Face Another Day

by aces [Reviews - 6]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Angst, General

Author's Notes:
Sequel to "And I Will No Other to Follow Me Where I'm Going." Written for the non-telly companion ficathon on LJ.

Face Another Day


Jack was working late. Even Ianto had left, picking up Jack’s empty teacup and replacing it with a fresh one in that silently efficient manner he had perfected at what seemed an absurdly young age. But then, everyone in this century made Jack feel old.

He was the only one left when he went to lock up, make sure everything was in its place. Tosh’s computers were humming along to themselves, making calculations and monitoring local surveillance systems; Owen had gotten ready various surgical instruments to run an autopsy first thing in the morning; and Gwen’s desk was once again a mess of paperwork, folders and sticky notes and pictures and the occasional empty food wrapper.

Jack was the only one left and checking up on the front, main entrance when the door opened and a tall man with grey eyes and straggly hair and nicotine-stained fingers, shivering coatless in the Cardiff winter, clattered down the steps and stopped directly in front of Jack behind the counter.

“Are you the blokes who deal with alien interference on Earth?” he asked. His eyes were overly bright, not tracking terribly well. “Well, one of the groups of blokes anyway?”

Jack blinked. “We’re not all blokes,” he said. “Some of us are women.”

“That’s nice,” the man said and promptly sat down on the floor. Jack blinked again and stepped around the counter. He looked around the room and then crouched down next to the man. He was shaking, Jack noticed. Not just shivering, shaking.

“Could I have a job please?” the man asked through clattering teeth.

*

Fitz sat shaking in a discreet corner of Torchwood while the bloke called Owen performed an autopsy on somebody who was three feet tall and purple, the woman called Toshiko ran a background check on him, the bird called Gwen stared at him from her desk (and he’d chosen the discreet corner furthest away from her, too), and Jack, Captain Jack Harkness whoever the hell that was, stood above them all in his glass office and looked down, watching.

Watching Fitz.

The teaboy paused by Fitz’s corner (he was about as discreet as the corner, come to think of it) and presented Fitz with a cup of strong, sweet tea. Just inhaling it made Fitz’s shakes ease a little, and he decided that maybe they weren’t due entirely to the emotional thingy-whatsit he’d just gone through. Had been going through for months (years?). The teaboy had also placed a couple biccies on the saucer. Fitz chewed gratefully. Chewing was easy. Walking into this place had been comparatively easy. Following Captain Harkness into this place and waiting for all his cohorts to arrive had been easy. So long as nobody asked him to think, or speak, or cope, it was all easy.

“Jack,” Toshiko called, and the American immediately left his office. Gwen joined them too, but Owen stayed at his dissecting table, peering into the alien’s innards. Fitz thought he saw the guy’s ears perk up, though.

“Fitzgerald Michael Kreiner,” the small Asian read aloud from her computer screen, and Fitz sat up, sloshed his tea, rattled his cup against his saucer. The captain looked up at the noise, looked up at him, and Fitz met his gaze because he didn’t give a damn about anything right now. “Born in Hampstead in 1936 to a German father and English mother.” At that, the American captain frowned, and the stare he gave Fitz softened into something mortifyingly like sympathy. “His father died soon after the end of the Second World War, his mother in 1963 in some violent incident that made the papers for a number of months. The police wanted Fitzgerald Kreiner at the same time, in relation to another murder inquiry, only he–disappeared.” Tosh frowned and looked up at Jack. “But this all happened in London, not anywhere near Cardiff. Surely the rift couldn’t have pulled him away from his own time and place and brought him here?”

“Not likely, no,” Jack Harkness said and walked around the desks and chairs and tables strewn with alien equipment to stand in front of Fitz. Fitz looked down at his tea and biscuits and didn’t feel very hungry anymore. “How did you get to twenty-first century Cardiff, Fitzgerald Kreiner?”

“Fitz,” he said to the teacup and saucer. His name. His name was easy. “Please. Just call me Fitz.”

“Okay, Fitz,” the American said obligingly. “Are you going to answer my question or not, Fitz?”

Fitz looked up at him then. “No,” he said. He was surprised at how firm his voice sounded, considering how badly he was shaking again. “No, I’m not.”

Jack Harkness stared down at him thoughtfully.

