Two Can Play At That Game by robling_t



Summary: When Martha uses the Chameleon Arch, Jack helps with the Doctor's new life.
Rating: Teen
Categories: Tenth Doctor, Torchwood
Characters: Gwen Cooper, Ianto Jones, Jack Harkness, Jack Harkness, Martha Jones, Martha Jones, Owen Harper, The Doctor (10th), Torchwood, Toshiko Sato
Genres: Action/Adventure, Alternate Universe, Angst, Character Study, Drama, Het, Humor, Hurt/Comfort, Mixed, Series, Slash
Warnings: Swearing
Challenges: None
Series: Yours, Mine, and Ours
Published: 2007.12.18
Updated: 2008.02.06


Index

Chapter 1: Shotgun
Chapter 2: Examinations
Chapter 3: Fait Accompli
Chapter 4: Intoxicants
Chapter 5: Consequences
Chapter 6: Day One
Chapter 7: But That Can't Happen To Us
Chapter 8: Quickening
Chapter 9: Someone To Dance With
Chapter 10: Plus C'est La Meme Chose
Chapter 11: Bluetooth Compatibility
Chapter 12: A Difficult Matter
Chapter 13: I've Got A Little List
Chapter 14: Gang Aft Aglay
Chapter 15: Are We Having Fun Yet?
Chapter 16: Nice Day To Start Again
Chapter 17: Reverse The Polarity
Chapter 18: Special Relativity
Chapter 19: (Church On Time) Terrifies Me
Chapter 20: 30-06 & 103.50
Chapter 21: Comparative Anatomy
Chapter 22: Showtime
Chapter 23: Congratulations, Reg, It's A Squid
Chapter 24: I'm Stuck With A Valuable Friend
Chapter 25: Unearthly
Chapter 26: Hope You Guess My Name
Chapter 27: To Clinch A Lifetime's Argument
Chapter 28: Use Of Weapons
Chapter 29: If I Should Stumble
Chapter 30: They Also Serve
Chapter 31: Away With Us He's Going
Chapter 32: Hello Again


Chapter 1: Shotgun

Author's Notes: In which there is a Mistake.


Jack knew to the second how quickly he could get up to the Plass at the first sound of those engines. Still, he held back, approaching the TARDIS warily when it didn't immediately blink back out again at the sight of him. "Doctor?"

No answer, no one to greet him. Jack decided to take the chance and fitted his old key into the lock. "Doctor? Anybody?"

The console room looked like there had been some sort of a struggle, torn clothing everywhere and mysterious apparatus dangling from the rafters. Jack's shoes crunched on shattered clockwork as he advanced into the ship. "Doctor?"

And there was the man himself, hair wild even for him and wrapped in what looked very much like a bedsheet. "You still have a key."

"Yeah, I -- what the hell happened here?"

The Doctor glanced around the console room as if its condition was news to him. "Ah, erm --" He ran a hand through his hair. "I'm going to need somewhere to park the TARDIS for a while, Jack, the Rift seemed as good as anywhere."

Jack tried not to grin stupidly. "Sure, anytime, make yourself to home. What's up?"

The Doctor took a very deep breath. "It seems our Miss Jones has done something colossally stupid --" this last shouted back over his shoulder, and Jack thought he heard a muffled giggle -- "and we're going to be grounded for ... about a year."

"A year." Was the Time Lord... blushing? Jack's Jack-sense was tingling. "Anything special wrong, or is Cardiff your weird idea of a vacation?"

The Doctor mumbled something.

Something that sounded very much like 'gestation period'.

Bright girl, our Martha... "I'm sure Torchwood can find something for you to do... Daddy."

A look of giddy misery at that. "Knew it was worth coming to an expert."

"I'll ignore that if I can be the godfather."

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Chapter 2: Examinations

Author's Notes: In which there is a Surprise.


"I still can't believe this biology," Owen said. His eyes had been very round for a very long time at this point, and he'd absentmindedly tied his stethoscope in a knot.

"I still can't believe the TARDIS helped you," the Doctor said. Jack was getting the distinct impression that the Time Lord was of two minds about this whole situation now that the initial surprise of being confronted with a new-minted female of his species had worn off.

"It was her idea," Martha shot back. "You think anybody knows better how miserable you are?"

"You didn't have to smash the watch!" Jack had no idea what this meant, but the Doctor certainly seemed horrified by it.

"Right, could we keep the alien domestic disputes out of the autopsy room please? I'm feeling a bit soft and pink next to you lot as it is and there are too many sharp objects in here."

This got Owen a look from Martha every bit as withering as any she'd ever given him during her tenure at the Hub. "I've grown an extra heart, Owen, not a head. I'm not going to start spitting fire and throwing scalpels."

"So you are an alien, then." God, was that a joke about this, from Owen? Now Jack was sure he'd hit his head in the shower this morning. But it had gotten Martha to smile, at least, bleak as the Doctor still looked, and Jack decided that maybe the best way to defuse what was shaping up to be the most bizarre situation a place that specialized in them had seen in quite some time was to reach down and tug on the Time Lord's collar until he got the message to come away into Jack's office.

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Chapter 3: Fait Accompli

Author's Notes: In which there are Regrets.


The main thing Jack had taken away from the rapid-fire monologue was that some of the Doctor's reservations weren't just paternity-suit nerves. Some of them even Jack would have bought. Some of them had far bigger teeth than What am I going to tell her mother, which had always been Jack's personal least favorite of consequences. When the Time Lord had finally stopped pacing to drop spraddle-legged into the other chair and take the very human action of knocking back the drink Jack had poured for him about half an hour before, Jack had almost begun to pity him. "Okay, I get it, it wasn't the first thing on your mind at that point," Jack said.

"How would it have been?" The Doctor buried his face in his hands. "It's not as if I'd have had any reasonable expectation of the situation arising. 'Reasonable' maybe being the key word here. Because that was not reasonable."

Jack still wasn't quite clear on what Martha had done to herself, besides that it seemed to be irreversible and not the world's best idea. If, perhaps, the bravest. To be so stuck on someone that you'd rewire yourself to match... well, actually, Jack could relate to that, maybe. Jack could relate to that pretty well. "It's quite a corner to be painted into," Jack said.

"Second-to-last of the Time Lords," the Doctor said. "What sort of life will that be for a child?"

At least he hadn't said 'would', which Jack thought might be a hopeful sign. It could be hard to tell when you were dealing with someone who saw branching probabilities as naturally as he breathed. "Kind of a done deal now, from what you've said," Jack pointed out.

For an instant Jack saw a flash of the same naked hunger to not be alone in the Doctor's eyes that Martha must have been seeing day in and day out for however long it had been since Jack had last seen them, to drive her to this desperate act for him. "Yeah," the Doctor said.

"Have you talked to her about any of this?"

"That was the fight you walked in on." The Doctor sagged in his chair. "I felt it, Jack. I felt this whole new timeline coming into being. Last thing I ever thought I'd..." He fell silent, and Jack realized that he was weeping.

"So you're still at the gobsmacked 'I've gotta get a job' point with this yourself," Jack hazarded after a moment. This got him a small wry smile.

"Had to throw the TARDIS out of the vortex as soon as I could, and here seemed as good as anywhere. At least we both know people here. Since we're going to be stuck for a while."

Yeah, the energies of the Vortex would probably be hell on the rapidly dividing cells of an embryo. "You could always do what a normal guy would do and pull a runner." A black look from the Oncoming Storm. "Sorry, I had to see for myself that that was what you'd say to that. You and Martha getting together to repopulate is the last thing I would have pictured, if you really want to know."

He had the decency to look embarrassed. "I certainly wouldn't have considered her in this light before the other day. It's amazing what a slight change to the pheromone balance can do to your sense of proportion."

"Tell me about it. Do you want to do the other thing a normal guy would do in this situation and go out and get wasted? I think you could use it right about now."

A slightly bigger smile this time. "I defer to your obvious expertise."

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Chapter 4: Intoxicants

Author's Notes: In which there is Drinking.


"It was an interesting couple of days, to be sure," the Doctor concluded.

Jack could well imagine. For the tightly wound Time Lord to suddenly find himself confronted with someone who all his senses would have been screaming was a lock to match his key must have been more than anyone could have been expected to remain rational about, and Jack was having a very hard time not imagining an immediate consummation involving the console. Hell, Jack could picture him shagging the console for less. But then, Jack was quite a bit drunker than he'd been in a long time, and it had never taken much prompting to set his mind wandering down this particular rut. He mostly just hoped that the Doctor was a little too far gone himself to have his psychic feelers extended in Jack's direction. "And she didn't give you any warning of this?"

"Neither of them did." The Doctor took another large slurp at his umpteenth banana daiquiri. "My own ship was conspiring against me, Jack. How'm I supposed to trust her now?"

"Women have this thing about grandchildren," Jack said. This earned him a very crosseyed dirty look.

"'S not funny, Jack. I've had that Arch on my head myself, it's nothing to be taken lightly. Martha should have known, she saw me do it."

And there you go, thought Jack. Martha Jones had never been one to shy away from the bold act, not when she was convinced that it was the right thing to do. Especially when she was convinced that it was the right thing to do for him. "I think maybe you're overthinking this. Women are nuts, plain and simple. It's why they put up with us, for god's sake."

This should have gotten him a laugh, but the Doctor just looked at him blankly. Jack made a mental note of yet another thing that didn't quite map across species. Or maybe the Time Lord was just schnockered. He certainly looked as if he was the rest of that banana daiquiri away from faceplanting on the bar. "I think maybe it's time to get you home, big guy."

"Haven't got a home." And yes, there he went, face-down onto the bar. "Just got a ship, an' she hates me."

"All right, then, you can come home with me for tonight." Under any other circumstances Jack would have been over the moon to hear himself say that, but coming as it did as a prelude to the Doctor sliding off the barstool onto the floor it seemed distinctly anticlimactic. With the help of the bartender Jack got the inebriated Time Lord slung across his shoulders. "You barf on me it'll cost you a regeneration," Jack told the skinny butt, and headed back to the Hub.

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Chapter 5: Consequences

Author's Notes: In which there is apparently Nudity.


It was surprisingly restful, lying here cuddled up against the Doctor. Like a homecoming he'd given up hope of deserving. Even if the Time Lord's hair did smell a little too much like smushed bananas for Jack to really let go and forget the mood the Doctor was likely to be in when he woke up. If. He'd already been down a lot longer than Big Ears had ever needed back in their traveling days, and Jack was beginning to wonder exactly what the whole fancy metabolism was actually up to. Whoever had come up with the expression 'drunk as lords' had had nothing on the Time Lord last night, all right.

The lanky limbs were beginning to twitch. "Would there be any point in asking you where my clothes are?" a muffled voice eventually said into the pillow.

'That's gratitude for you, I put you to bed and all you do is complain."

"It's the part where you put yourself to bed with me that I'm calling into question."

"State you were in, it seemed like a good idea to keep an eye on you."

The Doctor scrunched up his face. "I'll concede that there was a certain amount of wisdom in that," he admitted. "What ran over me?"

"Half a tanker of banana daiquiris." The Time Lord gave a heartfelt groan and buried his face in the pillow again. Jack felt moved by his obvious misery to begin stroking the back of his neck gently. Or at least he told himself that he was being selfless. The Doctor didn't seem to mind, anyway, not even when Jack sat up so he could start applying both hands. Pretty soon Jack had exhausted the possibilities of the Time Lord's neck and begun heading along the rest of the spinal column, feeling some of the eternal tension melting out of wiry alien muscles as his thumbs skated past a very endearing mole right between the shoulderblades and continued along towards the small of the back and -- what? Because of course that was the moment that Ianto chose to come around on coffee call, god damn him, and Jack had been too preoccupied with his dead-weight passenger the night before to remember to lock the door behind himself. "Knocking, Ianto, it's called knocking."

Ianto's face had gone all Welsh-ninja inscrutable as he took in the scene. To the casual observer, at least. "Would you like coffee or tea?" was all he said.

The Doctor looked as if he were considering asking for a little hair of the dog instead. "Tea, please, if it wouldn't be too much trouble."

"Needn't say 'please' to me, sir, no one else around here does." Oh, yes, that was an actual Pointed Look, it was.

"Where did Martha go after we left, Ianto?" Jack asked, feeling that somebody had to and at this rate it was probably going to be him. He felt the Doctor flinch.

"Gwen and Tosh took her off," Ianto said. "I assumed she'd be staying with one or other of them. Should I be worrying about finding her something to do?"

"It's not like we ever run out of paperwork around here," Jack said. "This one can help, too, it seems we're going to be stuck with the both of them for a while. Kind of a... resident experts program, almost."

"I can be a lot more useful than that, Jack," the Doctor said, and sat up. "Although maybe not until I've seen that tea," he amended himself, rubbing at his temples. Jack could see Ianto assessing the hangdog look lurking behind the puppy-dog eyes and made a note to fill in his assistant later. Much later.

The Doctor lumbered to his feet once Ianto had gone and went to fetch his clothes, which Jack had laid aside fairly neatly under the circumstances. "Would I be correct in assuming that that one's more for the slow burn than the office gossip?"

"Remember where you are, Doctor, they'd be whispering about you if they didn't see you sneaking out of here at some point. If you really want to get up to speed on the office politics I could draw you up a flowchart, though."

The Doctor ran a hand through his already untidy hair. "This is going to be one of the longest years of my life."

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Chapter 6: Day One

Author's Notes: In which there are Weevils.


Jack barely had time to get his own clothes on before Ianto was back, and not with his coffee. "Weevil, sir. Owen spotted it on his way in and called for backup."

"Leave it to Owen to flush out a weevil before I've had my coffee. Isn't it broad daylight?"

"Not this time of the year, sir." Ianto held out Jack's coat. "We had better hurry, this is Owen we're talking about."

"Right." Jack twisted his phone into his ear. "Talk to me, Harper."

