Fandom: Doctor Who/Torchwood
Spoilers: Torchwood episode Sleeper and perhaps Exit Wounds
Beta: The forever amazing starxd_sparrow and souleswanderer
Characters: The Tenth Doctor and the Jack Harkness with brief appearances from Ianto, Gwen, and Rhys
Summary: Jack encounters three less-than-friendly aliens after leaving his team at the hospital. The Doctor arrives, but who’s rescuing who?
A/N: This was written for the youth challenge on tw_dw_slashfest. It takes place approximately two years in the future of the current Torchwood series.
Now I have to go beat my muses into submission and finish wendymr's story.
Gwen grinned, her face bright despite the apparent exhaustion as she held the newborn in her arms. She crooned, and the baby smiled before sticking his tiny fist into his mouth. Rhys stood next to her as if he was keeping a silent vigil over the prize she held against her breast.
“He’s beautiful,” Ianto said softly as he reached out and gingerly touched the child’s head.
Jack couldn’t resist stoking the fire. “Good thing he got his mother’s looks.” Gwen managed a brief yet unconvincing glare before her gaze returned to the bundle in her arms. Rhys let the sarcastic comment slide by, refusing to let Jack dampen this joyous day.
They were the classic picture of a perfect family – Rhys was proud and supportive, his hand resting gently on Gwen’s shoulder, two fingers intimately touching her neck. Gwen was holding the child reverently, her expression that of wonder and beauty, leaning slightly into Rhys’ touch.
Jack was more than thankful when his earpiece beeped, and he stepped into the corridor to take the call. He was more comfortable fighting hostile aliens than standing in a hospital ward, ogling an infant.
He returned to the room minutes later, an apologetic expression on his face that probably wasn’t necessary considering the company. “I have to go.”
He figured there would be a hint of sadness on Gwen’s face and if nothing else, a moment of nostalgia for how things had once been. It would be awhile before she returned to the field. There was a chance she’d never return, but he preferred not to think about that.
“Do I need to go with you?” Ianto asked. The question was formed in a way that made it clear to Jack that the other man wasn’t ready to leave.
“I’ll be fine,” Jack replied. “It’s just a minor disturbance.”
Gwen adjusted the blanket around the child, unable to keep from touching his tiny face. “Would you like to hold him before you go?”
Jack looked at the child and a soft sigh escaped his lips. “Maybe next time.” Gwen nodded but didn’t lift her head to watch him leave. “You did good, Gwen. Congratulations – both of you.” He gave Rhys the obligatory nod as he left the room.
As Jack walked down the corridor, he felt like kicking himself. “You did good?” he muttered. “She didn’t disarm alien warriors, you idiot, she had a baby.”
He didn’t have a lot of time to dwell on his lack of conversational prowess because he had aliens to fight and a planet to protect. That was his life and his calling. At least he was good at it.
The “minor disturbance” was actually three less-than-friendly aliens who nearly bit Jack’s head off – twice. They were grotesque looking creatures – massive red heads with large, protruding horns. He’d tried reasoning with them, but that, as always, didn’t work and Jack resorted to his gun. He pulled his blaster out from underneath his greatcoat, and one of the aliens stepped towards him, its seven eyes blinking rapidly.
“Honestly, what do you have to do to say hello around here?” the alien grumbled.
Jack froze, his hands clutching the weapon that was pointed at the alien’s head. “You speak English?”
The alien tilted its head to the side. “No, you’re speaking Amphophious.”
Jack looked around, knowing there was only one explanation for this. He wasn’t surprised when he heard the Doctor’s soft command behind him. “Put your gun away, Jack.”
The Doctor stepped beside him, his hands in his pockets as if he didn’t have a care in the world. “Your gun,” he repeated. Jack sighed and slid his gun into its holster. The same alien that had tried to bite Jack’s head off stepped forward again, its massive mouth hanging open.
“Don’t move,” the Doctor instructed.
Jack eyed the rows of razor sharp teeth that were mere inches from his head. A large tongue rolled out of the alien’s mouth and licked Jack’s face with enough strength to lift his eyelids. He stood perfectly still as the alien backed away, unsure if he was going to be ill.
After he managed to get most of saliva off his face, he opened his eyes to see the alien repeating the same motion with the Doctor. Despite being covered in strange yellow goo, the Doctor was grinning as he wiped his face on his shoulder.
“She was trying to say hello,” the Doctor explained, giving Jack a disapproving look.
Jack crossed his arms over his chest. “Well, it looked like she was trying to eat my face.”
In his best “stupid ape” voice, the Doctor said, “Amphophites are herbivores.”
As he often did around the Doctor, he felt the need to justify his actions. “I didn’t know that! It’s not like I can talk to them!”
“Stop yelling,” the Doctor admonished. “You’re going to scare them. They’re just children, after all.”
Jack groaned. Of course they were children – harmless children that probably lived off of flower petals and drank rain water.
The Doctor gestured to the aliens. “I’m the Doctor and this is Jack. So how did you three come to end up here?”