*

They didn’t know what the hell to do with him at first. Another displaced stranger they could handle, but Fitz Kreiner refused to tell them anything beyond what they could dig up in public records and newspapers, and he insisted that he wanted to work with them. He hung around Torchwood, moodily silent when not snarkily mocking because they didn’t know what a piece of alien equipment was or what a Hench was when it was in plastic mode. He pissed off Owen, disturbed Tosh, worried Gwen, and alternately fascinated and angered Jack. Ianto seemed to have no opinion either way about him, but he was the one who thought to finally buy Fitz a coat so he could bloody well go outside without freezing his arse off.

Even though they didn’t give him any money, Fitz somehow managed to procure the cigarettes and lighter himself.

“How do you know this stuff?” Gwen burst out the second day after Fitz’s arrival, when he told her that she was dealing with the remnants of a transmat. “You’re from 1963, you shouldn’t even bloody know what a laptop is, let alone what this is!”

“Oh, one of those little computers?” Fitz asked, scratching at his stubble. “Yeah, I know what those are. No idea how to work them, though.”

Gwen turned to Jack in mute frustration. Jack quickly wiped the grin off his face. “It’s okay,” he told her, slipping an arm around Fitz’s shoulders, ignoring the way the man tensed at his touch, hunched into himself. He led him back to his office. “I’ll take him off your hands for a while.”

Fitz sat down in a chair opposite Jack’s, crossed his legs, and lit up. Ianto had bought him a great big black peacoat, and whether he’d meant to get one somewhat similar to Jack’s or not, Jack didn’t quite feel like asking. Ianto saw a lot and said very little, and if he was trying to make some subtle point, Jack probably didn’t want to know about it anyway.

“You really shouldn’t smoke in here,” Jack said, sitting down across from their new charge.

“Why?” Fitz asked. “Surely you lot don’t have a ‘no smoking’ policy in here?”

“Owen can give you the lecture on why smoking is bad for you,” Jack said, holding up his hands placatingly. “I just don’t want your cigarette smoke interfering with any of the equipment we have around here.”

Fitz shrugged one shoulder and hunched deeper into his coat, sucking on his cancer stick.

And that’s that, Jack thought to himself wryly, staring at the guy. He did know a lot, a helluva lot more than he should have, indicating that he wasn’t just a random 1963 guy who’d got caught up in a time rift and spat out here and now. But he hadn’t said a damn thing in the past two days about himself or where he’d been, and Jack wasn’t prepared to let that situation continue for much longer.

“I’m in Cardiff, right?” Fitz asked, raising Jack out of his reverie. “Wales?”

“Yeah,” Jack said. “It’s February. 2009. Did you want to go back to London?”

“No,” Fitz said. “I want to stay here and work with you lot.”

“Why?”

Fitz shrugged again, staring down at the end of his cigarette. “I know a lot,” he said. “I’ve–been to a lot of places. I could help you.”

“Why do you want to help us? And if you shrug one more time I might have to kill you.”

Fitz looked up at that, startled, and Jack grinned as charmingly as he could manage. Fitz didn’t respond, at least not the way Jack hoped; he just looked away. “I want to help out,” he said, voice soft.

Jack sat back and folded his hands in his lap, waiting.

Fitz looked at him again, and this was why he had intrigued Jack from the first, why Jack had let him stay initially rather than kicking him out as a nutter. His grey eyes were old, older than his body indicated, and Jack of all people recognized that look. “I’m not good for anything but making witty conversation in the face of alien baddies, running up and down corridors, and getting myself into stupid situations so that my friends can save me,” he told Jack with a certain quiet dignity that surprised the hell out of the captain. “I can’t survive in that world out there,” and he pointed his chin to indicate the Earth outside the Hub. “I don’t belong there but I’m stuck there and I’ve got to live somehow.” He flinched when he said the word ‘live,’ and then he looked at Jack again. “I know some stuff about alien technology and species, I can play the guitar, and I’ve practically got a degree in asking stupid but brilliant questions. So?”

Jack nodded to himself, folding his arms across his chest. “You’re not immortal or anything, are you?” he asked suddenly, looking up at Fitz again.

Fitz blinked. “Not that I’m aware of,” he replied cautiously. “But this isn’t my original body, so anything’s possible.”

Jack laughed. Fitz looked like he wanted to but couldn’t remember how, and he settled on a half-hearted smirk. “What happened to you?” Jack asked him, sobering. He leant forward, over the desk, trying to make a connection with this man.

Fitz froze, and hunched deeper into his coat, and shook his head, and Jack didn’t press him.

Yet.