"What's a weevil?" the Doctor asked. Jack tuned out Ianto's attempt to explain the situation to him in favor of Owen's voice in his other ear, bravado with a slight edge of panic detailing how good an idea it would be to have someone else's arse between him and the weevil in his building's car-park.

Jack devoted most of his attention to keeping Owen talking and more important thinking and didn't quite realize until he was strapping himself into the passenger seat of the SUV that there was another head sticking up from the back seat between his and Ianto's. "I suppose it would be useless to point out that this is going to be dangerous."

"The alternative was leaving him alone in the Hub, sir," Ianto pointed out. The Doctor settled back into his seat with a smug look.

"All right, all right, just buckle up -- Not you, Owen!"

Owen had the weevil more or less cornered in a dead end of the car-park by the time they arrived, but that was where he'd reached a stalemate with it, unable to approach closely enough to capture it without it having a good chance to slip around the cars between them. "Right, Ianto, you take left, I'll take that red Mini; Doctor, you can --"

And naturally the Time Lord had already hopped out of the SUV, and the stupid idiot was bounding towards the weevil with a manic grin plastered on his face. "Look at you! You shouldn't be here, not in this century. Car-park's hardly your natural environment."

Even Owen was cringing. For his part, Jack could feel the blood draining from his face, and out of the corner of his eye he could see that Ianto had frozen in the act of closing his door, ever the tidy one even in the middle of a crisis. This is the Doctor, Jack reminded himself, as the trainers finally skidded to a halt right in front of the weevil.

The weevil drew back its head and hissed at the Time Lord, all ferocious man-killing teeth. "That must have been a shock, yes," the Doctor said genially. "And there's how many of you? Oh, I can see where that would be inconvenient. That's hardly enough to order a coffee. Well, no, I suppose not in the sewers --"

Owen was clutching at Jack's arm. "He speaks weevil," the medical officer hissed.

"Apparently," Jack said, hardly believing the scene himself. In another moment the Doctor was going to throw an arm around the weevil's shoulders like they were long-lost school chums. "Um, Doctor? Spare a moment for the non-telepaths in the party?"

"They're a collective intelligence, Jack," the Doctor said. "They haven't got enough of a critical mass here to be very bright, but they've certainly got a low opinion of you. How have you been dealing with them before now?"

"We usually take them back to the vaults. They've got this bad habit of eating people if we don't."

"Well, that's going to stop." The Time Lord spoke with an assurance that raised the hairs on the back of Jack's neck. "The eating and the vaults both. We'll find some way to get your people home -- well, all right, we'll find somewhere that'll take you in, then -- Ah, Captain? Would we be authorized to offer them political asylum for a while until a treaty can be worked out with the appropriate parties?"

"You go ahead and offer them whatever you want, Doctor," Jack said, feeling a bit weak in the knees. God, not even an hour on the job and the Time Lord had just reduced his workload by at least half, if what he was suggesting was true. "Hell, you and Martha never have to lift another finger for me after this so far as I'm concerned."

The Doctor's face fell at the mention of Martha. "Right. Well, still have to keep busy. -- Will you be all right? Straight home, then, I'll see that he lets them out by tonight -- What's for breakfast around here, anyway? I never ever got that tea."

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Chapter 7: But That Can't Happen To Us

Author's Notes: In which there is a Reconciliation.


He'd saved the world before breakfast, but then that was routine for him. The thing he couldn't do was face the woman he'd knocked up. Jack was having a hard time not laughing at how spring-loaded the Time Lord was being about not sharing a room with the former Miss Jones. And since most of the Hub was basically one big room, this meant that the Doctor was spending a lot of his time hiding in Jack's office. Not that Jack minded that, necessarily, but he had this tendency to fiddle with things, and Jack found that he wasn't getting much of even his weevil-less workload taken care of very thoroughly when he was babysitting his attractive nuisance instead.

After the third time within ten minutes that he'd managed to trigger the sprinkler system one morning while applying the sonic screwdriver to a particularly recalcitrant scrap of alien flotsam, Jack not-so-gently suggested that perhaps it was time that the Doctor went to make amends with his ship. "She misses you, Doctor, even I can feel it."

"Apparently I'm the only one around here that she's not speaking to, then," the Time Lord snapped.

"I think it's more that you're not listening."

The Doctor's shoulders sagged. "Nine hundred years we've been together, Jack. If I can't trust my TARDIS..."

"Come on, you big baby, go patch things up with the missus. I'll lay down a suppressing fire with the heavy artillery."

The TARDIS certainly seemed happy to see him, lights all around the console room brightening in greeting as Jack pushed her Time Lord up the ramp. The place still looked a fright, although now that Jack knew some of the story he wasn't all that surprised at how the scene rewrote itself before his eyes to point a flashing neon sign at the remains of a lacy brassiere caught on the handbrake.

The Doctor crouched to retrieve something shell-like and glittering. "You said something about breaking a watch," Jack said, remembering. Making, finally, the connection with another watch, and another Time Lord. Biology rewritten.

"Not just a watch, Jack," the Doctor said, holding his find up between thumb and forefinger so that Jack could see it was the cover of an antique ladies' pocketwatch, graven with a delicate double helix. "It's Martha. It's what Martha was. Her human life, wrapped up safe, and then... smashed. She can't go back."

Of all of it, Jack thought that this was what was bothering the Time Lord most, that Martha had deliberately chosen to carry a burden that he would have laid aside if he felt that he could. And then to make him complicit in compounding her sin, bringing another lonely child into the world -- "No chance it was an accident?" Jack asked, knowing from the Doctor's face that he already knew the answer.

"She threw it at the time rotor!"

"Sounds like our Martha when she's made her mind up." Jack picked up the shirt hanging from the captain's chair and discovered that it didn't have a single button left. He started folding it up anyway, more to have something to do with his hands than anything.

"Whether she is 'our Martha' anymore, I'm not even sure of that. She won't let me into her mind to find out."

"'The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing'."

"That's just it, isn't it," the Doctor said. "We're not talking about the human heart anymore. She's got two, now. And if she should come to regret that..." A sigh, here, deep and weary. "I thought she was dead, Jack. I've got so used to how inefficiently humans breathe..."

Another piece of the puzzle slotted itself into place, try as Jack might to stop it. "Hey, if I had a nickel for every time I've almost given you mouth-to-mouth we'd be married."

"Since when have you needed an excuse to try?" the Doctor countered, but absently, his attention clearly gone on to the helmet-like apparatus hanging down from the tangle of cabling. "And as for you, you can put that thing away," he addressed the ceiling sternly, stabbing a finger at something on the console. "Or better yet resorb it. I never want to see it used again." The Time Lord turned away from the retracting mechanism and laid his forehead against the monitor, eyes closed in communion or utter despair. Jack took that as his cue to leave them to their fragile reconciliation.

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Chapter 8: Quickening

Author's Notes: In which there are Developments.


With the Time Lord reunited with his ship, the atmosphere in the Hub lightened considerably, mostly because he only came down to conduct negotiations with the handful of weevils who had remained as ambassadors or to fetch Jack for some task in the TARDIS that required another pair of hands. Jack had been spending an increasing amount of what he laughingly referred to as his spare time helping the Doctor to conduct some extensive overhauls that by the looks of things were centuries overdue. More surprisingly, Ianto had taken to joining them in the mornings, bringing in coffee before going down to wake up the Hub and occasionally hanging about for a while first to watch them in that quiet Iantoish way. He'd taken the entire bigger-on-the-inside part so completely in stride that Jack worried a little about his mental state.

The holidays had come and gone and the air was beginning to hint at spring, and Jack had made yet another in a growing line of excuses to sit with Martha on the sofa while they went over the endless paperwork together, rubbing her back with his free hand in that spot that she seemed to like best this week and letting her cuddle up to him in a distinctly unprofessional manner. He had no idea where the man who by rights should have been doing all this was today, besides a vague impression of having seen him down in the vaults at some point, but damned if he was going to leave Martha to suffer for the Doctor's intransigence. "You're better at this than you should be, Captain," Martha murmured in his ear.

"It's a very long story."

"We've both got the time, Jack."

And much to his surprise, Jack found himself haltingly beginning to tell Martha some of the stories he hadn't told anyone, occasionally not even the other parties technically involved. Of all the little moments of hope found and hope lost that made up a life lived as something other but in the end never apart, watching from shadows as you had to lie to your own children about who and what you were. Trying, maybe, to let her know what she'd chosen for herself, although she'd already known that, hadn't she, with the Doctor for her guiding star... "It's all pretty messed up, I guess," he concluded lamely, with the sudden sense that she'd stopped listening.

Martha didn't answer this, her brow furrowed in what looked like utter confusion. Another moment later the Doctor burst in from the direction of the vaults, wild-eyed and uncharacteristically dead silent. Out of the corner of his eye Jack could see Owen making the antenna-twirling hand gesture that Jack was pretty sure by now meant 'alien nutter'.

The Time Lord zeroed straight in on the perplexed Martha and stood before her with his head cocked strangely for the longest moment. Almost as if he was... listening. Jack had just about pieced together what was going on when one long-fingered hand came out to touch her still fairly flat belly. Jack wasn't particularly proficient in lip-reading Gallifreyan, but if that soundless twitch hadn't been hello there, then Jack had never been on either end of this transaction before, and that was such a losing bet. "I think we have ignition," Jack whispered.

"'S not even kicking yet," Martha said.

"Most of the extra gestational time involves building the brain," the Doctor said, although whether he was actually answering Martha or not was open to question. "That was the first few neurons of the psychic centres joining up. And looking around for Mummy," he added, finally lifting his gaze to meet hers.

"Well, how was I supposed to know that? It's not as if this came with a manual and you're hardly much help."

She had him dead to rights there, in Jack's humble opinion, and he could see that the Doctor concurred, perhaps recalling how it had been a week before he'd even realized that everyone in the Hub was suffering along with her morning sickness and unbent enough to show Martha how to contain herself. The Time Lord -- the other Time Lord -- abruptly jackknifed himself onto what was left over of the sofa and laid his head in Martha's lap.

"It's all just so much," the muffled voice said into Martha's stomach. "I don't think I can be what you need me to be, Martha."

"All I need you to be is the Doctor," she said, resting her hand on his head. He didn't shy away, as Jack almost thought he might, but instead lay quiet, even smiling a little as she stroked the rumpled brown hair --

"-- All right, that's two right hands?"

"You looked like you needed petting," Jack said innocently.

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Chapter 9: Someone To Dance With

Author's Notes: In which there is Shagging.


"This should feel so transgressive."

"Why?"

"I'm sleeping with my best friend's pregnant... whatever -- Even I know this is pretty wrong."

Martha chuckled throatily. "He wouldn't know what to do with these hormone surges if we were having it off right in front of him, Jack, you know that."

Jack nuzzled into her neck, feeling the twin beating of her hearts against his chest like echoes of some larger truth. "Still feels a little weird."

"You wanna stop?"

"Hell no!" She chuckled again, deep and growling. Oh, my, if this was what the female of the species was like, the Doctor had never stood a chance...

By now it was pretty much an open secret that although the Doctor was putting in more face-time around the Hub there still wasn't much of a relationship to speak of between the alien parents-to-be, and Jack had a fair sense that his attentions to Martha were not so much unobserved as tacitly welcomed. The Doctor, in turn, had been spending a good deal of his time with Ianto, of all people, slowly building up a geeky sort of rapport that seemed to be calming some of the Welshman's demons. Maybe it was because they'd both lost someone at Canary Wharf. Jack was pretty sure that it didn't really go beyond a peculiarly intellectual friendship, but it was a damned odd thing to see the two dark heads bent over a book or a screen together all the time. Jack wasn't sure if he was more jealous that Ianto had found this new focus, or that the Doctor had.

It was in the early mornings that Jack was able to share the Time Lord's attention with only the TARDIS, tinkering and adjusting and increasingly just hanging out together with her as the human world slumbered. "Almost like the old days, huh," Jack said.

"Well, with the two big differences," the Doctor pointed out. He'd long since finished twiddling at the circuitry in his lap, and they'd been sitting companionably on the edge of the deck for some while now, arguing halfheartedly about metric measurements and compatibility. "But I'm prepared to put up with yours if you can stand mine."

How to explain, that he tried not to sleep because when he did he dreamed of Kyoto, of waking with a head nestled against each shoulder and knowing that everything was finally right with the world? "I'll be honest with you, the U-boat look did more for me, but I still wouldn't kick you out of bed for eating crackers." This won Jack a trying-not-to-laugh face. "I don't think it would create a paradox to tell you that your next one's pretty hot, too," Jack added mischievously.

The Doctor looked startled. "Please don't tell me you've already tried to shag me then, Jack, that would just be too depressing for words."

"Still the farthest thing from your mind, don't worry." And had been from Jack's, considering how long it had taken the burns from cradling the regenerating Time Lord to his breast to heal...

The Doctor shrugged. "Maybe it isn't. Always the farthest thing from my mind."

And that was enough to short-circuit even Jack's well-honed flirtation detectors. "Why, Doctor, if I didn't know you better I'd almost say that was an overture of some sort."

"I'm not completely immune to that hormonal stew down there." A sigh, then, and Jack caught a glimpse of how frustrating this new life must have been for the Time Lord, bored and lonely and trapped, caught in the one situation that even he could never have foreseen. And hopped-up on enough pheromones to take down a charging rhino to boot. Hell, it was probably a good thing that Jack was the only person in the Hub he really trusted or god knew what kind of an incident he might have started by now. Jack kind of admired his self-restraint, now he really thought about it.

"You know, and this is weird, but this kind of feels like it would be taking advantage. And that's something I never thought I'd hear myself say."

"I suppose I would be, a little. Although I haven't noticed that stopping you with Martha." One of the dark eyebrows went up, as Jack tried to process.

"I meant -- wait, what did I mean? Are you seriously saying...?"

An almost bashful look now. "You did already buy me that drink."

