22. In which Alice meets a new friend and the Doctor avoids an old one.

Alice checks her watch for the third time, knowing the futility of the habit even as she does so. Apparently twenty-odd years are not enough time to break that kind of habit. She's waiting for the Doctor at a small pizza place in New York City (regular New York, not New New York), and he is now over two hours late. As this is nowhere near his worst timing, she's not too worried. She just hopes he gets here before the place closes; he's promised that this is the absolute best pizza in the known universe, and she'll admit she's more than a little excited.

There's a sudden wooshing noise followed by several loud thuds, and then something a few blocks away explodes, rocking every table and chair around her with the impact. Alice being Alice, she immediately jumps to her feet and runs outside amidst falling plates and glasses so she can see what's going on.

People are running and screaming in every direction, typical panic-reaction to a crisis situation, and Alice can hear more whooshes and detonations. She's trying to decide if the noises are coming any closer, when she's grabbed from behind and pulled out of the way of a piece of flying debris she never even saw or heard coming.

She turns to thank her rescuer (if there's one thing she's learned in all her adventures with the Doctor it's that politeness is rarely ever wasted), and she comes face to face with an extremely handsome dark-haired man in a rather dashing long coat reminiscent of World War II. He also happens to be in possession of one of the most entrancing smiles she's ever seen.

"Captain Jack Harkness at your service, ma'am. I hope I managed to get you out of harm's way in the nick time." He continues to beam at her as he shoulders his ridiculously large gun. Compensation jokes run rampant through Alice's head, but she remembers her lessons in manners and just manages to hold them back.

"Thank you, Captain." She smiles. He's as cheesy as they come but in a way that makes her want to hug him tight even though she's just met him. Then she pauses.

"Wait, the Captain Jack? As in the Doctor, Martha Jones, and Captain Jack?"

His grin widens. "You know Martha and the Doctor?"

"I'm…traveling with the Doctor now." That seems to be the most tactful way to describe it, though her face heats at a stray memory of someone else using that same phrase.

"That's fantastic! Where is the Doctor? Is he coming here?" He breaks off from their conversation to fire two shots over Alice's head, and something large crashes further down the block. He waits until the sky is clear again before turning back to her.

"He is, but he's late…as usual."

Alice swears this man is the Cheshire Cat personified. "So, by your time, how long have you been traveling with the Doctor?"

Alice thinks back to this morning when she checked her clock as she was getting dressed. "Close to twenty-two years."

He looks confused for a moment then his expression clears.

"No, I mean by your personal time. You know, physically since you've met him, not literally by the date."

Alice smiles. She's gotten this reaction more than once in the last few years. "I know, Jack. That's what I mean."

"But…jeez, did he pick you up when you were a kid or something? You can't be more than thirty! Er, twenty-nine!"

Clever man…

"I'm closing in on fifty now, actually. Aging got slowed down from long-term exposure to the TARDIS and…other…things."

His smile returns then, and Alice turns bright red. Her and her big mouth. Something about this man makes just makes her want to talk to him, spill her guts as it were.

"I understand. I've had some exposure to other things that ended with a similar side effect. Although," and the look he shoots her now is positively wicked, "I'm betting your other things were a little more enjoyable and possibly less traumatic than mine."

He sighs, glancing over his shoulder. Alice can hear a faint rumbling in the distance, and she wonders if the Doctor is going to get here before the situation has been resolved.

"Maybe if I'd just held out a little longer with him, eh? Oh, well. Hey, if you or the Doctor ever get tired and need a break from each other, just let me know." He wraps Alice in a bear hug and plants a fantastic, smacking kiss right on her lips.

As he starts of in the direction of the highest level of commotion, he calls back over his shoulder, "Or if you two want to, y'know, spice things up a little, just gimme a call!"

She wave as he leaves, and his shout of "Tell the Doctor I said hi!" is lost in the whirring that announces the arrival of the TARDIS. The Doctor steps out, and his eyes immediately take in the debris littering the street.

He's grabs Alice tight then puts her at arm's length for examination before she even realize he's completely out of the TARDIS.

"What was it? Are you hurt? Did you see anything?"

"I'm fine, and no, I never actually saw anything. Well, unless you count a handsome rescuer who made a rather inappropriate pass, told me to tell you hi, and gave me one hell of a good-bye kiss."

The Doctor doesn't miss a beat. "You met Captain Jack, didn't you?"

Alice nods, grinning. A half-amused, half-annoyed smile crosses the Doctor's face before he turns, his arm around her shoulder, and herds Alice back toward the TARDIS.

"Shouldn't we go help him?" She's a little confused at their sudden departure; the Doctor rarely passes up a chance at adventure, and this one even has a handy (and handsome) friend included.

"No, I'm sure he and his team have got this." In fact, most of the screaming has faded, and there's very little commotion any more.

"Are you sure you don't want to stick around? He made me a couple of very interesting offers, if you're interested."

"You know, I'm really not."

Author's Note: I love Captain Jack. He is one of my all-time favorite companions, although I don't know how much weight that holds, since I haven't seen much of the original show in a very long time. As always, thanks so much for reading. Please take a moment to leave a little something in the box on your way out.