Notes: this is an AU fic, set in our ordinary, alien-free (probably) world. Hopefully, this will make sense as we go along, but please feel free to ask questions. This takes characters from both Torchwood and Doctor Who, but primarily focuses on the Torchwood characters, so is staying in this fan listing.
Disclaimer: I do not own Torchwood, and I am not making any profit from this work.
Living in the Present
Jack had never seen a picture of the man who was meeting him at the station, but he'd spoken to him on the phone, and he was pretty sure he would recognise, if not the voice, the words again. The man was...eccentric, perhaps. And he took going off at tangents up to the level of genuine art.
The train was quiet, and the sky outside was darkening. It was a two-hour trip to Cardiff from London, but it had been a late train and there apparently weren't any matches or events going on. Not that Jack would possibly be aware of that. There were maybe two other people in the carriage with him, and he hadn't so much as glimpsed a ticket inspector. He hadn't even been able to make conversation with the woman with the tea trolley, because her accent was so thick, it was incomprehensible. And it wasn't even Welsh; it was French.
Jack's colleagues had all called him crazy, but he didn't mind. He knew he was crazy. Who would give up a lucrative job like his for research? It wasn't even commissioned. If he didn't get the good research, his book would fail, and then he would be dirt-poor and crawl back to London to get another teaching post in one of those crappy inner-city comprehensives where their websites boasted that 'only two of our students get stabbed a week!'
He hadn't liked London all that much after he hadn't needed to be there, and once that obligation was gone, he had happily looked for other places to be. And he had found Cardiff.
He knew nothing about Cardiff. It was a city, and it was Welsh, and it had lots of Italians. That was all he knew about Cardiff, sitting on that train. Oh, and it was two-hour train journey from London, if you didn't stop anywhere else. A boring two-hour train journey.
But, finally, they had crossed into Wales itself, and from there it would only be a handful of minutes before Jack could get off the train, stretch his legs, and meet the man from the university. A colleague had put Jack in touch with him, saying he was brilliant at all things historical, although, as far as Jack could tell, it was a hobby. Seeing as the man was a physics lecturer at Cardiff University.
As the train swept into the lights of the city, stark against the black winter sky, Jack peered out of the window and grinned.
This was going to be fantastic.
Doctor John Smith could blend into a crowd roughly as well as Jack could. He wore glasses too big for his face, trainers with a pinstriped suit, and a long brown trenchcoat that, had it been black, could have made him look like a drug dealer.
"Mr Harkness!" he beamed, pumping Jack's hand energetically, and it was instantly apparent that he wasn't Welsh at all. "Welcome to Cardiff, Jack - I can call you Jack, right? - and it's lovely to have you here! I'm the Doctor - Doctor John Smith, that is, I'm sure Sarah-Jane told you..."
"She did," Jack said, managing to rescue his hand. "What are you a doctor of?"
"We-ell," Smith shrugged, shuffled his feet, and grinned again. "Technically philosophy, though I lecture in physics. My first degree was a first in Physics and Philosophy - got a Masters in that too - but then I wrote a thesis for my doctorate on the philosophies surrounding the theories of time travel. Everyone seems to think I'm a little eccentric - can't think why, but that's people for you...anyway, Sarah-Jane gave me strict instructions, bless her - get you to where you're staying and leave you alone until you show up at the university begging for help because you're crazy, wanting to come to Cardiff - can't say I agree..."
"You like it here, then?" Jack said, managing not to laugh. The man could speak a mile a minute, it seemed, and enjoyed it.
"Love it! Lovely place, Cardiff, full of the Welsh! Got everything, this city, you'll never want for anything at all!" Smith beamed again, and Jack wondered how it was physically possible to fit that smile on a single face.
"Right," Jack said. "Well, I'm renting a house from a friend of mine down at the bay. The Plass? Do you know the Plass?"
"Oh, the Millennium Centre, of course! Have to know that, my landlady would never forgive me," Smith grimaced. "Very into music, is my landlady. You must meet her sometime - you and she could talk for hours about how strange I am, eh? She likes that sort of talk."