Two hormone-addled Time Lords who were conveniently not exactly speaking to each other... oh, yes, somewhere along the way Jack had been a very good boy. Or else he was in hell, he'd figure out which later. "I should have more self-respect than this," Jack said, and gave in to the temptation to kiss the waiting lips.

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Chapter 10: Plus C'est La Meme Chose

Author's Notes: In which there are Repercussions.


Not the most romantic of encounters, but definitely right up there for memorable, Jack decided, content for the moment to lie in the circle of the not-quite-human arms and drift against alien rhythms of hearts and breath. More of a cuddler, this time round, but plus ça change as the French would say if they'd ever dreamed of this. Still that burning need to be the one who led the dance, that surprising core of steel beneath the affable facade. Jack was out of practice at doing everything backwards and in heels, but the steps came back, all right. With the right partner.

"Would 'what time is it?' be a silly question to ask you?" Jack eventually said, when the creeping sense that he did have duties elsewhere to live up to had grown too loud to drown out with the sounds of two heartbeats.

"Do you have somewhere better to be?" Damn, but neck-nuzzling was dirty pool when he was trying to be Responsible...

"I do have a job to go to, after all. They're fragile enough as it is, I shudder to think how it would shatter their worldview if I wasn't always already there in the mornings."

"There you go again, being a Fact."

Jack sat up, stretching. "Somebody has to keep this place together. You've seen what it's like when I'm there." The Doctor tilted his head, conceding the point. "So, shall we say we have to do this again some time, or...?"

"I'd hate to think the fun was all in the chasing." The Time Lord leaned back in the pillows with his fingers laced together behind his neck, grinning up at Jack smugly.

"I'll try to pencil you in around my other obligations, then," Jack said, trying to school his face into an aloof look. "Or I'd propose a threesome to save myself time, but I don't think even I could survive that."

"As if there's enough rice wine in the world to get me to do that again," the Doctor said, flinging one arm over his eyes as if to block out the memory.

"Hey, she walked in on us, if you'll recall. I didn't start out with any intention of sharing you after it took me that long to get you drunk. I've always wondered if you even remembered that night," Jack added softly. The brown eyes regarded him wistfully, silent reminder of everything they'd both lost. "Did you ever...?"

"That is so none of your business." But he was grinning, at least, and Jack thought he had his answer after all.

Jack finally managed to drag himself out of the gravitational pull of that bed, so unexpectedly sybaritic for someone who usually lived like such a monk (and god, but that coverlet was exactly the right shade of red for the living flame in the flame-colored sheets), and went to follow the breadcrumb trail of his clothes down the corridor, trying his best not to look back for fear of never being able to make himself leave. Shoes, I'm sure I would have been wearing shoes when I came in here --

He got all the way to the console room before finding his shirt, which wasn't quite how he recalled matters proceeding, but never mind that, because Ianto was sitting in the captain's chair, a cardboard carrier with coffees balanced on the seat beside him, staring rather gloomily for Ianto at the patterns flickering across the monitor. "Don't tell me you can actually understand any of that," Jack said, acutely aware that he looked like exactly what it was.

"It's only maths," Ianto said. "Once you've corrected for the symbols not remaining static across time, it's simple enough."

No wonder the Doctor had been taking such an interest in Jack's stopwatch-loving tea-boy. "Ianto..."

"No need to explain, sir. I always knew it wasn't serious."

Jack had heard worse indictments of himself, but somehow this was the one that cut to the bone, delivered as it was in that quiet tone that seemed so resigned to never expecting anything for itself. "You're confusing 'serious' with 'permanent'," Jack said, shrugging into his braces.

"That's what he said." Ianto stood up and handed Jack one of the cups from the holder. "The others will be coming in, sir, I'll tell them you'll be there when you're there."

Mortified despite himself to realize he'd been a prime topic of discussion all along, Jack looked around for something to throw the coffee at and caught sight of the time rotor. Impulse to violence instantly checked by the reminder of what had brought them all to this pass, Jack drew in a shuddering breath as the adrenaline drained away and took a sip of the coffee instead. Exactly the way he liked it, damn Ianto anyway. "See if you get a bonus next Christmas," he muttered at the departing back. "It's not even hot."

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Chapter 11: Bluetooth Compatibility

Author's Notes: In which there are Ringtones.


("Ring him again, ring him again.")

"Waterloo! Couldn't get away if I wanted to --"


"I'm telling you, Doctor, you had better fix this thing or your baby's gonna grow up without a daddy --"

(beep beep boop)

"Mamma Mia! Here I go again --"


"It's picking up psychic interference, the baby must have accidentally hit upon the frequency to reset it --"

("Give it here, it's my turn --")

"There was something in the air that night, the stars were bright, Fernando --"


"It is pretty funny, sir --"

("one more, one more --")

"You can dance, you can ji-iive --"


Jack hurled the offending phone into the wall, abruptly silencing it. "All of you come here now and I'll only retcon you a little..."

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Chapter 12: A Difficult Matter

Author's Notes: In which there are Revelations.


The feeding discussion had been mercifully brief, although Jack had still caught enough of it to be scarred for life. The Doctor had eventually won by filling several of the Hub's screens with a molecular schematic that made Tosh have to go lie down for a while with a cold cloth over her eyes. Ianto had been dispatched to obtain bottles and the contents of a shopping list that Jack didn't really want to think about. "Why doesn't it surprise me that you wouldn't be one for doing this the old-fashioned way," Jack said the next time the Doctor sought refuge in his office.

"I'm more amazed that this has been going as well as it has," the Doctor replied, flopping into the chair Jack had come to think of as his by right. "It's not easy to build something as frankly magnificent as a Time Lord, after all. There were those on Gallifrey who would have argued that there was hardly any point in leaving in the potential for strictly biological reproduction at all, if it wouldn't have been such a patently stupid idea to engineer it out entirely." He paused, and Jack wondered if perhaps he was wishing that the other side had won the argument. "But the end result is that Martha is about at her limits trying to make up for being here as it is, and bottle-feeding will be the simplest way to handle things later. Unless you want her to be eating you out of house and home even more than she already is."

Jack thought back to some of the more exotic items the Torchwood team had been sent out to fetch at all hours to satisfy Martha's cravings, and shook his head. "Two weeks of watching her put wasabi in her cocoa was enough, thanks. Compared to that I can almost live with your banana fetish. Is the next revelation going to be something horrible about gigantic brains? 'Cause I think we're going to be in trouble if this ends up in an emergency c-section down at Cardiff A&E."

"The word 'vivisection' does come to mind," the Time Lord agreed. "Although that is usually your lot doing it. Fortunately for Martha, though, my people actually had the chance to sit down and work out the sums for what had to fit through where. And, well, fudge a few bits of them," he admitted, rubbing the back of his neck in that gesture that Jack knew by now meant that he was this close to having to acknowledge that something out there was possibly cleverer than himself.

"Bigger on the inside, huh."

"Let's just say that two hearts and a respiratory bypass system don't exactly come off the evolutionary peg, and it would have been a shame to let all that clever mc-cleverpantsness founder over the size of the pelvic outlet. Martha should be considerably better off than a human mother, in fact."

"I hope you've told her that," Jack said.

"It was one of the first things she asked," the Doctor replied. "Of course, if she'd really been thinking she'd have asked before, but it did show an admirable presence of mind under the circumstances. Lovely thing, medical training. Pity it doesn't seem to have made your Owen any less of a tosser, though," he added after a moment, frowning.

Jack laughed aloud to hear that the Doctor's assessment of Torchwood's resident medical officer matched so closely that of Owen's human co-workers by this point. "I think I just won the office pool for when you'd notice that. Gwen owes me a fiver. Did I mention he shot me once?"

"You see, that's exactly why it's such a bad idea to have an arsenal so close to hand in an atmosphere as charged as this," the Doctor said. "Sooner or later you end up turning the guns on each other."

"If we're going to have the pacifism conversation again I think I need a drink first," Jack said, picking up the decanter on his desk. "You?" The Doctor shrugged, which Jack took to mean may as well, so he poured two glasses, making a vague note that it was getting on time to find another bottle when he got the chance. "Where were we, then, 'guns are not toys, Captain Jack Harkness'?"

"Round there." The Time Lord picked up his glass and sat turning it between those long fingers, watching the liquid swirl back and forth. "I'm not going to have you be a bad influence on my son."

It took Jack a long moment to take this in. "...Wow. It's a boy? Well, great, I'm not sure what cultural significance that has for you, but congratulations." And from the slow goofy grin that had spread across the Doctor's face, the resonances of knowing a little Time Lord was on the way (for all that Martha adamantly insisted that the title was properly gender-neutral, all arguments of semantics and biology be damned) were about what Jack would have expected them to be to any human father he'd ever known, including occasionally himself. Jack clinked his glass to the Doctor's and drank. "Got any names picked out yet?"

"Negotiations are ongoing." From that face the respective diplomats were hung up on opposite sides of one hell of a cultural divide. "Although for what it's worth, I do agree with Martha that a traditional Gallifreyan name would be more than a little wasted on the potential audience."

"If your names are anything like some of what I've heard you muttering when you're working on the TARDIS, I'm in complete agreement with that," Jack said. "Especially the parts she doesn't bother to translate. Shame to break completely with tradition, though," he added after another moment's consideration. "Nothing to say a kid can't have a middle name he's embarrassed about."

"Oh, like --?" And the Time Lord rattled off a long liquid phrase that made Jack's breath catch in his throat. "And that's only the part of my given name that I remember, Jack. It bangs on for another five or ten minutes, I think."

"Pretty, though," Jack managed, ears still trying to wrap themselves around what they'd heard. No wonder he'd chosen something short and functional for everyday. "Suppose it's got some equally poetic translation."

The Doctor looked amused that Jack had even thought to ask. "It's a... virtue-name, like Prudence, or Temperance, or Fly-Fornication. And about as old-fashioned even when I ended up saddled with it. The nearest I could come in your language would be... 'he who makes right'."

In Jack's considered opinion this was the one thing in the entirety of the history of the Doctor's vanished race that his people had ever gotten completely and unequivocably correct. "I can see where that would get a kid's ass kicked on the playground. Maybe you'd better let Martha pick something from her side of the family."

"Anything but Clive." The Doctor finally remembered his drink. "Somehow that's just too... alien." Jack laughed at his puzzled look.

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Chapter 13: I've Got A Little List

Author's Notes: In which there are Complications.


Inevitably, Gwen decided that there was going to be a baby shower. Jack had to give her points for still remembering that that was how normal people did things, but the slight complication that the Torchwood team basically were the mother-to-be's circle of friends put a distinct damper on his enthusiasm for the idea. "Can I even assume that we're talking about human-shaped baby clothes?" Jack asked the Doctor the next time the messy hair popped up from the maintainance hatch.

"It is the default setting," the Time Lord replied. "What is that, a list?" Jack held it out for him to see. "My... word. Well, for starters you had better go tell her not pastel blue."

"You said it's a boy."

The Doctor gave him a peevish look. "The sky of Gallifrey was orange, Jack. If you're going to hold to primitive notions of celestial protection against the evil eye, you can at least adapt it to the circumstances."

"I don't think I can get her to wait until halloween, Doctor." The glare the Time Lord gave him said that if it were up to him he'd do just that, thank you very much. "Would dark blue make you happier? It's the color of your ship, in case you hadn't noticed."

This produced a thoughtful look. "Red would be better. But I suppose it's their expectations we're working with. Am I being counted on to show up at this little soiree?"

"Not if you're going to be the bad fairy who curses the baby." Well, he was up on his Grimm's, at least, because this got Jack a brief flash of a smile before the Doctor ducked back down through the hatch. "It'll be at Gwen's place, if you do decide to come."

"I'll think about it. -- She's not inviting Martha's family, is she?"

Jack hadn't considered that potential icing for this whole absurd cake. "I don't know if Martha's even told them she's back, let alone pregnant. And naturally this is all supposed to be a surprise for her, so Gwen won't have asked -- I guess I could warn her in a roundabout way that Martha's parents don't exactly approve of you and she'd make up some blanks to fill in for herself."

"Such as?"

Oh, god. Jack had been hoping that this conversation wouldn't fall to him, but the brown eyes looking up at him as innocently as a puppy were just short of needing to have the birds and the bees straightened out for them. Jack took a deep breath. "You know, maybe the part where their daughter ran off with a white boy."

Yep, he hadn't even noticed that nuance of his situation, all right, which said one of two things about Gallifrey that Jack could maybe get behind if it were the more admirable of them. "I can see not being able to explain about the Valiant, but I have to admit you've lost me with the rest of it."

"Gwen's still too normal for this place, Doctor, she's seen more evidence to make her think of me as an alien than you. Let her believe that her friend Martha's family are being a little slow to come to terms with the human 'guess who's coming to dinner' scenario and we'll all be better off. Unless you have some burning desire to have Francine Jones clobber you with a case of disposable nappies," Jack added as the Doctor drew a breath.

"I could just refuse to have anything to do with this affair, you know."

"She'd find you. Oh, she'd find you. They always do, believe me."

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Chapter 14: Gang Aft Aglay

Author's Notes: In which there are Doubts.


Gwen, bless her heart, had accepted Jack's sad-eyed explanation of how it would be an explosive mistake to send shower invitations to Martha's family with only a minimum of kicking and screaming about the impropriety not to mention stupidity of it. "They'll come around eventually, you know new grandparents always do," he assured her, and hoped that the matter was settled when she went on the the subject of menus.

They were as deep in discussion of the merits of various party snacks as Jack had ever expected to find himself when one of their resident aliens happened to wander past the office. Jack was almost relieved when Gwen promptly dragged him inside for interrogation. "Rhys volunteered to help with the cooking, is there anything you or Martha don't eat?"

"I used to be a vegetarian, but I got better," the Doctor said. "Can't speak for Martha, though."

