One day, upon waking up near dawn — what would look like dawn if the Hub had any source of external light — to find Ianto at his desk yet again, Jack realises that the Hub isn’t any sort of sanctuary.
He usually gets about five hours alone after the last person (Toshiko, always working on some alien language or blueprint) leaves and the first person (Ianto, and the way he manages to brew fresh coffee before Jack ever realises he's there perplexes him every morning) comes in.
So he rents a flat within walking distance from the Millennium Centre and takes with him basic equipment that ensures he’s notified when the universe starts collapsing on itself.
For Tosh and Ianto’s sake, he implements standard work hours — slightly longer than normal; after all, aliens hardly ever attack nine-to-five, and yet still shorter than what the staff were willingly giving before — and tells them to keep their phones on. Not that he lets himself believe they’ll listen.
Being truly alone, he finds, is both relief and torture.
* * *
But one day he’s in the Hub, looking idly at CCTV of the square above their base, and his attention is drawn to a person who looks confused and slightly panicked. He watches as she crosses it, finally, almost running, and picks up a paper from a rack. She stands rooted to the spot.
Blonde. The right height, build. But it can’t be, can it? He’s seen the lists.
Then again, in his world, Impossible has proven, many times, to be simply Difficult To Grasp.
He takes the lift up and he’s standing ten feet in front of her before she actually looks at him and recognises him.
“But you’re dead,” she says later.
“So are you, sweetheart,” he answers.
* * *
He doesn’t even introduce her to his coworkers as they stare at him gently leading her from the lift to his office. Not yet.
“What is this base, Jack?” she asks, wide-eyed and trying to take everything in.
“Torchwood,” he replies.
“But — Torchwood was destroyed, wasn’t it?” she asks as she enters his office.
“We’re the good Torchwood. I promise.” He sits her down and takes the chair beside her. Takes her hand in his. “And we’ll take care of you.”
She raises an eyebrow. “Just another one of the disturbances you take care of, am I?”
He smiles and amends. “I’ll take care of you.”
* * *
Rose cries in his office, telling him first about what happened after they parted and then what happened when she and the Doctor parted. “Torchwood were the reason everything went to shit,” he listens to her conclude after her story is finished.
“Should have known Hartmann was responsible for those ghosts,” Jack answers, gritting his teeth. “I told her she’ll find herself in deep shit one day. She used to send lunatics my way who claimed they were abducted by aliens. Paid for their flights and all. Enjoyed annoying me.”
Rose chuckles and sniffs.
“Of course, I got back at her when I sent her a taste of ‘if it’s alien, it’s ours’ in the form of an egg. She was beside herself trying to figure out what to feed it when it hatched. I heard it ate a lot of important paperwork.”
* * *
Introductions are made later. Jack walks her outside his office and interrupts everyone’s work. “Doctor Owen Harper, Ianto Jones, our clean-up, and Toshiko Sato, computer genius. And this is Gwen Cooper, she tags along.”
Gwen protests indignantly. “Oi! I do more than that. When you aren’t dumping paperwork on me.”
Rose laughs. “Ignore him.”
“I’ve learned to.” Gwen smiles.
“You look a lot like someone I once knew,” Rose says to her later that day. “She died saving the universe.”
* * *
“There are flats going spare in my building,” he mentions casually when she accompanies them to the field later.
The rest of the team look around and take all the measurements and records they need, but they remain by the car. “Yeah,” she says thoughtfully, as if it hadn’t occurred to her. “I’m gonna need a place.”
“You can stay with me for now,” he suggests.
“I don’t have normal currency, Jack. Only weird money with Harriet Jones’s face on it.”
Jack raises his eyebrows and then laughs. “Seriously? I need to visit that universe one day.” Then he sobers. “But don’t worry about that. I said I’ll take care of you. And you can always have a job with Torchwood.”
She smiles. “I like the sound of that.”
She moves into the flat next door the next week, a little sorry at leaving his, and gives him a spare key for emergencies. He gives her his.
* * *
Though she knows the answer, one day she gathers enough courage and asks him. “Can you contact the Doctor somehow?”
He barely looks at her when he answers. “I’m sorry. I’ve tried; you have no idea. I can’t.”
* * *
On Christmas Eve the rest of the team have things to do. Everyone has family or friends or significant others (at least one of them doesn’t practically live in the Hub, Jack muses).
He and Rose have each other. Rose still misses her parents and Mickey and the Doctor and tries desperately to hide it, but he can read her well.
“So, what do you usually do at Christmas?” she asks when they sit together on his couch on Christmas Eve.
“I sit quietly in the hub and tinker with my alien tech.”
She grins and shakes her head. “I hope that’s not a euphemism.”
He laughs. “You’ve been spending too much time with me, Rose.”
* * *
On Christmas Day she comes into his flat with a sprig of mistletoe. “So you don’t celebrate a traditional Christmas; do you still follow some customs that don’t involve aliens?”
“Oh, but those are the best ones,” he says, winking, before he kisses her sweetly and longer than strictly necessary.
* * *
On New Year’s Eve they’re both alone again.
She’s on her sixth glass of champagne when she unsteadily gets up to her feet and switches on the telly. “Two minutes to midnight.”
He helps her back to the couch and laughs at her as he settles next to her. “I think you’re cut off from the booze now,” he says and takes her glass away, setting it on the other side of him.
She pouts but doesn’t argue.
When the countdown on the screen reaches zero, the screams of joy come out from the telly and from outside. She leans up and kisses him, and he returns the pressure before she drops her head to his shoulder again. “Happy New Year.”
“New Year is weird. It’s like celebrating the coming of the Mediaeval Times,” he says. “I’ve celebrated 5048.”
An hour later, he leads her back to her flat and puts her to bed, dropping a kiss on her forehead, and leaving a bottle of aspirin on her bedside table.
* * *
She watches Jack from afar and trains her gun on the two figures behind him.
She drops it with a scream when a beam hits him and she watches him fall. “Jack!”
Rose begins to run towards him, but Gwen grabs her. “We can still save him, let me go,” she yells, hysterical, wrestling away.
“Trust me, just watch!” Gwen says firmly.
Rose stops and watches Ianto and Owen shoot the aliens down while Jack slowly, unsteadily gets up from the ground.
Then she runs.
Jack is all apologetic when she reaches him. “Sorry. I was hoping you’d never have to see my little trick.”
* * *
One day Jack comes back to his flat in the middle of the night, having responded to a possible alien sighting, and finds Rose sprawled on his couch in warm, pink pyjamas.
He sits down on the edge of the sofa at her waist and runs a hand through her hair, gently, resting it on her neck. She stirs and opens her eyes seconds later. “Hi.”
“Hi.” He smiles.
“Sorry about that, I didn’t mean to fall asleep waiting for you.”
He looks at his watch. “Rose, it’s three past midnight. You’re excused.”
“Just — just had a bad dream. And I didn’t want to be alone but you weren’t here either. So figured I’d wait for you.”
“Sorry. Had to leave. Turned out to be kids with laser pointers.” He kisses her lips almost chastely as she laughs. Her eyes remain closed when he lifts his head and he shakes his head. “You’re not sleeping here.” He stirs her again. “Bed.”
He can’t get over how familiar it feels to hold her in his arms as she sleeps.
* * *
And when the sound of the familiar engines fills the Hub, they both run towards it, forgetting the coffee promised by the rest of the team.
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