rubbing off on you a bit. Honestly, when she—"
"Don't," Jack cut in, softly.
The Doctor fell silent at once, as if recognizing something in Jack's eyes, and released the Captain's wrist.
Jack's arm fell to his side.
The Doctor blinked, then looked up at Jack's face.
For the third time in two minutes, Jack licked his lips and took a deep breath, feeling the Doctor's guarded gaze never leave him. When the silence became too much, Jack reached out, tentatively, towards him. He expected the Doctor to lurch dramatically sideways, or dart away from his touch, something—but he just stayed stock-still, not even moving when Jack's heavy hand landed on his shoulder. The Doctor barely batted an eyelash as that hand slid over; Jack's fingers ghosted over the Doctor's collarbone before closing around the back of his neck.
"I thought," Jack said, finally, his hand tightening a little on the Doctor's neck, lithe fingers threading through the short hair at the back, "since this—this was okay, before, when you… when you were—"
Before Jack could stumble onwards, the Doctor caught his free hand, spreading the fingers and sliding his own through them, raising them to eye-level. At that, Jack finally looked up and could only hope that his nervousness wasn't too obvious.
The Doctor just smiled and pulled Jack's hand closer, pressing their entwined fingers against his chest, forcing Jack to move forwards, nearer.
He needed no further prompting. Jack slid the hand on the Doctor's neck around to cup his face, thumb rubbing gently, intimately, along the line of his jaw, holding him in place. The lips that he pressed against the Doctor's were closed, the kiss chaste, slow and sweet and speaking of years of pent-up longing.
When the Doctor stilled completely in his hold, Jack ran through every curse he knew, in every single language he'd ever come across, trying to find the most colourful ones to shout at the top of his lungs once this was over. He hadn't even touched the tip of the iceberg before he felt a gangly hand tangling in his short hair, pulling him in. Another hand dropped to his waist, insistent on pressing them flush against each other. Jack's mouth opened for a wordless, surprised exclamation, and then the Doctor was twisting above him, holding him close and tight. The press of lips against his was no longer gentle, but firm and demanding; lights flashed behind Jack's eyes and coherent thoughts refused to come.
"Yes," the Doctor breathed against his lips, backing Jack up against the glass walls of his office. "It's okay, Jack. This is okay."
"Doctor—" Jack gasped, caught between turning his head away and holding on as tight as possible. To his surprise, at the single word, the Doctor pulled back a little, pressed a brief kiss against one corner of Jack's mouth, and waited. A smile quirked up the edges of the Doctor's mouth as he watched Jack stare at him silently, chest heaving, face flushed, lips swollen.
The hand on his cheek shocked Jack: another gentle touch to catch him off guard. "You're an impossible thing, Jack," the Doctor told him, simply, rolling the familiar words around in his mouth like a sweet to be savoured. His eyes darkened, smouldering, and the smile vanished as his thumb brushed across Jack's cheekbone. "An impossible, wrong, beautiful thing."
Jack's breath caught, and the Doctor smiled, blinding and wide and white, as he held Jack firmly in place and kissed him again, slow, pinning his arms against the glass behind him.
At the sound of the voice, Jack's eyes flew open, and without thinking about it, he pulled his arms free and landed his hands on the Doctor's shoulders, ready to push him away, hold him at arm's length. And yet, he didn't, and they stayed pressed up against each other, hip-to-hip and chest-to-chest. Jack tried to think of something to say, but could only stare silently at Ianto in the doorway, at the sheaf of paper held loosely in one raised hand.
"—thought you should know," Ianto went on, softer, as he took in the Doctor's heavy gaze, fixed solely on Jack, "that there has been some recent Rift activity, and Tosh thought we should check it out. Sir."
Without another word, Ianto stepped back over the threshold and shut the door with a quiet snap. The two men heard his rapid footsteps tearing down the walkway, and the Doctor let out a laugh that was more like a sigh and stepped back. "Well!" he said smartly, running a hand down his face and straightening his glasses. "I wonder if he'll still want to role-play—"
One hand in the air was enough to shut the Doctor up, and Jack sagged against the glass walls, biting back a groan. "Shit," he mumbled, and lurched away, making for the door.
The Doctor stuck his hands in his pockets and watched. "Oops."
Jack let the door slam behind him without a backward glance and clattered down the pathway. "Ianto!" he called, propelling himself down the last few stairs two at a time. His team looked up at the cry, but Ianto was nowhere to be found. Still a little out of breath, Jack glanced around and asked, "Where's Ianto?"
Wordlessly, Gwen pointed towards the tourist office.
As Jack started towards it, he felt eyes burning into the back of his head. When he turned, he saw Toshiko quickly avert her gaze, then watched it flicker between his shoes and the glass walls of his office.
Just then, Owen resurfaced, coming up from the autopsy bay and wiping his hands with a tea towel. "What? Don't tell me the tea boy has gotten upset that his boyfriend's sucking face with his Doctor?" he asked sourly.
Jack scowled at him and glanced around at Gwen and Tosh in search of support; when they quickly looked down at their respective desks, his heart sank: they'd seen, too. Without a word, he spun away and opened the giant cog in front of him with the help of his wrist strap, then raced up the narrow staircase beyond.
At first glance, the tourist office looked empty. Then the beaded curtain rustled in the corner, and Jack moved towards it. He wasn't halfway across the room before Ianto appeared, arms crossed, expression stony. Jack felt his forced smile falter and sputter out at the sight.