From Gwen's look she had been expecting something more like never mind me, I'll just nip out back and eat your tyres, and didn't know quite what to do with herself now. "Right, just the usual sorts of nibbles, then." She wrote something down that Jack suspected she would later find read pojssternd twiglets alien nutter. "I think that's everything, then, see you Thursday?"

"Why do I get the impression that 'volunteered' wasn't the word she meant?" the Doctor asked once Gwen had fled with the list clutched to her bosom. Jack leaned back in his chair.

"Rhys isn't exactly in on the gag yet, Doctor. I think part of why Gwen's doing this is to convince herself that she could still be like everybody else if she tried. Which means trying to keep her boyfriend involved in whatever superficial parts of her life she can still talk to him about at all. Can't blame her for going a little overboard with it when she gets the chance."

From the look on the Doctor's face, it hadn't been Gwen he'd been considering blaming. But all he said was, "It might actually be good for all of your people to get out of this place for a little while. And I can't believe I'm saying that about this party. I think I'm going madder than the lot of you put together."

"That's the Torchwood spirit, Doctor. First you ignore it, then you laugh at it, then you fight it, then it wins." The Time Lord's shoulders sagged.

By Thursday Jack had the feeling that even Gwen was having second thoughts about the shower, and for a few hours he entertained the blissful hope that she'd turn up in his office to tell him it was off. His heart sank when he saw her moving to intercept Tosh and Martha as they were getting ready to head home for the night. "Anyone up for a girls' night in with a video...?"

"Right, I've got enough bullets to do me and Ianto, but Jack's on his own," Owen said once the door had rolled shut behind the three women.

"No guns at the baby shower," Jack said absently.

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Chapter 15: Are We Having Fun Yet?

Author's Notes: In which there is Relaxation.


It was a struggle, and once or twice Jack thought either the Doctor or Owen might try to bolt, but eventually he managed to get everyone buckled into the SUV, about as happy as cats on the way to the vet but at least en route to the shower. "Hey, if you worked in a normal office you'd be getting dragged to these every week," he reminded his reluctant staff.

"If we worked in a normal office there'd be enough girls around that we wouldn't have to go ourselves," Owen shot back.

"He's got you there, sir."

"Oh, this stupid backwards century..."

"What?"

"I said, we're here. Everybody out, and don't bother trying to run because I know exactly how to take you down so you won't be hurt bad enough to get out of this."

Jack had to give Gwen credit, Martha actually looked surprised when the four men trooped into the flat. Although whether this was surprise at the shower itself, or that Jack had gotten the other three there without having to tase any of them...

To his amazement Jack felt himself loosening up and enjoying himself as his team's wary tension turned gradually to genuine laughter at the sheer absurdity of the scene. He couldn't actually remember the last time he'd let his guard down far enough to relish the simple mundanity of drinking punch out of paper cups, or the look on Toshiko's face when she managed to pin a cloth nappie to her sleeve during a demonstration of the technology. The lone false note came when Gwen tried to coax them into some baby-themed word games; since the only game the Torchwood crew were accustomed to playing as a group was more or less who's the most embarrassing person you've ever slept with besides Owen, this went badly enough that she called it off after the first round threatened to end in bloodshed. "Presents time, then?"

The group turned out to have done a remarkable job of complying with the idiosyncratic demands laid down by the alien daddy, but the star of the show was undeniably Owen's gift, a pair of red-and-orange booties that he had knitted himself. "What?" Torchwood's medical officer demanded of the ring of shocked faces. "Residencies are boring and it's a good dexterity exercise. I do have a life outside of work, unlike some people."

Jack tried his best to throw a first one laughs gets retconned and tossed in with a weevil look on over the one he was sure he was already wearing. "I always knew we'd eventually find your hidden virtues. Who wants more cake?"

The Doctor had spent most of the evening in the kitchen with the long-suffering Rhys, who had proclaimed the whole situation very "modern" and then wisely chosen to get the hell out of the way. Jack wasn't quite sure if the Time Lord was making an effort to keep Rhys company or simply had decided that he was the sanest person at the party. "She's going to be getting ideas about babies now," Jack heard Gwen's boyfriend saying dolefully.

"Most dangerous thing there is, ideas," the Doctor said.

Jack treated Rhys to his most maddeningly enigmatic smile as he squeezed past them to get at the cake. "Better her than me, anyway, it's hell losing that last ten pounds."

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Chapter 16: Nice Day To Start Again

Author's Notes: In which there is Blowback.


Rhys, it turned out, had unknowingly been providing the Doctor with a rather staggering amount of background information regarding the human male's typical reactions to "honey, guess what?" moments, particularly those that hadn't necessarily happened within capital-R Relationships of any standing. Sometimes it was good to step back and get the "normal" perspective, Jack reflected, debriefing the Time Lord over takeaway Chinese in his office. And sometimes it was just a bloody nuisance. "That one I think he's getting from watching too much television," Jack said.

"I didn't think it seemed likely," the Doctor said through a mouthful of noodles. (Jack had aborted a monologue about Marco Polo by pointing out that the Doctor's food was getting cold while he ran his mouth instead of eating with it, but he suspected he was going to be in for it later.) "Even despite some of the physiological differences it's just too absurd --"

Jack held up a hand to quiet the Time Lord as his phone trilled upstairs calling. "Hold that thought, Doctor -- Yeah?"

"The Jones family are here, sir."

"Great, go have lunch with your folks, we can manage without --"

"Not my Joneses, sir. Martha's."

"What? Who -- All right, Ianto, stall them, I'm coming up --" Jack was already up and moving, waving down the Doctor's attempt to follow. "You stay put. Martha! Why did you have to go and call your Mum, for god's sake --"

Several hours later Jack staggered back into the Hub, still reeling. "That's a face," Gwen said.

"...I think I just got married." Jack went down hard onto the sofa, feeling not unlike he was slowly dying of some exotic neurotoxin that replaced brain cells with toffee. It was another few seconds before he registered that the snickering had started. "It's not funny, all right? They started asking Martha who the father was and I had to tell them something."

"They hate you nearly as much as they hate me, Jack," the Doctor said.

"Tell me about it! But I figured at least I can take a punch better than you can. I didn't know her father was going to drag me down to the registry office on the spot and throw chairs around until I signed things!"

"There's still time, though, Jack, the paperwork has to be on file for fifteen days before the ceremony." Bless Tosh for being a grind, although why she'd have that tidbit right at her fingertips... "You could maybe --"

"You weren't there. If it had been up to Clive I'd be on a train to Gretna Green right now. I only got away to come back here because they've kept Martha as a hostage."

That, at least, got the Doctor's attention. "Right, we've got to get her back here before they get it into their heads to start asking her too many questions about prenatal care and due dates."

Or before they get in close enough for a good hug, Jack thought, well acquainted with the rabbity strangeness of close contact with those binary vascular systems. "I don't think they're trying to deprogram her or anything, but if I was reading Francine at all it's going to take some talking to get them to let Martha out of their sight before everything's legal. And even if we can get them to let her stay with us they'll want to be talking to her to plan things --"

"You sound like you're actually going to go through with this marriage idea, Jack."

Jack was a little surprised at that too. "Apparently someone's going to have to, and it's my job to throw myself on the grenades for my people. Martha's part of my team. And so are you, now."

"Never been part of somebody's team before," the Doctor mused, looking touched. "Do we get secret decoder badges?"

"I can't even get you to carry a phone half the time."

"'S not true, I've got Martha's." He went fumbling through his bottomless pockets and came up with an ordinary-looking mobile. With a thoughtful look the Time Lord started tapping in a text message with his thumbs at an astonishing speed. Clickety clickety pause, clickety pause, clickety clickety clickety -- "They're out shopping with her, if we hurry she thinks we might have a chance for a 'rs-q?'," he announced with a self-satisfied look.

"That's our Martha," Jack said approvingly. Get them in a crowded area, where they won't want to cause a scene --

And?

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Chapter 17: Reverse The Polarity

Author's Notes: In which there is Flexibility.


In the end, Martha had mostly rescued her own damn self by the time they got there, exhausting her mother with such unexpectedly comprehensive plans regarding the wedding details that Francine had all but run out of excuses to detain her daughter when the handsome swain turned up to remind her of a 'prenatal checkup'. The Doctor was greatly disappointed not to get to play out his designated role of getaway-car driver, but he seemed happier to see Martha than Jack had seen him since this entire debacle had grounded him here, clambering into the back seat to meet her as Jack bundled her into the SUV and only just stopping short of patting her to make sure she was real. "Hug her, stupid," Jack said, launching the vehicle out of park with a lurch that wasn't strictly necessary but did serve to squash the two Time Lords into each other's arms.

"Oi, we've got a plus-one back here, you know," the Doctor said.

"Is any of this concern about me, or is it all our plus-one?" Martha asked shrewdly.

"There are some biological responses going on here that I'm having a little trouble sorting," the Doctor acknowledged, rather sheepishly.

Jack couldn't see from the rear-view mirror what Martha had done in response, but it put to rest a few questions he'd had about whether Time Lords shared certain emotional responses with humans, or at least something that mapped out to the rough physiological equivalent. All the way to the ears, too, that's just darling. "I could pull over and come back there if you guys want to start making out," he offered.

"We'll be fine, thanks," the Doctor said, a bit squeakily Jack thought.

The day had been eventful enough already that once they were safe and snug back in the Hub Jack let his human staff go home early and went to bed, leaving the Time Lords sitting together on the sofa, although Jack wasn't sure if they were talking or if the Doctor was just communing with Martha's contents again. Talking seemed a bit less like too much to hope for after that blush, but Jack still had his doubts. Trying to put concerns old and new from his mind, Jack closed his eyes, and dreamed --

blow falling across his strong shoulders instead of that frail body, "Don't think you're sparing him anything, freak.
You should know all about how much fun it is to watch --"

Jack clawed his way back to awareness already fighting the hand at his face, pulling back at the brink as he recognized that this light mental touch was offering rather than simply taking. "Shh, Jack, it's me. Shh. Shh."

Shuddering, he let go of the Doctor's wrist. "Good way to get yourself punched."

"Already got a headache, thanks." Gently but firmly the Time Lord insinuated himself into the bed so that Jack's head was pillowed against his shoulder. "No more nightmares, all right?"

Well, if this is what you're bribing me with, then sure -- Jack shifted a little until he could feel both of the Doctor's heartbeats, and let the steady double-thump lull him down into a deeper, restful sleep, dreamless this time. The best he'd had in, well, forever, might as well be.

And to wake again still sprawled contentedly across his drowsing alien's chest, that was more than he'd have dared think to ask. The Doctor's shirt had come all untucked, and Jack traced a lazy finger around the bared navel. "Placental mammals, be a bit conspicuous if I didn't," came the sleepy response to his explorations.

"It's adorable. Up for a quickie before my tea-boy finds us?"

"You're always 'on', aren't you." But with a mysterious smile the Time Lord curled his long fingers around Jack's temples. Only the softest brush of mind against mind when Jack nodded in dawning understanding of the invitation, but enough to make Jack arch against him in surprise and draw in a breath that ended in a gasp --

"...You've been holding out on me," Jack finally managed, blinking away stars. "Is that how your people usually did it?"

"When they could be bothered, yeah," the Time Lord said, with a shrug that seemed to suggest about how often that would usually have been.

"Definitely have to try it more naked one of these days." (Nice as it was to have a better item for the top of his 'most fun with clothes on' life-list there was still very little in Jack's experience that couldn't be improved by nudity, excepting maybe frying bacon.)

The Doctor made a noise that could have meant anything from over my last regeneration to when do you get off work and sloped off, probably to the TARDIS to freshen up, or whatever applied after a thing like that. Jack opted for the path of lesser resistance and headed for his own shower. Only to find it was already in use -- "The baby likes the water," Martha explained, peering at him through the clouds of steam.

"If the two of you want to be alone I could come back."

"Hardly worth bothering with anybody's modesty at this point, we are going to be married, after all," she pointed out with a twinkle in her eye.

Jack was pretty sure that there would be some exceptionally bad luck involved in shagging the bride-to-be in the shower, actually. "You're really okay with this whole thing? I mean, there's got to be some way --"

"It'd sort out both our paper trails for a while," Martha pointed out, ever the practical one. "And it shuts Mum up. I mean, who would the alternative be, Owen?"

"Put that way." He threw his towel on the bench and joined her under the spray. "Wouldn't be the first time I married somebody to get a green card. Come to think of it, I'm probably still married there. Good thing none of us have technically been born yet. Oh, I feel so damn old sometimes, Martha."

"Still pretty good looking, though. For a human."

"Speciesist." Jack slipped his arms around Martha's waist, or what passed for it by now, letting his hands come to rest on the top of the watermelon she was trying to smuggle. And still nothing quite like skin on skin, poor silly ape me. "Just because you get to look after the universe's rarest bun in the oven..." The bun in question skimmed a knee or an elbow across the confines of his snug world, nudging Jack's hand. "Seems like a shame you won't be doing much with these, though."

"We are so not doing this in the shower," Martha said, though he felt her trying not to giggle. "If I fall down in here they're going to have to chop me up to get me out."

"You still sure you want to go through with this? Because you're seeing exactly what you'll be signing up for in the mornings here."

"Looks pretty much like you at any other hour of the day or night to me..."

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Chapter 18: Special Relativity

Author's Notes: In which there is Dancing.


Time travellers knew as well as schoolchildren how inconstant a measure two weeks could be, depending on whether what lay at the far end of that fortnight was the holidays or the gallows. For Jack the stay of execution flitted by in a blur of increasingly bizarre conversations with his future in-laws about guest lists and baby names and the not at all veiled hostility regarding any number of his flaws ranging from whether he had unfairly abused his status as Martha's superior officer to the difference in their ages. Once or twice Jack had been sorely tempted to let rip with the truth about either the latter or the real chasm of years between their daughter and her babydaddy.