*

When Fitz persisted in staying, and when he continued to show occasional moments of brilliance with regards to some of their alien tech (occasional moments; he’d looked utterly blank when Jack presented him with a Bluetooth), Jack gave him some money and told Ianto to take him clothes shopping. His current outfit reeked of cigarette smoke, and he’d started stealing old t-shirts Owen had left behind.

Fitz presented a particular problem when the team had to go out in the field. Sometimes Jack ordered Fitz to come along, and the man mooched around in the background, chatting with bystanders. He had a way of either utterly offending or disarming them with even more consistency than Gwen and Owen combined. Sometimes Jack ordered Fitz to stay in the Hub.

He didn’t like doing that.

“Do you realize you’ve got a Gelth down there?” Fitz asked one day when they came back from fetching some alien tech that had been putting much of Trowbridge into hallucinogenic, violent states. Jack had gone up to his office upon arrival, Fitz following.

“Yes, I realize,” Jack said, hanging his coat up and turning around to look at Fitz. “And I’m pretty sure I’ve warned you about wandering around the Hub alone and without my permission.”

Fitz shrugged one shoulder. He had propped himself up in the doorway, arms folded in front of him and legs crossed at the ankle. “How are you containing it?”

“How do you think?” Jack sat down at his desk and began rearranging file folders.

“Providing it with the right gaseous atmosphere?” Fitz said. “Have you tried talking to it?”

“It refuses to talk to us. It particularly seems to hate Gwen for some reason.”

“It talked to me.”

Jack looked up at the other man. “What did it have to say?”

“That it doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Just wants to live.”

“We’ve heard that one before,” Jack said. “Plenty of times.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Jack looked at Fitz. Fitz stared at the floor. “Did you recognize any of our other friends down in the cells?”

“A few,” Fitz answered. “You’ve certainly got enough Weevils, haven’t you?”

“They really like this area,” Jack said noncommittally. He had put a gag rule on the rift ever since Fitz’s arrival and refusal to speak about how he had arrived. It was difficult not to discuss it in front of Fitz–especially since Fitz had a way sometimes of fading quietly into the background–but he needed to continue assessing Fitz before letting him in on too many of Torchwood’s secrets.

“You’ve got an Adraxan down there too,” Fitz went on.

“Yes,” Jack said slowly. “So we do. What do you know about Adraxans?”

“They like music,” Fitz said. “They don’t respond to anything else. Have you tried singing to him, playing him some music?”

“He doesn’t like my voice or Tosh’s flute, and neither Gwen nor Owen can sing or play an instrument worth a damn,” Jack said. He hesitated, then admitted, “We haven’t gotten a damn thing out of him and from what I know of them I think he might just genuinely want to go home. But we don’t know how to fix his ship without his help.”

“I play guitar,” Fitz reminded him, and waited.

Jack shifted some file folders around, busying his hands while he thought. “Have you actually met any Adraxans before or just heard about them?”

“I worked with a few for a bit, not too long ago.” Fitz’s voice was careful, his face blank, and Jack had already learned to recognize that look as a giant, obvious KEEP OUT sign. “We got along really well.”

Jack nodded to himself. He stood up, brushed past Fitz, and called below, “Ianto! Take Fitz to a music store, would you?”

*

“How much computer experience do you have?” Toshiko asked Fitz as she sat him down in front of a monitor.

“Um,” Fitz said, staring down at the keyboard. “I like them best when I can just talk to them. And I’ve had to deal with one or two meglomaniacal, take-over-humanity kinds.”

Tosh looked up and across the way at Owen. Owen shrugged. “Isn’t that what 1960s sci-fi was all about?” he asked.

“Hey, man, Star Trek is after my time,” Fitz said.

“Well,” Tosh intervened, “this is an email program. Electronic mail. We use it–”

“I know what you use email for,” Fitz sighed.

“Oh. Okay, then. Good. This computer’s also equipped with word processing and various database software packages so you can write up your reports and keep tabs on–on whatever you need to. It’s connected into the main server, which means you can access other files and programs and that anything you work on and save here will be accessible to the rest of us.” Fitz looked up at Tosh steadily, and she tried to keep her growing confusion under control. “Why don’t I leave you to it to do a bit of exploring and, uh, if you have any questions–you know where to find me?”

She smiled nervously, Fitz grinned genially back, and she escaped back to her own desk area. Owen leaned closer.

“Well done,” he whispered to her.

“Shut up,” Toshiko muttered.