"Right, so...where's your car?"
"Car? Oh no, don't have a car," Smith chuckled. "It's the train! Little park and ride trains, very nice. Or the buses, though I wouldn't in the dark these days, not with the bored teenagers you get about now. Poor kids, should start studying. Amazing world out here, amazing!"
Sarah-Jane had been right when she'd said that Dr. Smith was...an unusual man.
Jack Harkness (who liked to address himself as Captain Jack, despite the fact that he'd never so much as been in a cadets force, let alone the actual armed forces) was thirty-two, well-travelled, well-educated, and very restless. His mother had been American, and his father Scottish, and although Jack had been born in Glasgow, he had been raised in a household with a distinct mixture of accents.
Jack's own accent was predominantly American, as his father had died in the Falklands War when Jack had been only five years old. His father had been the source of Jack's beloved 'Captain' title. Jack had always been fiercely proud of his father, despite not really knowing or remembering the man. And raised by an American mother, Jack had grown up being teased for the way he spoke, but hadn't actually learned to speak in any other fashion.
Jack had studied History for three years at Edinburgh, before moving to London to teach in a private school. And he had hated it. Every single second of teaching ungrateful teenagers had put him off children for life, and he had sought out something else. Like research. History books, maybe.
And so a colleague in the Maths department had put him through to Doctor John Smith, and Cardiff.
Of course, nobody in London had understood. They'd all called him crazy. Why on earth would he want to leave a cushy job teaching rich kids in London (which was, of course, the place to be in the entire world, bar perhaps New York) for rainy, wet, pathetic, miserable, cold, windy, non-English-speaking, sheep-shagging, jumper-wearing, leek-eating Wales. Poncy red dragons and all.
"Because Wales has history," he'd said.
Of course, that was a losing argument. London had history - probably more recorded history than Wales and Cardiff combined. Wales had naked barbarians running around, then crazy druids, then nothing-nothing-nothing, then becoming part of England and being graciously allowed to keep its own name. And that was it.
"It's got history," Jack said. "And I'll find it. And write about it. And make millions."
That was a losing argument anyway. No historians made millions. Except the people on the telly.
But Cardiff - Cardiff was going to make 'Captain' Jack Harkness. Whether it wanted to or not.
The house Jack had rented near the bay almost looked onto the Plass. And the Plass was kind of pretty, with the big glass tower thing in the middle. And all the bars nearby - that was really good, even if the local beer was disturbingly called 'Brains'. Jack decided he didn't want to discover the historical origins of that one.
The house itself was small. It served Jack's friend (a guy he'd gone to university with called James, who'd inherited it from his grandmother when she'd died and basically used it as a summer home every so often) rarely, and so smelled musty and kind of damp. It was chilly, too, and Jack discreetly bumped up the thermostat.
The garden was a box filled with weeds, but Jack decided James could sort that out for himself. A cat was nosing about in the bushes, and Jack ignored the fluffy thing. He wasn't too keen on cats. An ex-girlfriend had had a homicidal cat that had hated him, his stuff, his clothes, and even his shoes. It had died after eaten his shoelaces - eating them! - and his girlfriend had never forgiven him. It wasn't like he'd fed them to the cat. Stupid cat got its way in the end though - she wasn't his girlfriend any more.
Ignoring the cat in the garden, he poked around in the kitchen and found that he would have to go out to get something to eat, and do some shopping tomorrow. And preferably get himself a street map of Cardiff, because he was going to get very lost if he didn't, especially in the dark. And then he would get down to finding some locals and some history. The library and maybe a tourist office would be good places to start. And he would have to visit the castle, because Jack never turned down a chance to visit a castle. Ever.
He unpacked hurriedly and messily, and decided to go out for fish and chips. Fish and chips was a British tradition, not just an English one, and he was sure they had to taste pretty good, being near the sea.
And tomorrow he would begin his new life.