His time on the slow path had started getting to him, Jack reflected in the quieter moments. Even in a backwards dump like Boeshane this whole sorry farce would have been faintly ridiculous. It occurred to him occasionally to wonder what a species that could trade in its face twelve times thought of the notion of such long-term interpersonal contracts as these stupid ephemeral apes expected of themselves. He'd have to ask his resident expert when he got the chance...

The last day of Jack's freedom arrived, and when at the end of it his female staff dragged away the giggling bride-to-be in what probably wasn't the direction of the nearest pub Jack realized in dawning panic that there was a certain weight of institutional custom afoot that he was most likely about to be expected to uphold. "So, you guys wanna do the traditional thing with strippers, or should we just go get hammered?"

"Hammered," Owen and Ianto said in perfect unison, the latter surprising Jack a little.

"Makes me the designated driver," the Doctor mused, not looking all that upset about it. "Or were we walking? Aw, I'm never gonna get the chance to see how that car handles..."

Several hours later Jack was wishing he'd overridden the consensus and gone with the strippers. Ianto, he had discovered, was not a quiet and tidy drunk, or at least not once he'd gotten enough drinks in him that his eyes had begun to blaze with blue fire every time he so much as glanced in Jack's direction. Fortunately, Jack himself was long past the point where the TARDIS had given up her attempts to make sense of Ianto's end of the conversation for him. He'd never appreciated his own insistence on cultural diversity in quite this way before, all right.

Owen, for his part, was still able to speak reasonably fluent English, and had been taking advantage of this capacity to enlighten Jack on every single way in which this marriage to Martha was screwing over him, Doctor Owen Harper, in a very personal sense. "Not like I ever stood a chance with her next to all you aliens and immortal superheroes."

"The alien is also an immortal superhero," Jack felt compelled to point out.

"Fucking bollocks." Owen put his head down on the bar. Jack realized with a kind of fascinated horror that he was crying.

Their designated driver had a milk-mustache of frozen banana daiquiri, but Jack was pretty sure that he was the only one who even remembered the way back to the Hub at this point. "Dyw hynny ddim yn wirioneddol deg, he may be a right piece of work sometimes but he does mean well," the Time Lord said, and it took Jack longer than it really should have to realize that this had been directed past his head at Ianto. Definitely more think than I drunk I am, Captain my Captain...

Now Jack's other human employee had buried his face in his hands, shaking his head from side to side as if he were about to either join Owen in his lamentations or be violently ill all over the bar. "Do you think maybe it's about time we were getting them home?" Jack asked out of an obscure sense of duty.

"Nah, they'll be fine," the Doctor chirped brightly. "The night is young, and you haven't even asked me to dance yet."

"You're nearly as smashed as they are, aren't you."

"It wouldn't be a proper stag night if any of us were able to remember it in the morning, would it?" He perked up as the music shifted; "Oh, I know this one," and he extended a hand to Jack. "Shall we show the children how it's done?"

And really, was it every day that you could get yourself thrown out of a club in Cardiff for doing the lindy-hop to "Mambo #5" with the not-quite-last of the Time Lords?

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Chapter 19: (Church On Time) Terrifies Me

Author's Notes: In which there is Aftermath.


Jack woke in the perpetual gloom of his bedroom, sudden knife-edge of awareness that he wasn't alone and couldn't remember why propelling him to instant military wakefulness half a step ahead of a crashing headache. That sort of a party, apparently. Bracing himself, he nudged his partner awake. Dark eyes slid open and took a moment to focus. "...Oh, christ, not again," Owen groaned.

"I won't tell anybody if you won't," Jack assured him. Pretty obvious that it hadn't been innocent, either, from the available evidence. Jack almost wished he did remember how the end of the night had gone down, since it was probably a fascinating story. "Don't suppose you remember who we're gonna have to retcon, do you?"

"I lost the thread somewhere around the part where you and your spaceman started putting on the Scottish accents. Which were both crap, by the way. Shit, where are my trousers?"

From the look on Owen's face and the state of his own head, Jack thought the likelihood that anyone he might encounter in the next few minutes was currently sentient enough to be collecting blackmail material was probably close enough to nil to be worth getting up and out just as soon as he could possibly summon the coordination to dress. Clothes. Right. Legs at end of feet, wait, no, other way. What clothes? Who am I and where am I going today? Stinking Balafraxian three-legged g-strings, that must have been one hell of a party. Stag party, wasn't it? Wait a minute...

Mine?

All right, now Jack's head hurt. Oh, yes, that whole... thing. Nice clothes, then, and try not to come out looking like you're about to be laid out in the coffin you're never going to see the inside of...

Owen was long gone by the time Jack found anything in his wardrobe he'd even consent to sign up to a polite legal fiction in, and Jack rather hoped his surgeon had simply buggered off home, to change or for good. No such luck when Jack finally ventured out, though, Torchwood's medical officer had only gotten as far as the nearest convenient wastebasket to be sick into. Jack's, of course. Just outside the doorway to Jack's office Ianto lay sprawled on the sofa, as untidy a picture of rumpled half-dress as Jack had ever seen him. Definitely the strippers, if there's ever a next time...

The Doctor, infuriatingly, was fresh as a daisy and ready with coffee. "I think this means it's finally my turn to drive," he chirped, taking in the various states of the three other men.

"You do know how, right?"

"Of course I know how, although... Try not to let us get stopped, I think my licence expired in 1973." He went rummaging through his pockets and briefly flashed an ancient book-style vehicle authorization with some sort of official-credential photo ID tucked into it. Jack thought he recognized the face in the picture from old UNIT files. "I don't like waiting around in the lines nowadays," he explained defensively.

Yeah, that sounded about right for Mister Fidget. "Knock yourself out, then," Jack said, tossing him the keys.

The Doctor drove the SUV about the same way he flew the TARDIS, which was to say as if all his prior experience of the operation well predated power steering. Still, he did manage to get them to the registry office in one piece, almost to Jack's regret. "Would it be too late to ask you to drop me off somewhere in the Cretaceous instead?"

"Brave heart, Jack, it's only a little paperwork. And... I do appreciate this. I wouldn't have asked it of you, but it's a very clever thing of you to have come up with. That whole human element and everything."

"Like you say, I'm the one who's the expert in angry mums," Jack said, doing a mental double-take at the thought that the Time Lord had all but admitted that Jack had outdone him at something. "You coming in to watch the execution, or would you rather wait in the car?"

The Doctor reached into his pocket and produced his spectacles, which he made an elaborate show of settling onto his nose like a disguise. "Wouldn't miss it for the world."

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Chapter 20: 30-06 & 103.50

Author's Notes: In which there are Nuptials.


Since they'd opted for a plainest-of-plain and ringless formality Jack decided to forgo the argument about the best man altogether, given that of the groom's three male witnesses one was still in love with the groom, one was kind of sweet on the bride, and one was lurking in the back wearing Clark-Kentish spectacles to keep the bride's parents from suspecting that he was actually the father of the baby. Yes, this was about how Jack had always pictured his wedding day.

The Doctor nudged Jack and passed him a slip of paper. The side that Jack saw first was covered with the looping squiggles of Gallifreyan text, an eye-watering blur to him even with the TARDIS's ghostly help in the back of his mind. On a hunch, he turned it over and found what he presumed was the translation. "...For as long as we care to put up with each other?" Jack read aloud, amused.

"It's a bit loose," the Time Lord admitted. "You don't have enough tenses to really render it properly, and it's been a while since I've heard it anyway. Just a thought."

Jack tried to picture what the civil registrar's reaction to dragging Rassilon into this would be, much less that of Francine and Clive, and shook his head. "'Til death' is probably easier for me to get out of, but thanks anyway."

"Slippery thing, forever," the Doctor mused. "Not really do-able, for flesh and blood. However much that hurts. Facts, now... I don't really know. You're getting yourself involved with a Time Lord who presumably has all her regenerations ahead of her, so... it could get very interesting for both of you. Assuming you're still speaking after the first couple of centuries."

"Who else do we have that we can talk to?" Jack said.

The Time Lord tilted his head. "Kind of figured there was something of that in this. Anyway it's certainly up to you how far your sensibilities are offended by all of this, and I'm sure Martha's not expecting much, but you and I both know how few and far between the likes of any of us are, and she... doesn't. So..."

"Your advice to the whippersnapper is never to tick her off too badly," Jack surmised.

A relieved wriggle that Jack seemed to have gotten his drift. "Something like. You never know when you're going to find yourself nine hundred years down the line looking down the barrel of a laser -- oh, would you look at you!" the Doctor cut himself off softly, and Jack turned to see Martha entering with her family. The Time Lord scrunched down in his seat with his best Unobtrusive Look. "Go tell her how pretty she looks, Jack."

Martha was, very, smartly turned out for being eleven months pregnant and to drop a cliché into it radiant, although wearing way too much for Jack's personal sense of the propriety of these things. But then if he could get through this primitive ritual without being covered in flowers or crowd-surfed on a chair, he'd be willing enough to drop his own claims to a traditional Boeshani skyclad love-in, he supposed. "It's okay, Jack, I don't think they suspect a thing," Martha said with an ear-to-ear grin, rubbing her belly.

"You look... wow. I look like crap next to you."

"Yeah, you kinda do, but it's our turn next anyway," she replied, offering him her arm.

Martha had decided to fill out a passport name-change form with Jones-Harkness. "Mum's such a traditionalist, but I have to keep my professional name in there somewhere," she explained when she saw him frowning. "Don't suppose you'd want to..."

Jack could feel Ianto's eyes on him. "That'd just be too weird," he said.

And then there was a pen in his hand, and Jack was filling out paperwork to correspond to the current cover identity that said he was one John Harkness IV, age 38, from Grand Island, Nebraska. (It wasn't exactly a lie, he might still have family there, if not in the direction of descent that the registrar would have been thinking...)

After that came a gap in Jack's memory almost as impenetrable as the one that had stolen two years of his life. Only fragments surfaced as he slowly realized that it was over and done with, bundled like a tased weevil into the back of the SUV with his new bride --

You're a decent man, Harkness. Jack.

My fault a bit, Mum went so mental about Shonara...

I... I can't forgive him for that. He should have let me -- Just, promise me... promise me my grandchildren will be human.


"Smile, Jack!" Gwen, of course, sticking a camera into his face, and Jack was back at the Hub, poised with a knife above a cake and no idea whatsoever where the intervening time had gone. "Okay, now one of both of you cutting the cake -- now do the bit where she feeds you a bite --"

The bride's aim was just a little off, as Jack turned to protest this stage direction, and he found himself with a sudden earful of buttercream. Jack spluttered, and returned the favor with childlike gusto, all the tension of this long strange time snapping like an overstressed guy-wire. Soon enough there was nearly as much cake on the bride and groom as remained on the platter, and only the alarmed intervention of Gwen rescued any of it for actual consumption. Shaking with the sudden adrenalin crash, Jack wiped the goo from his face and gratefully accepted the glass that Toshiko was offering him, downing the champagne in a single shot. "Thanks, doll, keep 'em coming."

Around the third or fourth glass, when he had slowed down enough to appreciate that his team had thought enough of the occasion to find some fairly decent stuff, Jack realized that he hadn't caught sight of either of the Time Lords in quite a few minutes. A rapid scan of the room found them both over in a quiet corner. The same quiet corner. Was he licking the frosting out of her hair? "You're making out with my wife."

"Your delicious wife," the Doctor amended him, nuzzling into her neck. "This is very good icing, what did you have to go and do a thing like that for?"

"I've got some behind my ears too, you know."

"In a minute." The nimble tongue seemed determined to give Martha's entire head a complete going-over. "He's actually got some cake back here, Martha, are you really sure you want to be seen with someone who's got aim that bad?"

"Right, obviously you've made up, then, wouldn't want to keep on getting in the way --"

One long finger hooked into Jack's collar. "Oh, no, you're not getting out of this that easily..."

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Chapter 21: Comparative Anatomy

Author's Notes: In which there is Education.


Francine and Clive Jones had softened enough to make a wedding present to their wayward daughter of a night in one of the finest hotels in Cardiff. They would, Jack reflected, have been appalled by the company she had chosen to keep there. "Well, it's hardly a proper orgy, is it? I mean, you'd need a lot more people, and entertainment, and feasting -- mind you, the room service is brilliant --"

"Okay, never mind, forget I said it," Jack said, tempted to clamp a hand over the Doctor's mouth. It was... interesting, this ability to carry on a complex multi-party conversation in the most distracting of circumstances, but at a certain point it started to feel like he was sidestepping the main issue. "It's not a perverted alien ménage à trois, we're just a perfectly ordinary blended family with a Mum and a Dad and a stepdad --"

"And stepmum, if we're going to count his missus," Martha interjected.

"Right, and a meddling telepathic spaceship for a stepmum. Nice and modern."

The Doctor settled his head against Martha with an expression that on any other man's face would have meant boobies, and very possibly did on his as well. (Definitely fonder of girls by natural inclination. Luckily for Jack, his species considered nature a minor inconvenience. They'd all been having a good time, within the limits of Martha's condition.) The always unkempt hair was growing noticeably shaggy these days, haloing out in a tangled brown thicket. "When the hormone levels around here taper off I'm going to be embarrassed enough to throw myself in the bay," he remarked, sounding as if he almost thought it was worth it. Jack's hand met Martha's already exploring a possibility for further repressed memories. "But as you'd probably tell me, that's later." The Doctor started toying lazily with the TARDIS key around Jack's neck. "Why do you keep this on such a short chain? You'd practically have to be kissing her to use it without -- Oh, you don't."

"Lady likes a little sugar if you're gonna --"

"Jack!"

"Hey, which one of us is it who's horned in on somebody else's wedding night?"

"I have a perfectly legitimate reason for being here," the Time Lord puffed himself up like a cat. "Resident expert on the Gallifreyan anatomy, remember?"

"That and he didn't trust you with the dirty pop-up books," Martha quipped, with a grin that made Jack wonder whether she was actually joking.

"You wound me, truly. What was that thing where you got her to meow again?"