A half-hour later Fitz had somehow managed to overload the main server, leaving Tosh frantically typing commands into her computers and running around to the various connections while Owen swore a lot because the project he was working on didn’t get saved.

Three hours later, Tosh’s hair wild and Ianto holding Owen back from punching Fitz, Tosh glared up at Fitz and declared, “You are never getting near one of my computers again, is that understood?”

They all turned away from Fitz. Only Jack, standing in his office and watching, noticed the smug look on Fitz Kreiner’s face.

*

“You need weapons training,” Jack argued as he followed Fitz into the Hub, the others trailing behind, Tosh loaded down with computer equipment, Owen with medical, Gwen and Ianto with everything else. “How many times do I have to say this to you? If you’re going out into the field with us, you need to know how to protect yourself and the rest of the team. I am ordering you to come with me to–”

“No,” Fitz cut him off, wheeling around to face Jack. “I’m not using any of your stupid guns,” he said. The others stood awkwardly, watching. “I don’t care if they’re revolvers, blasters, stunners, rifles, or lasers. I am not using a gun ever again. It’s not my style, it never was, and I’m terrible with them. So just forget it.”

He stalked out of the room to hide someplace; he had at least a dozen different niches, nooks, and crannies that Jack knew about where he liked to go when he wanted to be alone, and he probably had a half-dozen more that Jack didn’t know about.

Jack didn’t like not knowing things about their newcomer.

He turned back to the others. “Get back to work,” he sighed.

*

Fitz Kreiner looked young and sometimes acted younger, but there was grey in his hair that matched the grey of his eyes, and sometimes he moved with a certain careworn gracelessness that made him seem ancient. He couldn’t drive for shit, Tosh had been sincere when she said she wouldn’t let him near the computers again, and if Owen didn’t get so riled up that he almost punched Fitz at least once a week, Jack pronounced it good. He serenaded their prisoners with his guitar, playing songs that Jack recognized from Hitchemus, Lennon & McCartney, Terra Alpha after it got the blues, and he continued on occasion to get that inscrutable look on his face that the others quickly learned to tread carefully around. Jack continued to quietly file away all the little bits and pieces of information Fitz gradually let slip about himself, and Jack waited for the opportune moment.

*

The opportune moment came after Fitz had been with them for a couple months. He slept on the couch every night, and Gwen had finally given up on persuading him to get his own flat. After the first week or two, Ianto had taken to making up the sofa for him with a sheet and blanket, and whoever was first in the Hub in mornings woke him with a cup of coffee. Usually it was Jack, or Ianto. And one particularly early morning Jack found him there, blanket all twisted around him while he cried in his sleep.

“Hell,” Jack breathed to himself, looking around. Nobody else there yet, not even Ianto, and he didn’t know if he should guard the door to let Fitz have some privacy or wake him up and tell him he was having a nightmare.

Fitz solved the problem by yelling and sitting up abruptly, flailing his arms around like he was fighting something or somebody off. Jack was there in an instant, grabbing his arms and holding them to his sides, making hushing noises and sitting on his legs to hold him in place. Gradually, Fitz subsided, sniffling and hoarsely coughing and not looking at Jack out of embarrassment. Jack let go of his arms, and Fitz quickly wiped at his face. Jack didn’t get off his legs.

“What do you dream about?” Jack asked. Fitz darted a look at him, then dropped his gaze to the blanket, and Jack was not about to let this cagy man evade him any longer. “I dream about death, planets turned to dust and suns winking out of existence.” He kept his voice quiet, soothing, and he knew Fitz was listening to him. “I dream about screams and fire and smoke and running out of ammunition.”

Fitz was shaking. He hadn’t shaken that hard since the first night, since collapsing in front of the counter after appearing out of nowhere. He stared at Jack, and now Jack couldn’t tear his eyes away even if he wanted to. “I dream about Time,” Fitz breathed. “She screams in the back of my head. I hurt Her, see. I helped hurt Her.” He was crying again. “Oh god, oh god, oh god.” His head fell into the space between Jack’s head and shoulder, and Jack held him, let him cry.

“You were in the war, weren’t you,” Jack said, rubbing Fitz’s back with slow care. “The Time War. You knew the Doctor.”

Fitz didn’t answer, but Jack didn’t need him to.

*

“Come with me,” Jack said, holding his hand out toward Fitz expectantly. Fitz sat at the desk he had made his own, guitar case propped against it, pack of cigarettes and lighter in one drawer and a few alien musical instruments and games in another. The desktop was littered with candy wrappers, books, and memos he hadn’t read.