"Hi, Ianto," he mumbled, hands stuffed in his pockets.
"Sir." The arms folded across the pinstriped chest tightened. "I'm sure we can handle the Rift spike. You've obviously got more important things to… do."
Jack winced at both the formality and the emphasis on that final word. "Ianto," he tried again, "he's my—I mean, this is—this is the Doctor that I told you about, remember?"
"You mean the one that had you swanning off? 'I came back for you,' and all that?"
Jack crossed the room in two long strides and had grabbed Ianto by the shoulders before he could get away. Tugging him close, Jack shook him roughly and hissed, "I did! I did come back for you! You're what—"
"You came back for everyone." Ianto delicately removed Jack's hands from his suit, and straightened the creases. "Wait—Gwen, actually."
Jack's eyes widened. "I—"
"CCTV," Ianto intoned smoothly. "I asked Tosh. Gwen kept you going, don't try to tell me otherwise." He shrugged and turned away, his back straight as a rod. "They're your words, after all."
Jack caught him by the shoulder, forced him back around, and stared hard into his face. Ianto just looked back impassively. Jack searched for jealousy and found none; he tried anger next, then sorrow—nothing; nothing but a hint of dead, distant hurt. "Ianto," he murmured, clutching at the young man's arms and pulling him close, despite his protests. "I—"
"Ah, found you! Was wondering where you'd gone."
Jack squeezed his eyes shut, buried his face in Ianto's hair, and took a deep breath. When he thought his demeanour would be steady enough, he pulled away from Ianto and stepped back, then turned to face the Doctor.
He beamed at Jack from the entryway. "Well," he said carefully, nodding at Ianto, "I really ought to be going. Your team isn't very good at conversation, by the by. I kept trying to strike one up and just got nothing."
Jack wet his lips and tried at a smile. "Then… I'll see you again, Doctor," he said awkwardly, unsure of what to do.
The Doctor seemed rather bewildered by the lacklustre farewell, but merely waved one hand at the door. "The exit, I trust?" he asked, marching towards it. As if it was some big secret, he winked at Ianto and said, conspiratorially, "Jack took me down in this weird invisible lift thing. Have you gone on it? It's quite exciting!"
Ianto pursed his lips and said nothing in return. The Doctor, blissfully uncaring of his attitude, ducked his head and disappeared out into the sunlight.
When the door shut behind him, silence resumed, with Jack unwilling to make another move and Ianto unwilling to do anything at all. Too cowardly to say what he had been going to, Jack thumbed his braces absently and backed up towards the door back into the Hub. "I guess I should—"
"See your guest off," Ianto finished, unexpectedly sharp. "That's the polite thing to do."
Caught off guard, Jack lingered in the doorway for a moment before moving towards the exit, unsure of what Ianto really wanted him to do. He didn't watch Ianto's face as he pushed the door open, but he heard the clatter as Ianto disappeared underneath the curtain of red beads.
Jack caught up with the Doctor just as he hoisted himself over the steel railing on the far side of the Plass. The TARDIS waited just a few feet away, but Jack caught his arm from the other side of the rail and stopped him dead. The Doctor whirled around; surprise, along with something deeper—warmth—glittered in his youthful face. "Jack," he said, simply, and waited.
"I came to see you off," Jack admitted clumsily.
"Did that boy tell you to? Ianto?" When Jack said nothing, a wry smile twisted the Doctor's face. "Ah," he murmured, simply, and reached down, past the metal railing, to cup Jack's chin and tip it up, drawing him close despite the fence that separated them. Jack's hand on his chest, stopping him from getting any closer, startled him. "Come now, Jack," he chided, frowning, "I'm not one to kiss and tell."
Jack shook his head, despite the smirk pulling at the corners of his mouth. "I can't."
The Doctor paused, then reached up to stow his glasses away in his breast pocket. "Jack," he said, deliberately, brushing a gentle hand along his cheek as the other curled under his jaw.
For some reason, Jack allowed the Doctor to kiss him then, and didn't stop him until the fingers holding his face tightened, pulling him closer. Then Jack pushed back against his chest, holding him at arm's length, and smiled up at him sadly. "I'm sorry, Doctor."
The Doctor straightened. "Took the words right out of my mouth," he replied, clipped. He waved one hand towards the TARDIS. "You could always come with me, if you'd like." Jack's silence was his answer, and he stepped back. "But I suppose you do have the world to save. Though I can assure you that travelling with me would be much more fun."
"You're making me choose between saving the world and having fun?" Jack laughed, bitterness twisting his tongue. "Doctor, that's not exactly fair."
Disappointed understanding coloured the Doctor's face. "Okay," he murmured, pushing off the railing with a heavy sigh. "I'll stop by again, Jack. Make sure that the statues are erected by then."
With that, he shoved his hands in his pockets, turned towards the blue police box, and walked away.
Jack watched him go with his head held high, watched and waited until the TARDIS had dematerialised and taken the Doctor far, far away. He quelled the want niggling at the back of his mind, in the depths of his heart—the wish to have agreed, to have abandoned his place in Cardiff and vanished amidst the stars at the Doctor's side.
That wasn't an option anymore; no, he couldn't—not after finally finding a home, a real, honest-to-goodness home, in an unjust but beautiful world where he didn't—couldn't, wouldn't ever—belong.
He only hoped Ianto could find it in his heart to welcome him back into that home.