"I did not --"

Well, all right, it might not have been an actual meow, as such, but it was still a credibly alien noise, and it still fascinated Jack to think how different the Martha he had known now was inside her slightly cooler skin. (Not nearly as noticable to the touch as his, though, and Jack couldn't help wondering if it was that she was a woman, or that she was with child, or merely that the technology had worked with what it found, translating rather than outright transmuting.) "Oh, that's never going to get old. Does that work on you, too?"

The Doctor squirmed. "Unfortunately males don't have one of those, bloody shame really. You remembered the other bit though, very good," he squeaked as Jack tried again. "You must have got good marks in school if you were half this attentive about it."

"I'm a quick study when I'm interested in the subject." Jack drew a finger down the Doctor's spine, reveling in the delighted shiver as Jack reached his leanly-muscled bum. All that running for your life does a body good --

Emboldened, at last, by this night and that shiver, Jack finally dared to pose a suggestion that had haunted his nights for a hundred years. The Time Lord's face screwed up in thought. "Dunno if the anatomy is really analogous enough."

"What, you haven't ever... of course you haven't. Where's your sense of scientific curiosity, then?"

"All right, so make your case."

So Jack did, almost by reflex at the first, surprised beyond words to have won himself the opportunity to lead for once. To surrender that formidable control to him -- but he was Captain Jack Harkness, after all, and what he didn't know about this literally wasn't worth knowing, and if his own heart was pounding like he'd never thought of doing this before in his life it was only because he was still a little worried about the biology of it, wasn't it? (Despite the mounting evidence that yes, it did work that way quite nicely, thank you.) Or maybe it was the dawning awareness of not being alone in his own skin, of no longer being able to distinguish whose fingers were in whose hair or how many hearts beat within his own chest. Or which of them was swearing so fluently in an all but dead language. 'Seeing God', indeed. So was Jack, right now. And not a distant unattainable god either, but incarnate, regardless of what he ever said about it. Too much, not to fall with him, not to ride that storm all the way down from the sky --

"That was beautiful," Martha said huskily. Jack blinked hard, trying to remember how his own senses connected up to his body.

"Oh, sweetie, I'm sorry, didn't mean to forget about you like --"

Martha shook her head. "That was beautiful," she said again, reaching out to stroke the Doctor's face, smoothing at the crinkles that appeared around his eyes with her thumb. "Very, um... memorable. Even from here."

"I think everybody in this hotel is having a memorable night," Jack said. (Wondering how many elderly businessmen would be found dead with blissful smiles on their faces in the morning.) "You still with us, Doctor?"

"I'm good," the Time Lord said dreamily, eyes still closed, and rolled over to press his face against the curve of Martha's belly. "No, you didn't hear your daddy swearing, you didn't." Jack smiled and curled himself along the Doctor's back. Trying not to let himself believe for an instant that all was finally right with the world, no matter how badly he wanted it to be.

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Chapter 22: Showtime

Author's Notes: In which there are Contractions.


A noise woke Jack into pitch darkness; Nodded off sitting up, and not in the Hub, all the blankets there were the sort of scratchy generic wool that Jack always associated with people standing about watching all their worldly possessions go up in flames or vanish into a crevasse but at least they had each other. As the lights came up he realized that he was in a library in the TARDIS, some arcane and surprisingly graphic anatomy text lying open against his chest, and the fleecy blanket tucked up around him was incongruously pink. Jack's phone chirped again (not ABBA, thank whatever gods he'd long since stopped believing in anyway) and this time he managed to figure out how to find and answer it. "Wharrgh?"

Tosh's voice, surprising him for a moment: "Where are you? Martha's had me get Owen over here already, but now she's calling for the Doctor --"

"Wait, wait slow down, Toshiko, breathe; are you saying it's time?"

"Please, Jack, just bring him as -- what the --"

And Jack heard, very distinctly, the wheezing of the TARDIS's engines over the phone connection as well as thrumming through the bones of the ship. "Your wish is my command," Jack said, although he was pretty sure he'd also heard her drop the handset.

Jack bolted out of the library at a dead run and got to the console room just in time to see a grinning madman locking down the controls. "Allons-y, mon Capitaine!"

"Should have figured you wouldn't want to risk getting caught in traffic," Jack remarked, following the Time Lord as he bounded out of the ship. The TARDIS was parked neatly in what appeared to be Toshiko Sato's pantry, sandwiched in between the hoover and a pack of toilet rolls. "Nice landing, anyway."

"She's on her best behaviour for this. And she hasn't been this fit in nine hundred years. Or longer, actually, she was in such a bad way when I stole her -- Ah, Doctor Jones, Doctor Harper, Doctor Sato! How is our case proceeding?"

"Alien primigravida, eight centimetres dilated, and the father is a raving nutter," Owen said, as the Time Lord elbowed him aside for the pole position. "Is he qualified?"

"Are we?" Jack countered. "By the way, Doctor, I am so making those standard Torchwood issue next time we have to buy scrubs."

"Bollocks," Owen snapped.

"You got something against kitty-cats?"

"I like to be able to at least pretend that I still have my dignity. And what the hell were you doing in Tosh's pantry? Or do I even need to ask --"

"Oi, trying to give birth here, can everybody shut it already? It's killing my concentration."

"Sure thing, Sweetums. You need me for anything, or should I go boil some water?" Martha managed a somewhat lopsided grin for her nominal husband.

"You can take over from Tosh, I nearly broke her fingers with that last one. Want her on the business end anyway --" Martha gritted her teeth as another contraction began, and Jack hurried to replace Toshiko in supporting her. Damn, but Time Lords were strong. Jack could feel tendons threatening to shear away from bone as Martha tightened her hands around his.

The Doctor's face was all business, looking more like he was refereeing an intense match of chess than kneeling between a squatting woman's knees preparing to catch his own child as it emerged into a doubly alien world. He'd obviously been in this position before in his nine-hundred-odd years, by the murmured stream of instructions and reassuring patter. From what Jack could tell matters were proceeding at a "and then the nice highway patrolman cut the cord" speed down there, too, compared to Jack's own exposures to human childbirth. Ah, to have the leisure to work out the math...

"Almost there, Martha, almost there, one more --"

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Chapter 23: Congratulations, Reg, It's A Squid

Author's Notes: In which there are Greetings.


From where Jack was kneeling he could see a full head of coal-black curls and a pair of dark eyes that were already looking around more alertly than a human neonate would have been capable of. The indignant expression said, very clearly, so what the hell is this now? Oh, Jack did always love this part.

The attending physician was quite literally dumbstruck, staring down at the newborn in his hands with his lips slightly parted but nothing coming out. "It is customary to turn the baby over to the mother at some point," Owen said, when some moments had passed with no change whatsoever in the tableau.

"I don't think we're getting it back," Jack replied. The Doctor still hadn't said a word, but Jack was sure that a whole hell of a lot of information was flying back and forth between the two pairs of brown eyes. He wouldn't be the Doctor if he wasn't gobbing away on some channel. "Him either. You and Tosh help Martha. I'll... Um."

What did you do, when an alien baby apparently decided to go into a telepathic half-nelson on the first receptive mind it encountered? Jack settled for getting the Doctor seated firmly and making sure he at least had a secure grip on the baby. The usual cleanup chores could wait. All the baby's systems seemed to be functioning normally, because Jack could see the little chest rising and falling perfectly well even if he hadn't yet let out the traditional howl of surprise at being thrust out into the cold world. Jack tried to ignore the various medically squishy noises still ongoing behind him. I'll just assume you both know what you're doing, then... At some point Jack felt a pair of scissors being pressed into his hand, and only later realized that Owen the tosser had done his boss the honor of letting him cut the umbilical cord.

"Excuse me, but do I ever get to see this baby?" Martha eventually asked. The Doctor broke the eye contact at last, head rearing up as if he'd completely forgotten that there was anyone else in the room. Now there's something you don't see every day, Jack thought, watching as the Time Lord struggled to refocus on Martha.

"Oh. Erm. Right. He's... Right." With visible reluctance he made to pass the newborn Time Lord into its mother's arms.

The instant that the Doctor took his hands away the baby suddenly made his first sound, launching into an inconsolably earsplitting scream that seemed to hang in the air for an eternity before one visibly unnerved Time Lord snatched the infant back from the other. "That's the custody battle settled, then," Martha said into the sudden return of silence.

"I didn't mean this to happen," the Doctor said, with a good deal less confidence in his voice than Jack had ever heard from him. "In the ordinary course of things it would be the mother's mental signature that the baby would imprint upon. But... you haven't exactly got one, in the way that he would have been expecting. I'm sorry, I should have... I don't know, it's instinctive, and I don't think it can be taught, if it's not working properly. He'll be all right, he'll get used to you eventually, but..." The Doctor looked down at his son, eyes worried and lost.

"'S all right, really. Whatever's best for him." Martha extended a finger and smiled as a tiny hand wrapped around it. "It's not as if I haven't worn the pants in this arrangement before. Mister 'I'm too vague about money to cope without my TARDIS'," she added, not as archly as Jack thought she was entitled to.

Jack's phone spoiled what could have developed into a tender moment by blurting out a tinnily cheerful ringtone. "Is everything all right, sir? Gwen and I are just wondering where everyone's gone this morning --"

"Ianto, Ianto, everything's fine, Martha's had her baby! They're both doing great, I guess the rest of us will be in when we, um -- hell, we don't have the SUV --"

The Doctor's eyebrows arched as he finally looked up from the baby. "My turn to drive again, then?"

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Chapter 24: I'm Stuck With A Valuable Friend

Author's Notes: In which there is Traveling.


"Is this safe?" Jack asked.

"Oh, yeah, perfectly, well, safe as ever, anyway, now we've achieved separation --"

"Jack, why is he leading us into my pantry?"

"C'mon, Tosh, where's your sense of adventure?"

It was a good thing that Jack was bringing up the rear, because it allowed him to break up the logjam when Toshiko and Owen got their first good look at what now occupied the space within Tosh's pantry. "This -- it -- he -- you --"

"Yeah, that's what they all say. Move it, people, not to be rude to a lady or anything but Martha's not as sylphlike as she looks."

The Time Lord had marched straight up to the console with his prize. "I hope you're happy now," he said, clearly addressing the ship, and then, "Everyone in? Right, then, short hop, no time at all, unless we end up in the middle of next week --" He started flipping switches one-handed as Jack went to sit in the captain's chair with Martha balanced carefully across his lap.

The ship's engines sounded smoother, somehow, less as if the TARDIS were about to cough up her main reactor at any second. It was still enough to scare the tar out of Jack's human employees, though. "And this is what you do with yourself when you're not at your day job, is it, Captain?" Owen ventured to ask. Jack shrugged.

"Never said I was from around here." And let them chew on that for the next fifty years, as they grew older and he didn't...

The time rotor slid to a halt with a softer whump than Jack would have been expecting. "You'll have to take the lift down, because I am not parking my TARDIS inside the Hub," the Doctor announced.

Owen and Toshiko were out of the dimensionally transcendent box like a shot. Jack couldn't exactly blame them, considering how long it had taken him to convince any of his staff that he hadn't been abducted and probed like some backwoods redneck by Torchwood's original Most Wanted during those few days that had been a year to him. (Much as he might have preferred that scenario, dammit.) "So, I suppose now that it's safe for the baby to travel you'll be off, then," Jack said.

The Time Lord gazed down thoughtfully at the bundle in the crook of his arm. "Oh, hardly, this is where the hard part starts. Takes a village, and all. Be at least a few more weeks finding a new routine before -- Are you really so eager to be rid of me, then?"

"Hey, as far as I'm concerned you can call my place home for as long as you like, Doctor. I just --" Jack couldn't continue for the lump in his throat. "You should change if you're coming back down to the Hub, I don't think Owen appreciates your fashion sense."

"So I should. Erm." The Doctor frowned at his son. "Can I leave you with Mummy for a little while? She is your Mummy, after all, and... Oh, rabbits," he said with a resigned sigh, and deposited the baby into the space left between Jack and Martha, where the infant immediately began to squirm in distress.

"He's going to go through nannies," Martha said once the Doctor was out of earshot. In her arms her son had started working his way up to a full-throated roar of righteous indignation at being separated from his telepathic binky, er, Daddy. "Oi, I'm your Mum, you..."

Not soon enough for Jack's ears the Doctor reappeared, hair wet and looking thrown together. "It's all right, it's all right, they weren't going to eat you, ssh," he said, scooping the baby away from Martha.

"Bit anxious," Jack commented once the hysterical screaming had given way to hiccupy snuffles.

The Doctor raked his free hand through his hair, making half of it stick out sideways. (Jack hoped he wouldn't be in all that much of a hurry to get around to a haircut, this length rather suited him.) "He's just been through the second most traumatic thing he's ever going to experience, Jack, of course he's out of sorts. On Gallifrey a baby would be born into a network of adults ready to accommodate him. He's just got me."

"Obviously," Martha snapped.

"I'm sorry, Martha, but the TARDIS gave you the biological hardware without the cultural software --"

"If you two are going to have a fight I can come back later," Jack offered. Both the adult Time Lords looked at the human as if they'd quite forgotten that Martha was sitting on him.

"No, no, let's just go down to the Hub," the Doctor said, with the weary air of a man who fully expected to find himself engaged in the same argument all over again fairly shortly anyway and couldn't see a way clear of it having been his fault.

Jack braced himself and hoisted Martha rather gracelessly back into his arms. She was a lot heavier than she looked. Almost too heavy to carry this way, even the short way across the Plass, and he'd never been gladder to be enfolded by the blessed abnormality of Torchwood's base, alien junk and dripping water and Owen's voice saying, "I take it all back, I do believe that the most embarrassing person he's ever slept with was Margaret Thatcher."

"I'd have said J. Edgar Hoover but he looked hotter in a skirt," Jack said.

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Chapter 25: Unearthly

Author's Notes: In which there is Contemplation.