“Sorry?” Fitz looked up at the captain blearily. Jack had woken him from another nightmare that morning. But then, Fitz had never looked well-rested since he showed up.

“Come with me,” Jack repeated.

Fitz stood up, ignoring Jack’s hand, and Jack dropped it with a shrug. Gwen looked up at him as he passed, and he laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder as he smiled down at her. Fitz just pushed his hands deeper into his jeans pockets and followed silently.

Jack took him down to the cells. Image surveillance was still running, but Jack had made sure to turn off the sound. Fitz leaned against the grimy stone wall and looked at Jack. “Well?” he asked.

“There’s a rift in time,” Jack said. Fitz blinked and straightened. “Right here, this location in space.” He waved a hand at the cells. “That’s why they’re here; the Weevils and the Gelth and the Adraxans and the Chelonians. They get sucked in or stranded or are following the scent. And that’s why we’re here.”

“You mentioned a rift when I first got here,” Fitz said. “I didn’t really think about it much. I mean, the Do–” He stopped, hung there for a while, looking confused. “I’m used to there being a lot of alien threats,” he continued carefully after a moment. “I didn’t think about why they’d be coming to Cardiff.” He frowned. “I suppose I should have.” He looked at Jack again. “Why are you telling me this now?”

“Because of the Doctor,” Jack said, and Fitz flinched again. “Because you were a time traveler and you’ve had a lot of experience with this sort of stuff. Because I couldn’t know for sure before, and now I do.”

He stepped closer to Fitz, and Fitz folded his arms in front of him, glaring at Jack. “There’s a Vortisaur a couple levels down,” Jack said. “It just popped out last week. We need to get it back to the vortex somehow, or we need to kill it.”

Fitz took a step back. “Vortisaur? Never heard of them,” he said.

“Maybe not, but you’ve heard of a lot of our other guests,” Jack said. “And you’ve had a lot of experience with fractured time.”

“Look,” Fitz said, “I’m nobody. I’m just a bloke who got caught up in something. I don’t have degrees in quantum physics, I’m not a Time Lord, and-and…I can’t help you.”

“I thought you wanted to be here because you could help,” Jack kept his voice quiet. “And you have helped. Now I’m asking you to help a little more.”

Fitz looked around the corridor of cells, looked as if he wanted to run away but didn’t know where to go. Finally he sighed. “Okay,” he said. “Okay. Show me this bloody Vortisaur. Does it like the guitar?”

Jack laughed.

*

Jack wanted to pry, wanted to nose in and worm around and find out everything he could. He’d only heard bits and pieces, only knew little slivers of what could be gleaned from his days at the Agency and his times with the Doctor, but Fitz was still as clamped down as ever, and whenever Jack asked a question, it only turned Fitz back into the silently brooding individual who had first appeared on their doorstep.

Jack didn’t tell the others about it. They wouldn’t have understood in any case; they were all so petty, in a way, so parochial and narrow-minded. They only thought about Earth, in the here and now, focused on Cardiff.

Fitz Kreiner always put things into a parochial Earth perspective too, making incomprehensible references to the 1960s and throwing in unhelpful remarks about how screwed they all were when some new emergency came up. But he stayed calm in a crisis, asked reasonable questions, and did a very good job of keeping the others grounded. He also only used the phone system under duress, forgot to write reports, smoked too much, and found the one spot in the entire building complex where he could play his guitar and make it heard everywhere.

Jack didn’t know whether he wanted to kill the man or snog him senseless.

*

“Don’t mess with that,” Fitz said sharply when Tosh and Owen came back from a job, flushed and excited over the find they had made. The others crowded around to see what it was, and Owen lifted it out of the black case. A small, innocuous wooden box, that was all, but the readings Tosh had gotten from it were insane.

“What? Why not?” Owen looked annoyed.

“Give it here,” Fitz held out his hand.

“No,” Owen said.

“Fitz…” Toshiko started, glancing worriedly between him and Owen.

“Hand it over,” Fitz said, scowling. He reached for it, and Owen held it back.

“Look, mate,” Owen flared. “Just because you’re Jack’s new golden boy doesn’t mean you get first dibs at everything you want. Tosh and I found this, we’ll work on figuring out what it is.”

“I know what it is,” Fitz said through gritted teeth. He leaned forward and swiped it out of Owen’s hand.

“Oi!”

“Piss off,” Fitz said and would have stalked away if Jack hadn’t barred his way.

