A/N: Just whipped this up quickly tonight as inspiration hit, so no beta. Sorry.

Father Christmas

By mara-anni

Winter's sting hung in the night air and Jack Harkness pulled his coat tighter around himself. He huddled behind the old brick storage garage next door to the estate, peeking out onto the dark street. He heard it first; the most incredible sound in the universe. So many years…he had missed that sound. He felt his gut tighten with anticipation and nerves. He knew that he couldn't reveal himself, no matter how tempting. To preserve the timeline he couldn't allow them to see him. But when he saw it, pulsing into existence, he had to crouch in the shadows to prevent himself from running out there and pounding on the doors.

There, under the dim street light, stood the TARDIS. Just a blue box, yet somehow the most majestic sight to behold and his eyes stung with the emotions that flooded his system on seeing it again after all this time.

He knew that at any moment both doors would swing inwards…

It was midnight on the twenty-fifth of December 1999.

Sure enough the doors were pulled open and Jack watched as out rolled a shiny new red bicycle, with the Doctor bent over it as he guided it out of the door. The Doctor…another sight for sore eyes. He heard another voice, one he knew was coming but was still weird to actually hear, and watched the Doctor stop and look over his shoulder.

Jack saw himself step out behind the Doctor. "Wait! You can't just roll it along the road, the tyres'll get dirty before she even gets it."

It was a surreal thing to see yourself just standing there, the same coat on as he wore now, a younger face, no grey at the temples.

His younger self made a grab for a handle bar, and Jack watched the Doctor jerk it away a fraction, probably completely unaware that he'd done so. But Jack had noticed, from both vantage points. He smiled and wondered if somewhere out there the Doctor had figured it out and given in to it. He remembered the way he would catch the Doctor looking at Rose sometimes, when he thought nobody was watching.

"You get back inside and make sure she doesn't wake up, I can handle it."

The Doctor lifted the bike easily – Jack had learned long ago that he was physically far stronger than he looked – but it was a relatively large bike and was awkward to carry, making the Doctor fumble with it as he tried to heave it along the street.

Jack watched himself pull the TARDIS doors closed and race after him.

"Just let me help, you can't carry it on your own."

"Yes I can, I am."

They wrestled for it, the bike between them. Jack watched, knowing the Doctor was about to agree to let him help.

"You need someone to keep watch!" He'd argued.

The Doctor pulled the bike away one more time, but quirked an eyebrow. "I could do without another slap from her mother. Okay, but hurry up, I wanna get back before Rose wakes up."

"You're not going to tell her." It wasn't a question. Jack had known, even then, after spending less than a day with them. He'd said it then and thought it often later: they really were so sweet.

It had always been a wonder to him that they couldn't seem to see it themselves. Or perhaps they just pretended not to. Jack would never forget the look on the Doctor's face and the way he'd fallen to his knees when they'd thought Rose had been disintegrated right in front of them.

"I've already told her. But she doesn't have to know when and how, does she? Where's the fun in that?"

They carried the bike between them. "But isn't this changing the timeline?"

"Nope, 'cause it's already happened."

"But we're doing it now."

"Yeah." That was all he'd said, with a wide grin.

Jack watched them move quickly away, leaving the TARDIS behind them. He could pop in; he still had his key. Rose was asleep right now, on the seat in the console room. She barely used her bedroom, Jack remembered. They'd stay up, Rose and the Doctor, well after Jack would shuffle off to bed. And often Jack would come back in after a night's sleep to find the Doctor tinkering with something, the TARDIS humming, and Rose curled up peacefully with a blanket draped over her. Jack had often suspected that they'd been out somewhere without him, but he never said anything and they never admitted to it.

He could just go in and see her again, just for a little bit. But he knew if her went inside that ship, he'd never be able to make himself leave and he couldn't let that happen.

So instead he followed himself and the Doctor, staying in the shadows. He watched as they maneuvered the bike through the glass doors and up the stairs to her mother's flat. He lost sight of them, then. But he remembered.

The Doctor used his soniced-up screwdriver to open the door and they snuck inside.

He pointed to the door directly to the right and whispered "That's her mother's room, don't let her out."

Jack had stood in the hallway where he could see the bedroom doors and into the living room, poised to grab at a door handle if it rattled. He'd been surprised at how nervous he was, sneaking into someone's house at night to deliver a gift.

He'd watched the Doctor gently set the bike down next to the Christmas Tree in the lounge. Then pick it up, turn it, set it down again. He stepped back and gave it a critical eye, then picked it up and set it on the other side of the tree, leaning back for another inspection.

"Doctor!" Jack had whispered, urgently.

The Doctor turned, looked around. He spied some left over gift tags sitting with a pile of wrapping paper tubes, snatched a pen from beside the phone and scribbled Father Christmas on a tag, then tied it to the handle bar.

Jack stood outside in the increasing cold, wondering if it was going to snow this year, and watched himself and the Doctor running back down the stairs with giant grins on their faces.

He remembered that they wouldn't be able to wipe those grins off for hours and Rose would scowl at them when she asked them what they were smiling about and they would both just say "nothing."

He didn't follow them this time. He stood looking up at the dark windows of the flat and listened to the sound of the TARDIS carried on the wind, until it faded away.

A/N: So...if you wanted to leave a review I wouldn't mind. ;) :o