The creatures recounted a brief story – they’d been playing in an area that was strictly forbidden and somehow they’d ended up here. As Jack listened to them, it became obvious they were, in fact, children. They were scared and confused and thought humans were funny looking creatures indeed. They asked where Jack’s horns were and what his shiny metal object was and why had he pointed it at them, and why in the world did they waste precious cloth covering up their bodies – surely wearing nothing was much more comfortable. Much to the Doctor’s dismay, Jack agreed with them.
In the end, the Doctor said he’d take them home. The creatures became nervous and one chewed its clawed fingers between its sharp teeth – the essence of a child afraid of being in trouble.
“I promise your parents won’t even know you were gone,” the Doctor said, giving them a sly wink. “But you have to promise you’ll never play there again. It’s not safe, and you might end up somewhere with people who’d want to hurt you.” Jack felt heat rushing to his cheeks, and he looked away, ashamed.
The three Amphophites eagerly nodded at the Doctor, and he herded them towards the TARDIS parked several streets away.
After the aliens were safely aboard in the TARDIS, the Doctor poked his head out the door. “Aren’t you coming?”
Jack’s eyes widened. “Well, I should…” It was an unexpected invite, and he lamely finished with, “It’s probably not a good idea.”
The Doctor smiled. “Just one trip, Jack. Anyway, I can access the Torchwood computer system so if there is an emergency, you can return immediately.”
Jack shook his head. “Got it all worked out, I see.”
He was gifted with another wide grin. “I am clever, you know.”
“And you’ll never let me forget it,” Jack muttered, walking into the TARDIS and closing the door behind him.
It was a quick journey – merely a few minutes, and Jack figured the Doctor made it last a bit longer because of the multitude of questions the Amphophites were asking. Each question the Doctor answered seemed to lead to thirty more.
“The shiny thing – you never said what it was. Was it a toy?”
Jack noted the Doctor’s expectant expression and realized it wasn’t the sonic screwdriver the alien was referring to. “No, it wasn’t a toy.”
“Food, then. Was it food?”
“It wasn’t food.” Jack looked down at his feet, realizing he had been the monster, not these seven eyed, horned creatures from across the Universe.
Jack was surprised when the Doctor interjected on his behalf. “Would you all like to see how the Time Rotor works?”
The intrinsic curiosity of children was not respectful of race or species, and the Doctor’s offer was ignored. “Is that your way of saying hello?”
“It was a weapon,” Jack said finally, wrapping his arms around his sides. “I was going to hurt you.” His mind drifted to Beth, the sleeper agent, and how he had treated her, like a criminal, an animal, and she ended up using her last shred of humanity of end her own life. In the end, she acted more human than he had.
Twenty one eyes blinked at him, but he didn’t lift his gaze from the metal grating. “Oh.” The female Amphophite rested her two-clawed hand on Jack’s shoulder, her eyes kind. “I’m sorry we scared you.”
Jack raised his head. “Scared me? Why do you think I was afraid?”
She did the equivalent of shrugging her shoulders. “Well, why else would you want to hurt us?” It was a logical question spoken by a creature who truly didn’t understand violence, and Jack certainly wasn’t going to be the one who explained it to her.
The TARDIS wheezed as she rematerialized and the Doctor gestured to the door. “You’re home.”
They bounded to the exit, nearly tumbling over each other with excitement. After throwing open the door, one child gleefully yelled, “We are home! That’s amazing! Can we go again?”
The Doctor laughed, his hands resting on the arms of two of the aliens. “Go on, then, before your parents worry.”
Three pouting faces soon gave way to laughter as they scampered out of the TARDIS into the warm afternoon suns, a chorus of “thank you’” and “please come visit us” trailing behind them.
Jack and the Doctor stood in the doorway, hands jammed into the pockets of their coats, and watched until the Amphophites disappeared over a rolling hill. Jack held his breath and waited for the axe to fall, for the Doctor to call him on his dangerous behavior, to point out that he’d nearly taken the lives of three innocent children.
He felt the brush of the Doctor’s coat as the Time Lord turned. “Come on, I’ll take you home.”
Jack watched him walk to the console and key in the coordinates. This was too easy. “That’s it?”
The Doctor lifted his head, his hand hovering over a lever. “Am I forgetting something? Highly unlikely considering how clever I am.”
“It’s just –" Jack gestured to the closed TARDIS door, feeling like a child who’d just gotten away with something terrible – “you’re not going to give me a lecture? Tell me how stupid I am for nearly killing a few harmless kids?” His hand fell to his side. “At least tell me to get my head out of my ass.”
The Doctor rested his hip against the console and folded his arms over his chest. “Would that make you feel better?”
“Yes, no, maybe – I don’t know.” He shrugged, his gaze falling to the metal grating. He was wrong, and he knew he was wrong. Shouldn’t there be retribution for his actions?
The Doctor sighed, running his hand over the top of his spiked hair. “There’s nothing I can tell you that you don’t already know.”