“What is it?” he asked.

“It’s none of your business,” Fitz said.

“If it’s alien, it’s our business,” Jack corrected. He held out his hand. “Let me see it.”

Fitz’s grip on the box tightened.

“It’s just a box,” Tosh said behind Fitz. “It’s just a box with an infinity symbol on top of it. We couldn’t even open it.”

“Is it from him?” Jack asked, and Fitz jerked upright, glaring. The others all stared at Jack too. “Is it?” Jack insisted. “Is it from the Doctor?” He made a grab for the box, and Fitz stepped back quickly. “I remember that symbol in the TARDIS,” Jack said quietly. “I saw it, around. It’s from him, isn’t it?”

“Why do you care?” Fitz asked. “Why do you care?”

“I traveled with him too,” Jack growled. “You don’t have sole ownership rights to him.”

“Jack,” Gwen said, even though Ianto was shaking his head at her. “What the hell is going on? Who are you two talking about?”

Both men ignored her. “Don’t,” Fitz said, breathing hard. “Don’t talk about him. You don’t–you’re not–you weren’t there.”

“Were you?” Jack asked. “Were you there when he pushed the button?”

At that, Fitz hit him. Punch straight to the stomach, and he fled the room while Jack was still just beginning to double over.

*

Hours later, Jack found him hiding in one of the disused levels of cells. He had his back against the stone wall, arms curled around his knees, plain little box between his feet. His eyes were closed. He needed a shave and a haircut, and tears had left dirty tracks on his cheeks.

“He lived, Fitz,” Jack said, stopping in the doorway.

Fitz opened his eyes and looked up at Jack dully. “No, he didn’t.”

“Yes, he did,” Jack insisted, coming into the room. He crouched in front of Fitz and delicately wrapped a hand around Fitz’s chin so that Fitz would have to look at him. “He lived. I traveled with him for a while, him and a girl called Rose Tyler.”

Fitz shook his head, and Jack let go of his chin with a sigh. “No. You traveled with somebody else. Not my Doctor. My Doctor knew he was going to die. Time demanded it. He knew he was going to die and he wanted me to live.” Fitz was crumpling, collapsing into himself, and Jack really hated watching other people slowly destroy themselves like this.

“Goddess,” Jack sighed. “You’re almost as bad as my Doctor was.”

Fitz sniffed surreptitiously and looked at Jack. “What?”

“This War,” Jack said. “I hate war. I hate what it does to the people who survive it. You, and me, and our Doctors.”

“You?” Fitz snorted. “You weren’t in this war.”

“I caught the tail end of it,” Jack snorted. “Believe me, my ass was pretty kicked by it too. But the Doctor–he was magnificent. He tried to be.”

“He always tried to be,” Fitz said. “He wasn’t for so long. He couldn’t be. It–he–I…oh, bugger.” Fitz sighed and scrubbed at his face. “I didn’t want to leave him,” he said finally.

“He left without me,” Jack said without rancor. Not anymore. He had come back, at least, if in a different guise again.

Fitz was looking at him thoughtfully, Jack realized, and Jack quirked an eyebrow in inquiry. “What–what did your Doctor look like?” Fitz asked after hesitating a moment longer.

Jack grinned. “Tall, dark, and Northern,” he said, earning a startled huff of a laugh out of Fitz. “He had funny ears that stuck out and a long nose and refused to wear anything but dark jeans, jumper, and a black leather jacket.”

Fitz stared at him, wide- and wild-eyed. “What?” Jack asked in concern. “What did I say?”

But Fitz was too busy laughing and sobbing all at once to answer him.

*

Jack tried to kiss Fitz only once. Not long after the incident involving the box with the Seal of Rassilon, when Fitz would finally talk to him a little about the War, about his Doctor, about everything that had led to Fitz Kreiner ending up here. It was late at night, after everyone else had finally left, and they were sitting on Fitz’s couch, talking.

“I was with him for years,” Fitz was saying. “I mean, I don’t even know how long we traveled together. But everyone else had left him, and for a long time he didn’t even know who he was. I had to stay with him.” He shrugged, self-conscious and embarrassed. “Not like I had anywhere else to go anyway.”

“Never?” Jack asked. “Didn’t once feel like settling down somewhere?”

Fitz flushed. “Loads of times,” he admitted. “I even did it, once or twice. Um. Maybe three times. Never stuck it out, though. I just–I couldn’t leave him alone like that.” He looked at Jack anxiously. “You know what he’s like, yeah? He seems all strong and sure of himself and everything but he really needs somebody around to make sure he eats and doesn’t accidentally kill himself out of the goodness of his own heart.”

