In which there are jelly babies.
Two months later . . . .
"Where's the Doctor?" Jack asked as he trotted into the Hub. His question had been directed at Gwen, but it was Owen who answered with a roll of his eyes.
"Same place he's been for the past three days."
"Has he eaten?" Jack inquired with a glance at his watch.
"I brought him a sandwich earlier," said Gwen.
"Good." Jack gave her an approving nod before heading down to the archives. "Hey, Doc. Ianto."
Ianto glanced up and nodded in greeting, well aware that he wasn't the one whom Jack was there to see. The Doctor made a vague noise without looking up from the device he was engrossed in. There was a plate beside him with the remains of the sandwich – it looked like he had gotten about halfway through it before getting distracted.
"Is that thing going to rip any holes in the Universe if you twitch the wrong way?" Jack asked, gesturing at the complicated, blinking object in the Doctor's hands.
"What? No. It's just a brain teaser. Oi!" This last, rather high-pitched protest was provoked by Jack pulling the thing out of his hands and setting it to the side. The Doctor glared at him petulantly. "I almost had that!"
"You'll figure it out later. Right now, I need to talk to you."
The Doctor stiffened, his eyes going dark, an almost tangible shield coming down between them.
"What about?" he asked warily.
"UNIT's finally caught onto the fact that the TARDIS is in Cardiff," stated Jack, keeping his voice calm and matter-of-fact to try to counteract the fear-edged defensiveness rising in the Doctor's eyes. "They've been asking questions – want to make sure we're not dissecting you or anything. I just need to know how much you want me to tell them."
The Doctor shifted, his brow creasing in thought. Behind him, Ianto quietly rose and left the room.
"Who's in charge of UNIT, now?"
"The British branch? A General Skinner, but it's a woman named Captain Magambo who's in been calling me about you, and lately a brigadier, Sir –"
"Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart," the Doctor finished for him. "He's a friend," he explained at Jack's questioning look. "An old friend. Tell him . . . tell him that I'm fine. That I'm just taking a break for a while."
It wasn't too far from the truth. While the Doctor wasn't and would probably never be entirely whole, he was certainly better than he had been when he crashed back into Jack's life in a shattered wreck of tears and pain. He was no longer skin and bones, and, despite the inordinate about of time he spent in the archives, he had regained some of his color. He still didn't sleep much, and never without nightmares – it sometimes took long minutes to calm him when he woke with a scream in his throat and terror in his eyes – but he didn't tremble constantly, and he spoke when the occasion called, and his smile didn't always look like broken glass and emptiness.
It was progress.
"He won't believe it's from you."
"No, I suppose not . . ." The Doctor leaned back, rubbing the back of his neck thoughtfully. The scar was still there. Some things never healed completely. "I know! Tell him that I'm out of jelly babies."
Three days later, a box was delivered to the Tourist Information Centre. It contained two dozen bags of jelly babies.
The Doctor laughed.