Jack got back from dropping Tosh home and Owen nearby to pick up his car (since in his enthusiasm to reward the helpful humans with what he considered a treat the Doctor had quite forgotten such mundane considerations as later transport details) and returned to the Hub to the sight of Martha stretched out on the sofa with a laptop, looking as if this were still preferable to enduring mindless telly in a maternity ward. "If you're looking for the aliens, they're on the roof," she announced, as if it followed from whatever argument he'd missed.

"The roof?" Jack repeated blankly. Martha only shrugged, with an expression that said she'd been glad enough to see them go by that point.

The lights of Cardiff spread across the landscape in pale imitation of the stars obscured by the dull orange glow of an urban night. Jack's alien sat cross-legged in the middle of the roof, coat pooled out around him. A step closer showed a tiny dark-eyed face peering up at the sky from within the shelter of one brown wing. "Showing him where he comes from?"

"Wouldn't be naked-eye from here even without all these lights. But... something like."

Jack sat down beside the Doctor, mindful of the coat-tails. "I think that one's mine," he said, pointing out a bright dot in the sky to the baby.

"That's an airplane, Jack."

"Ssh, you're spoiling it." They passed a few minutes in companionable silence, watching as the baby's yawns grew wider until at last the dark eyes winked shut. "On the Boeshane we welcomed babies by getting the whole clan together and passing them around for cuddles," Jack eventually said. "I should have figured you'd go in for something a little more abstract."

"It's one thing I can give him from his people," the Doctor said. "To spend his first night looking out at the stars. Metaphorically, at least," he added with a glance upwards. "At least for once I'm not out doing this in the rain."

"So this isn't just a book-learned tradition."

The Doctor sighed. "I hardly sprang full-grown from the TARDIS's forehead, Jack. I had a family. I had grandchildren. But you know me, I've never known when to keep my mouth shut... Eventually it got to the point where leaving was less painful than staying."

"Yeah, I've been there a few times. Still hard, though."

"I wasn't alone, at least. I had Susan."

"Susan," Jack repeated, trying to make this unexpected revelation fit.

"My granddaughter," the Doctor said, with a glare that announced he was following the conclusion that Jack was jumping to and meant to stomp it right back out of him. "We traveled together, until she decided to settle down. Can't really blame her for that, I wasn't the best company for a growing girl back in that lifetime."

"How old was she when you went walkabout?"

The Time Lord's eyes had gone dark with stormclouds. "Eight. Just turned eight."

"When you said 'some run away' you weren't kidding, were you," Jack said.

"Well, rarely that spectacularly," the Doctor said. "They even came after us for a while, but I think they mostly wanted the TARDIS back." The dark eyes strayed down to the anachronistic police box in the Plass. "Eventually they decided that they were happy enough to have us gone. Went pretty well after that, even lived here long enough to put her in school when she got curious about it... Now that was one of the bigger mistakes of my life. Humans can be so nosy. No school for you, little man," he admonished the baby sternly.

"I'll help him hold you to that," Jack said.

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Chapter 26: Hope You Guess My Name

Author's Notes: In which there is Naming.


The Torchwood employee file they'd started read John Leo Unpronounceable-Symbol Smith-Jones-Harkness, but after the first hour nobody was calling the baby anything but Jack-Jack. Jack wasn't sure whether to be flattered or terrified. "He's hardly a Kennedy," he protested. Of course none of his young staff understood this.

Jack-Jack was a curiously quiet baby, once his father had managed to convince him that he hadn't fallen in amongst cannibals, only resorting to the odd disgruntled meep when the Doctor had had to hand him off to someone who wasn't ipso facto the Doctor for whatever reason. Jack supposed that primitive vocal wailing was simply beneath a telepathic infant. He certainly had his Daddy wrapped around his tiny fingers, communicating his desires to be fed or changed with complete if silent efficiency. From what Jack could tell he ate somewhat more than a human baby and output rather less, which spoke to some impressive metabolic jiggery-pokery going on beneath the surface.

It was a good thing that Time Lord infants slept much more than Time Lord adults needed to, but before very long Jack noticed that the stress of always having one mental ear tuned to the baby had even the Doctor sneaking naps on the sofa. (From which he would occasionally start up with an expression of having just heard a bloodcurdling scream, so it's wasn't as if Jack-Jack were that precociously articulate...)

The Time Lord wasn't asleep now, though, ivory fingers stroking the baby's caramel skin in lazy circles. "He'll never run through red grass under an orange sky," the Doctor said as Jack sat down beside him. "Thirteen lives ahead of him, all as the only one of his kind. The loneliest little boy there could be." Dark eyes lifted to meet his. "My mother was human, Jack. There are gentler sciences than the Chameleon Arch. Were."

Jack had to swallow before he could remember how to work his voice. "Always wondered why you were kinky for apes."

"I wish I could remember her better. A human lifespan is the blink of an eye on Gallifrey." A wry smile. "I barely remember my father, for that matter, except being terrified of him most of the time. I was something of a disappointment to him," he explained to Jack's enquiring look. "I gathered that he thought I hadn't been worth the trouble."

Of getting his hearts broken, in the blink of an eye. "His loss," Jack said. "I mean, giving you a name like that to live up to, what was he thinking?" This got a smile from the Time Lord. "I suppose his middle name has one of those pompous translations like Compassionate Justice, or Flosses Regularly, or Stands Out In The Rain With A Bucket On His Head?"

It seemed to Jack that the Doctor's grin had gone somewhat askew. "Comes out to 'a light in the darkness'," he said.

Maybe it was the year just behind them, but Jack had the oddest feeling he could see a crack in the Time Lord's deliberately opaque look. "Means a bit more to you than that, I'm guessing."

"It's one name for the innermost planet in Gallifrey's system." Carefully not looking at Jack. "Among other things."

"The morning star, in other words. Why does that so completely fail to surprise me." The Doctor shrugged. "And you really want that for him."

"Thought it bore remembering," the Time Lord said, every one of his nine hundred and more years naked in his eyes for the briefest instant.

"Hell of a namesake to stick him with."

"There were good times too, once. Besides, it's traditional. And you were the one arguing for tradition, as I recall."

Ah, hell, it's not as if anyone but him is ever going to use it... Jack sighed. "If it means that much to you."

"It does." The Doctor laid his cheek against the dark curls of his little light-bearer. "It does."

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Chapter 27: To Clinch A Lifetime's Argument

Author's Notes: In which there are Departures.


The brown coat's pockets would have been sufficient to deal with the baby's essentials possibly including a pram and a swingset, but in the remote event that the Doctor and Jack-Jack might be heading in different directions at some point (and Jack wouldn't have pictured the aloof Gallifreyans seeing their children more often than at dinner, much less practicing the Doctor's version of Extreme Babywearing, but then he probably shouldn't have been that surprised that a certain nervousness about eggs and baskets had come to the fore), the Time Lord had condescended to scrounge up his idea of a diaper bag, pale yellow felt with red and blue squiggles and nearly covered over with cat-shaped badges. "Bit Eighties, but if anybody could pull off that look," Jack commented.

A sharp bleeping forestalled whatever the Doctor had been about to say in explanation (something involving jumpers and laundry, if Jack didn't miss his guess); "Alien vessel, something big, it's cloaked but it's -- asking our permission to send down a shuttle?" Tosh turned and Jack could see astonishment overtaking the alarm in her eyes.

"Right, that'll be the weevils' ride," the Doctor said, in that infuriatingly nonchalant way he had of rubbing in exactly how he wasn't rubbing in how surpassingly clever he was. "I've, erm, been making a few calls. Sorry, should have said, but... it's been busy."

"You beautiful sonofagun," Jack said. "Right, people, let's do this; Tosh, tell them where to park, the rest of you come with me and we'll give our houseguests a proper escort --"

Forty minutes later Jack stood in a deserted city park feeling the wind from descending engines whipping his hair into something that would be a bitch to comb out later and watching as the whole of Weevil Nation milled about on the football pitch, moving in eerie unison. At his side the Doctor chattered merrily away to the handful of weevils they'd brought with them from the vaults, Jack-Jack cradled as always against the Time Lord's right heart like it was take your alien baby to work day. They hadn't been able to fit everyone into the available vehicles with the base's weevils, and bad as it looked to Jack it was Owen and Ianto who'd ended up out here shivering in the damp night air while the womenfolk were left to hold down the fort back at the Hub. Jack made a mental note to find something creative to do to Tosh and Gwen later to deflect any possible accusations of sexism or favoritism or just generally not being any fun anymore.

The shuttle, if you could call something easily large enough to accommodate all the weevils a mere shuttle, touched down at a safe distance from the assembled throng and a bright slit began to open in the side. "I can't believe I'm finally seeing an end to this," Jack said.

"Neither can they," the Doctor interrupted his side of the conversation with the weevil ambassadors long enough to remark. "You may be getting a strongly worded letter back from their new hosts once they've had time to settle in."

Jack snorted. "They can get in line. We've got at least as many grievances against them, you know."

"This is how wars get started," the Time Lord sighed. "-- No, I think that's all right, you can go board if you like. -- I mean it, Jack, you're going to have to rethink a lot of Torchwood's policies. You're creating a very bad impression, and you of all people should know better."

"Yeah, well, I can only do so much with what I've got," Jack said. And until now I didn't have you.

The weevil Jack had dubbed Janet leaned in to sniff at Jack-Jack. "I am so sorry," the Doctor said gravely to her, seemingly unconcerned at the sight of those teeth dipping so close to his little son. "Well, that wasn't all of them. They do, a little, but still. Yeah, he is a bit of a gra'x'nar sometimes but he does mean well --"

"Hey," Jack said, with the vague feeling that he'd just been insulted. And by a weevil, no less. "Whatever it was, that's all water under the bridge, right? No hard feelings?"

Janet threw back her head and hissed at Jack, and he saw the Time Lord's eyes go wide and blank. Okay, hard feelings, then, Jack thought, still surprised despite all the years he'd lived and died at how time slowed down to let him dwell upon every detail of the weevil's approaching teeth. No pain yet as they met in his throat, never pain for those first few moments between the fact of his death and the realization of it, the only thing that hurt was that seething mental growl of an animal sensing a threat to the cub --

And he must have already been bled-out and brain-dead as he started to fall, because the hole that appeared between the weevil's eyes couldn't have come from Jack's own gun looking so small and absurd in that long-fingered alien hand.

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Chapter 28: Use Of Weapons

Author's Notes: In which there are Awakenings.


Touch returned first, the sensation of fingers laced through his on left and right. He knew both those hands, the one long-fingered and elegant, just a hint cooler than a human would be expecting, the other plain honest monkey stock running at thirty-seven C, fingernails always bitten down to the quick from the tensions roiling under the quiet surface. "At least it's not the cold storage this time," Jack rasped, becoming aware of the lack of echoes.

"My flat was closer, sir." Jack tried opening his eyes. Yes, he'd seen this bedroom before a time or seven, and even in this state of disarray, although the blood staining the discarded clothing was a twist on the scene he'd have pictured. Jack caught up to his mind just as it started wandering off into a daydream of what could be made of the setting and cast present, reminding it sternly that the last time he'd tried to leap right up and shag someone after a thing like this he'd only fallen flat on his face in the most literal sense.

Jack reclaimed both his hands and used them to prop himself a little closer to vertical, feeling that he needed to be seen to at least make the effort. "Did everything come out all right?"

"The weevils won't trouble you again, if that's what you're asking," the Doctor said, his mouth set in a grim line. "Well glad to be rid of this place, and to see the last of you."

"I told Owen to go home, sir," Ianto added, with a look that said that Jack should have thought to ask. "Didn't seem to be anything left for him to do here."

"Good thinking. What the hell time is it, anyway?" Jack squinted at his watch. "Huh. Still Thursday? I'm getting better at this."

The Doctor gave him a look as if to say of all the reasons to need a watch with a date function, but as he opened his mouth to perhaps make some witty remark to this effect the baby in his arms grunted and threw out a tiny fist. "I'll change him, sir," Ianto said, lifting Jack-Jack away and whisking him into the next room before Jack had quite grasped that the baby was allowing this.

"He likes Ianto, huh."

"Ianto's giving us a moment, in case you hadn't noticed," the Doctor replied, looking almost amused. "For all that you've all dealt with him about as well as the weevils, he does still have some shreds of respect left for you."

"It's my winning personality and a lingering regard for the chain of command," Jack said. "In case you hadn't noticed, he thinks you're who his Captain reports to."

This got Jack a discomfited look from the Time Lord. "Yes, well. If any of them think I'm taking any responsibility for this outfit --"

"You seemed to be doing a good enough job of that all on your own, from what I saw," Jack said. "Right at the end, there..."

"Janet lost the plot," the Doctor said mildly. Mournfully. Not looking at Jack. "I had to cut her off before she started influencing the others."

"You could have shot it before it ripped my throat out. That would have been nice."


"That would have been unprovoked," the Doctor corrected him. "I had to be certain she'd really snapped. It's not as if these hands didn't already have blood on them, anyway." He flexed his fingers. "Did I ever tell you about the time I saved the world with a satsuma?"

Leave it to Jack to manage to set off a chain reaction strange enough to prove that even a Time Lord still had some instincts too primal to override. "I'm sorry, if it helps."

The Doctor shrugged. "You were just doing your job, as you understood it. You weren't to know how keeping them in isolation would eventually affect them." Ianto came back in with a freshly changed baby, quiet now (as always) but still visibly relieved to be placed back in his father's arms. "Speaking as your physician, now, I'd like to keep you on the TARDIS for observation tonight," he added. "Who knows, maybe if she has a chance to watch you while you recover she might be able to give us some insight into your, er, condition."

"You're the doc, Doc." The Time Lord looked startled for a moment, then pulled a face at Jack.

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Chapter 29: If I Should Stumble

Author's Notes: In which there are Recriminations.