Jack smiled, rested a hand on Fitz’s knee. “Yeah,” he said. “I think if Rose and I hadn’t been there, the Doctor would have pretty much fallen apart. He needs people to prod him.”

“Was Rose still with him when you–left?” Fitz hesitated.

Jack nodded, looking wistful. “I miss her too,” he said. “Did you ever travel with anyone else? Or was it just you and the Doctor?”

“Oh no, there were loads of other people,” Fitz said. “Well, okay, there was Sam and Compassion–oh, she turned into a TARDIS, in some way that I never did quite get–and Anji and Trix. They were all fab. Trix and I, um, we kinda were going together for a while.” He frowned. “I wonder what happened to her. She should still be around…somewhere…” He trailed off. He sat cross-legged on the couch next to Jack, a finger tapping rhythmically at his right knee, Jack’s hand still on his left. Finally he looked up at Jack. “I wasn’t there the second time.”

Jack tilted his head. “Sorry?”

“The second time he pushed the button,” Fitz clarified. He hesitated, and Jack waited him out, holding his breath, afraid to make any move that would startle Fitz back into reticence. “He’d done it once before. He’d destroyed his planet already, once, trying to save all the universes.” Fitz let out a long, deep breath. “I was there that time. I think…I think that’s why it made me so angry that he pushed me away the second time.” He glanced at Jack, gauging his reaction.

Jack leant forward and kissed him. A gentle kiss, a press of lips on lips; he didn’t even try anything involving tongue. He sat back and looked at Fitz, waiting.

Fitz was looking down at his knees. Then he looked up at Jack and smiled, sadly. “I’m not the Doctor, Jack,” he said. “And neither are you.” He removed Jack’s hand from his knee, patting it as he did so. “Go on,” he said, in the friendliest manner possible. “Get out.”

Jack took his hand, squeezed it. “You sure?” he asked, with an encouragingly raised eyebrow. “Not many people have turned down a chance at this, y’know,” he added with a roguish smile he’d used less and less over the past handful of years.

“Piss off, Captain,” Fitz said, but he squeezed Jack’s hand back before pushing him off the couch.

*

“She doesn’t even know how she got here,” Fitz argued and aimed a paper airplane at Ianto as he set his tray of mugs and tea on the conference table. The airplane looked like it had been made out of part of a budget analysis.

“Do you actually believe her?” Toshiko asked, ducking the chocolate buttons Gwen was tossing at Owen.

“Yes,” Fitz said. “I talked with her for a long time, didn’t I? And she kept the same story throughout, and she seemed genuinely confused about what had happened to make her arrive on Earth.”

“Talked with her,” Owen snorted. He gathered the chocolates Gwen had thrown and ate them, one at a time, until Ianto stole a handful and aimed them with unerring accuracy at Fitz’s nose. “Is that what you’re calling it in your report too?”

“You’re just jealous,” Fitz said smugly, and popped one of the buttons into his mouth. Tosh made a face.

“That one fell on the floor,” she protested.

“Five second rule,” Fitz said and turned back to appeal to Jack. “I say we should help her fix her communications-thingy-whatsit so she can get a lift back to her planet. She has no interest in Earth.”

“Just in some Earthlings,” Owen muttered. He didn’t really like that Fitz seemed to get on so well with all the female guests and prisoners that came through their doors. Never mind that most of the females had three arms, or none at all. But Fitz got results, so Jack kept setting him onto the women.

“Tosh, run some more tests on her equipment,” Jack said, and finally Gwen stopped tossing chocolate buttons at Owen and Owen stopped glaring at Fitz and Fitz stopped playing tug-of-war with Ianto over the sugar as they all turned to him and listened. “If it comes up clean and really is just as she says, go ahead and help her fix it.” He pointed at Fitz across the long table. “And if she shows up next month with an armada of all her warrior buddies, I am holding you up as the first sacrifice to the cause, got it?”

Fitz saluted and swiped the sugar out of Ianto’s hand when the Welshman wasn’t looking.

“Okay,” Jack went on, shuffling a couple papers around on the table in front of him. “Next up, that new piece of alien tech you picked up yesterday by the river, Gwen. What have you learned about it so far?”