Jack couldn’t resist pointing out the obvious. “That’s never stopped you before.”
"You’re not the same child I met –"
“Conman,” Jack interjected despite the realization that he must have seemed like a foolish adolescent in the eyes of the Time Lord when they first met.
The Doctor gave him a pointed look. “As I was saying, you’re not the same person I met while Rose was traveling with me. You’ve grown, changed, and you don’t need me to tell you what to do.”
Jack laughed; it was an empty and hollow sound. “If you hadn’t stopped me I would have blown their heads off.”
“What do you want me to do, Jack? Toss you into the Vortex?” When he didn’t respond, the Doctor added, “That’s what this is about, isn’t it? You feel like you should be punished.”
The Doctor still possessed the uncanny ability to reduce Jack to the scared cadet he was so many lifetimes ago. With the Time Agency as with Torchwood or any organization modeled on a military approach, there were consequences for actions. No matter who you were, you answered to someone.
Despite the fact the Doctor wasn’t human and claimed to understand little about human behavior, he had a knack for seeing through the facades and addressing the real issue at hand. “This isn’t the Time Agency,” the Doctor continued. “You’ll receive no retribution from me.”
Jack didn’t know why he was pushing the issue, but he couldn’t let it go. “I thought I was your responsibility.”
The Doctor watched him intently, and Jack felt he was being scrutinized even though there was no judgment in the Time Lord’s heavy gaze. “This isn’t just about the Amphophites, is it?”
Jack swallowed as Beth and the dangerous mind probe he subjected her to flashed in his mind. He’d interrogated her, scared her, and she had no idea who or what she was. He was never afraid to break the rules, to push the limits of his power because shouldn’t the ends justify the means? But lately, the rules didn’t seem to apply to him and the lines of what was right had blurred.
“You know, awhile back a friend told me I needed someone to stop me,” the Doctor said conversationally.
“You don’t even carry a gun,” Jack pointed out.
The Doctor’s eyes narrowed, but his voice didn’t hold the steely edge Jack was expecting. “You don’t have to carry a gun to be a murderer.”
The last thing Jack wanted was this to turn into a conversation about who had the most blood on their hands because, even if he didn’t want it to be true, the Doctor carried the weight of an entire civilization, the demise of his own people, on his shoulders.
“You found Martha, didn’t you?”
The Doctor looked past him, his eyes unfocused as he gazed at TARDIS wall. “Yes, I did, and she was brilliant.”
“I wonder if she wants a job,” Jack mused, rubbing the back of his neck.
The Doctor walked down the stairs, approaching Jack slowly. “Listen to your team. Chances are they’ll voice their displeasure if they think you’re out of line.” He stopped when he was within arm’s length, his gaze meeting Jack’s evenly. “More importantly, listen to yourself.” He tapped Jack’s chest, his fingers brushing over his heart. “There might not be someone to stop you, so you’ve got to trust that you’ll make the right decision.”
“And if you don’t make the right decision?”
The Doctor shrugged, even a Time Lord didn’t have all the answers. “You do the best you can with the information you have at the time.”
Jack watched him, his gaze never wavering from the Time Lord’s eyes. He found reassurance in the fact that there was someone in the Universe that was older than him, someone he considered more noble, more generous and compassionate, and someone he could try to model himself after. He knew the Doctor didn’t know everything, far from it, in fact, but he would always be the student when the Doctor was near, and now he found that role comforting.
He knew he had to leave soon, because if he didn’t, chances were he wouldn’t leave for a very long time.
“Best get you back to Cardiff, then,” the Doctor said, turning and nearly running to the console – all traces of the serious conversation had been wiped from his face. “Would you like to fly her? If you remember how, of course.”
Jack grinned, jogging across the metal grating before nudging the Doctor out of the way. “Like I could ever forget.”
It was like he’d never left, his hands hovering gently over the controls as he murmured soft nonsensical words to the ship. With youthful enthusiasm, he guided the ship back to Cardiff stopping only once at the casino planet he’d been meaning to visit again.
It was a new record, too. It only took four hours for him and the Doctor to be banned from the planet for the next hundred years.
They rematerialized in Cardiff without a hitch, Jack grinning as the ship ground to a halt. “Told you I haven’t forgotten.”
The Doctor smiled. “Obviously.”
Jack walked to the door, pausing at the entryway and turning around. “Can I interest you in a brief field trip?”
The Doctor raised an inquiring eyebrow. “Is there a drink involved?”
“Actually I was going to ask if you’d like to meet Gwen’s baby,” Jack replied. “I’m sure we could fit in a drink as well.”
The Doctor shook his head, his eyes widening as if Jack just asked him to hug a Dalek. "Babies aren’t really –"
“Too domestic, right?”
The Doctor shrugged, running one hand through his hair. “Never was much good with children.”
Jack resisted pointing out the ease with which the Doctor handled the Amphophites. “Maybe next time, then?”
“Yeah, maybe next time.”
He waved and stepped out the TARDIS, waiting until the ship dematerialized before making his way back to the hospital and his team.