"Observation" turned out to mean something very different from what Jack had been expecting. He'd expected to find himself tucked up in a guestroom with strict instructions to think Happy Thoughts, or else to be kept up the rest of the night in the console room engaging in the pleasant futility of trying to play strip poker with a telepathic spaceship. Not this, though. Not to be led back to this bedroom, even on the pretext of getting Jack-Jack put down for a while, not to be sitting here on the chair from the absurdly large rolltop desk and wondering where the TARDIS had come up with the matching rocker where the second-to-last of the Time Lords now sat to feed his child, those eyes the same rich brown of the dark oak gazing down approvingly as the (alarmingly green) formula slowly disappeared into the baby.

The infinitely reconfigurable pocket-dimension had already budded off a nook with a crib, which Jack didn't doubt would soon grow into a room with a racecar-shaped bed, or whatever the Gallifreyan equivalent would be for a kid who already got to live in a spaceship. "He'll be down for a while now," the Doctor said, settling Jack-Jack into the crib. "He's begun to bond with the TARDIS, she can give us a few hours." Indeed, Jack could feel the background hum softening into something very like a lullaby.

"I hope you remember how to share her attention," Jack said, coming to join the Time Lord at the side of the crib. "You're not the only man in her life now." It seemed the most natural thing in the world, suddenly, to drape a casual arm around his friend's shoulders, the sort of gesture one made when contemplating the next generation in its cradle.

Except that the Doctor was vibrating like a plucked harpstring, and Jack didn't think that that was anything to do with his fixedness anymore. "Hey," Jack said, just as the Time Lord turned and folded himself into Jack's arms. "Ssh. It's all right. It's all right."

He'd been a soldier as well, Jack remembered as lips sought his. Easy enough to forget that, when he tried so hard himself. But once the battle was over, once there was nothing to do but think back on what you'd done, instinct rose to drown out the whispering voice of death with the defiant affirmation that it wasn't you, dammit, you were alive, you were warm and quick and you could still feel -- And oh, the battle had been so very long, for him. Even this was more of a skirmish than a dance, a frantic struggle to get closer that left buttons torn off and skin scratched in its wake. Until even the barriers of flesh fell away, mind joining with mind as bodies trembled together, and when at last the Time Lord had fallen asleep in his arms Jack had long since come to suspect that he'd gotten it a little backwards about who'd been meant to be looking after whom tonight.

The TARDIS could give them a few hours of peace, but whether Daddy could was another question, for when Jack woke from a surprisingly sound sleep here was the baby tucked in between them like a medieval knight's sword, symbolic defense of courtly ideals of chastity or somesuch that he vaguely remembered reading about. However long Jack-Jack had been here, it had been long enough that the Doctor had gone to sleep again since. Jack reveled in the rare opportunity to study the Time Lord at rest, face as innocent and untroubled for once as that of the babe under his arm. If more stubbly, when Jack finally leaned across for a kiss. "Gotta get to work," he said to the dark eye that opened to investigate. "Sleep in, huh? You've earned it."

The Doctor murmured half-conscious agreement and curled more tightly around his little son. Jack ruffled a finger through the baby's downy black curls and slipped out of the bed quietly, trying to tell himself that at least by leaving now he'd spare himself another repeat of the irretrievably domestic sight of the second-to-last of the Time Lords in his boxers brushing his teeth, which did tend to spoil the mystery of it all. Funny as Martha had found it, that morning.

It was cold enough out that Jack decided to take the lift down rather than make an undignified dash across the Plass, wondering as he descended into the Hub what had become of his beloved greatcoat in all the fuss. With any luck, Ianto would have dropped it off for him at that little dry-cleaners they liked that never said anything about bloodstains no matter what color they were...

Perhaps not unusually on this of all mornings, he found his team gathered in what amounted to a huddle. "You decided to come in today," Owen observed acidly.

"Couldn't sleep through day one of Torchwood's post-weevil era, could I? Today is the first day of the rest of our lives, people."

"Where's the Doctor?" Gwen's question, but Jack could see Martha's troubled gaze on him, waiting for the answer all the same.

"Might not be in for a while yet," Jack hedged. "He's a little upset. He's not like us, he doesn't like it when it gets physical like that."

"Didn't seem to be a stranger to it," Owen said. "Have to hand it to him, he's a better shot lefty than Ianto is with his good hand --"

"Stop it," Jack barked. (Right back to seeing that last fractured image of the Doctor's arm coming up, perfect sideways stance not so incidentally placing his own body between the insane weevil and the baby on his other arm. If he would ever put the damn kid down --) "I don't think we should be so happy about it either." Oh, god, now who's a bad influence on who, Captain Jack Harkness...? "In fact, if anyone needs me I'm going to be in my office rewriting the company rules about firearms policy. I'm sure all of you have things to do that wouldn't involve shooting anything remotely sentient, I suggest you get to doing them." He turned on his heel and stalked into his office, slamming the door on their collective look of shock. Yes, your fearless leader does have a conscience after all, and it took a weevil to find it. Who says irony is dead.

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Chapter 30: They Also Serve

Author's Notes: In which there are Answers.


Jack was babysitting.

He wasn't quite sure which party to the transaction was more surprised by this. The baby had spent the first half hour or so regarding him with a worried gaze before evidently deciding that if this strange blank-minded ape hadn't eaten him by now it might be safe to sleep this one out. Jack thought he could almost hear him dreaming of milk.

The baby's parents had selected Jack's bedroom as the one place in the Hub that afforded them the privacy to have it out, or have it off, or whatever the hell they'd been doing down there all this while since the Doctor had tucked Jack-Jack into the Captain's arms with a mumbled word about needing to sort a few things with Martha. Knowing him, it was at least equally likely that if Jack were to open that hatch right now he'd find the two adult Time Lords down there playing draughts. (Jack wondered if the TARDIS had deliberately spiked the hormonal punch when she'd arranged Martha's transformation -- considering how quickly that conception had occurred, it almost seemed likely.) Not that Jack had been sitting here trying his best not to imagine what was going on below his feet. Oh, no. Not when he knew full well what they were probably discussing. Better to think of nothing but the sleeping weight of the infant in his arms, in this moment, and let the next moment come when it came.

Soon enough Jack-Jack wriggled and went into that stiff-armed fidget that meant I said I need a new nappie, weren't you listening? "All right, pal, I've got your back. Phreeow, what is in that stuff he feeds you..."

Changing an alien baby, at least this alien baby, was surprisingly like changing a human baby, all lifting here and wiping there and making entertainingly distracting noises. By the time Jack had a clean nappie secured in place he found himself singing out loud to the littlest Time Lord, taking the tiny hands in his and moving them in time; "He's gotta be strong, and he's gotta be fast, and he's gotta be fresh from the fight --"

"Now you're flirting with my baby, Jack," the Doctor said from behind his shoulder.

"Aw, he likes it. Don't you like it, yes you do!" Jack-Jack gurgled under the tickling.

Jack looked up in time to see an indulgent smile sliding off the Doctor's face. "It's time for us to be off," the Time Lord said, almost apologetically.

"Kind of figured your feet would be getting itchy by now." He was never yours to keep. Always remember that, Jack Harkness. Always. "You heading straight out my door, or can I get you to stick around for --" A shag goodbye? Lunch? Ever? "-- long enough to let the rest of my team feel like you didn't just run off in the middle of the night?"

"There's some packing to do. Babies generate stuff," he said, as if this were some sort of revelation to him. It probably was. "Could you -- could you look after him a few minutes more? Just while I make sure I've..."

"Sure, go to it," Jack said, scooping the baby off the desk. "Gives him a chance to say goodbye to his Uncle Jack."

He would have asked. Jack could see it in the dark eyes. And they both knew what the answer had to be, for now. Jack sank back into his chair as the Time Lord turned and walked out of the office, knowing that he'd be spending the days and weeks and years ahead second-guessing himself every time he thought back to the bizarre argument they'd gotten into over James Bond, or the week the Time Lord had spent trying to assimilate Wikipedia (which had been a traumatic experience for him and it both, but Gwen later claimed it was the equivalent of several postdoctoral degrees to watch), or the look on the Doctor's face the time Ianto had accidentally run his trainers through the wash when he'd (quite sensibly, Jack thought) set the wet shoes down to dry on a pile of scrubs that were already dirty anyway. It might have been the second-worst year of the footloose Time Lord's life, to be tied down to one place and time for so long, and it this time and this place, but they'd even gotten snow for Christmas and nothing had blown up, which the Doctor had freely admitted was far above his usual standard. What was wrong with a little domestic for a change, dammit?

"Do you need a minute?" Martha asked, startling Jack. He hadn't even heard her come up the ladder.

"What? No, what, why would I... Oh." Jack took the tissue she was holding out and let her relieve him of her son, feeling more discomposed than he had in longer than he could remember, which was a very long time indeed. "You're off, then."

"Well, they are," Martha replied, jiggling Jack-Jack gently. "I was wondering if you'd mind me staying on here. Since we're kind of married and all."

Jack's brain made a funny noise and tried to escape out his left nostril. "What? I thought he -- you -- Aren't you...?" The mother of his child? The female of his species? The woman who walked the earth, for him?

"This was never about me being what he needed, Jack," Martha said, with a resigned and quiet dignity. "He needed an heir."

Jack's world quietly rearranged itself between his ears. "Martha Jones."

"I told you this was all the TARDIS's idea," she said, with just the barest hint of smugness. "Plans ahead, the old girl does. And she agrees that it's better if I stay here to help you keep an eye on the place, so he's always got somewhere to come back to. And another reason to want to." She leaned her head against his. "I don't expect all that much of you so far as our legal paperwork goes, 'cos I know you too well. But I'll always be here for you when you need me. Always."

"If you're sure that's what you want," Jack said, feeling a bit faint. "We can always find something for you to do around here."

Martha reached out to stroke the coral on Jack's desk. "I have one idea for a start."

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Chapter 31: Away With Us He's Going

Author's Notes: In which there is a Twist.


"Do I at least get a kiss goodbye?" Jack asked, knowing that by now that would be about the last thing the Doctor wanted to think about. Still, live in hope, that was all you could do when you were in Jack's place --

And therefore Captain Jack Harkness was shocked into the middle of next week when the Time Lord cocked one eyebrow, stepped in closer, and granted Jack's parting request. Not any noncommittal peck on the cheek, either, but a real knee-bending is that a banana in your pocket don't-care-who-sees-us proper Snog that left Jack wanting to slide down the wall behind him when at last the Doctor took pity and turned him loose. Somewhere in the far distance he could hear a round of applause, and had a feeling that he was going to be retconning his staff again. After a couple of tries Jack said something incoherent that was probably quite obscene, because it made the Doctor grin in a way that suggested he was just shy of blushing and say, "Have done."

"You always have a home here," Jack blurted out. "I mean -- Don't go thinking you can just walk out of here and we won't notice you're gone. It may not be much, but everybody needs a place to land for a while sometimes."

It was the first time Jack had ever seen the glib tongue truly at a loss for words. The Time Lord's habitual grin faltered, replaced by a look that put Jack very much in mind of a wary shelter dog wondering if these humans were his new pack at last. It only lasted an instant before the blinding smile emerged from behind the clouds again, and with a cheerfulness that was maybe only a little forced the Doctor said, "Well, he'll want to see his Mum every so often, I think I can arrange a visitation schedule we can all live with."

"A little more often than every other century, if you don't mind," Martha said, giving the Doctor a one-armed hug as she passed Jack-Jack into his custody. "And remember you don't have to do this alone, you. Get yourself a nice au pair or someone."

"I think something could be arranged for." The Doctor raised inquiring eyebrows.

At Ianto.

Jack had been wondering why there seemed to be an extra rucksack... "You can't steal my tea-boy, the two of you are the only ones who've ever been able to work the coffeemaker."

"It's called reading the directions, sir." Ianto looked -- happy? It was always a little hard to tell, but there was a fierce light in the blue eyes that Jack had never seen before. Except, once or twice, in his own mirror.

"You couldn't take Tosh?" Tosh shivered, shaking her head violently no. "Gwen? Owen?"

"Goodbye, Jack. We'll be back when he's driving."

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Chapter 32: Hello Again

Author's Notes: In which there is an Arrival.


Jack knew to the second how quickly he could get up to the Plass at the first sound of those engines. Still, even he hadn't been expecting to hear them again quite so soon. "Picture perfect," a familiar voice was saying as the blue doors opened.

"They grow up so fast, don't they."

"Told you I'd be back when he's driving." He looked a little young for it, to Jack's eye, but then who the hell really knew with a Time Lord. The boy was giving Jack the once-over with a solemn brown gaze.

"Has Mum finished helping you carve your TARDIS, Uncle Jack?"

The Doctor cleared his throat. "I don't think that's happened for them yet, Jack-Jack." He seemed calmer, somehow, steadier within himself. Jack wondered if the TARDIS had known what she was doing all along.

Even despite the darker skin the boy was a miniature version of his father, from the fathomless eyes that weren't missing a detail around him right down to the eccentric fashion sense. Who wore Panama hats anymore? Jack could bet that the hair under it would spring out into a permanent tousle. "Teaching him the family business, then?"

"Well, as best I can, under the circumstances. No child of mine is ever going to look into the Untempered Schism again." A hint, there, of the Oncoming Storm, and Jack decided not to ask. "We're getting by."

"Looks like. What have you done with Ianto?"


The Doctor scratched his ear with the hand that wasn't holding Jack-Jack's. "There was a harem involved, as I recall. He seemed happy." Jack threw back his head and roared with laughter. "Why are we still standing out here in the cold? We have presents."

The Torchwood staff had barely settled back in at their posts when the great door rolled open again. Jack took a certain perverse delight at the sight of the jaws dropping across the room as the Time Lord and his not-so-little double trooped into the Hub behind him. "Just so you know, Captain, I'll be putting in for insanity pay again this month," Owen said.

"Insanity pay for everybody," Jack said, and went to sweep his favorite lamp out of the path of a very small sonic screwdriver.


(Not) The End...

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