*

“Bei mir bist du schoen,” Jack and Fitz warbled together as they wandered down the road, arms slung across each other’s shoulders. “Please let me explain, bei mir bist du schoen means that you’re grand.”

It had been Tosh’s birthday bash. They’d gone to the pub and gotten smashed; Gwen had dragged Rhys along and then left a bit earlier than everyone else, snogging him in the back of a cab to ragged cheers from the rest of the crowd. Tosh had spent the evening flushed and smiling, laughing when Owen spun her on the dance floor and pecking Fitz on the cheek after he sang her a rendition of the Beatles’ birthday song. It was late now–or rather, early–and Jack and Fitz were escorting each other back to the Hub.

“I could say bella bella,” Jack called to the early dawn sky, stopping in the middle of the street and dragging Fitz to a halt with him.

“I could even say wunderbar,” Fitz added, throwing out his free arm dramatically.

“Each language only helps me tell you how grand you are,” Jack rejoined Fitz, and Fitz soared into a nice bit of harmonizing.

They were still singing when they made it back to the Hub, ditties and pieces of lyric. Fitz flopped into his couch, laying his head back. “Look, look! Look to the rainbow,” he started softly. “Follow the fellow who follows a dream.”

“On the day I was born,” Jack answered, settling himself on the armrest, “said my father, said he, I’ve an elegant legacy awaiting for ye...”

They both let the song trail off and sat for a moment in companiable silence. And then a third voice asked, affronted, “Are you two really going to leave it there? But that’s terrible!”

Both Fitz and Jack froze before glancing at each other. And then they stood up quickly, Jack reaching for the discreet revolver he kept in the small of his back. He took a couple steps forward, shielding Fitz, and Fitz–more mindful of self-preservation than some of his team, like Gwen–actually stayed put behind him.

“Oh, come on, Jack,” the third voice said, and then the man stepped into the light, brown hair and brown eyes and red Converse trainers. “Is that really necessary?”

Jack grinned and let the gun drop. “Hello, you,” he said, holstering his revolver and walking up to the man, pulling him into a hug and then pushing back enough to give him a quick but thorough kiss on the mouth. His friend grinned against his lips.

Then Jack turned and looked at Fitz and sobered. “Fitz,” he said, took a step toward the other man, and stopped. He looked back at his friend.

But his friend was also looking at Fitz, with an expression on his face somewhere between pain and grief and joy. “Fitz,” he repeated, and Fitz looked around, uncomfortable and confused. “Fitz, it’s me.”

Fitz stared at him, then looked at Jack, eyes narrowed. Jack looked between the other two men and said, “I think I’ve got some paperwork to look at in my office” before slipping up the stairs.

That meant that Fitz had to look at the other man again, which he really didn’t seem to want to do. “Fitz Kreiner,” the brown-eyed man said, shaking his head. “Good grief. I never expected to see you again.” He grinned suddenly, brilliantly. “Oh, but this is magnificent!”

Fitz shoved his hands deeper into his pockets. “Doctor,” he said. The word came out with difficulty.

“Yes, Fitz, it’s me!” The Doctor took a step toward him, and Fitz stepped back. He didn’t have anywhere to step back to, though, so he ended up sitting down on the couch. Hard. The Doctor stayed put, starting to frown. “Fitz?”

“I…” Fitz took a deep, shaky breath. “Oh, shit.”

“I know this is a bit of a shock for you,” the Doctor said, sounding wary. “After all, you got quite used to me being all blue eyes and romantic curls, but it really is me. Here, right now, in the same room with you. Not a ghost. Never did believe in ghosts,” he added as an aside and then shook himself. “Are you alright, Fitz?”

“I was just getting used to you being dead,” Fitz explained, and he still couldn’t look the Doctor in the eye. “And, well, I guess you are dead. He is, I mean. Oh, balls.”

The Doctor took a few cautious steps toward his old friend, but Fitz wasn’t paying any attention to him at the moment. “He–I’m not dead, Fitz,” he said, pitching his voice low. “He’s still in here, along with the rest of me.” He tapped the side of his head.

“Oh yeah,” Fitz hiccupped a laugh. “That’s funny, since for a long time while I knew you you didn’t even have a sodding clue who you were.”

The Doctor flashed another brilliant grin, all shiny white teeth, and took a few more steps closer. “Who does these days?” he asked. “You can have half a dozen existential identity crises in an afternoon, buy ‘em off the back of a lorry no questions asked.”

Fitz risked another look up at him. “So. Um. You’re the Doctor.” He squinted. “I think you’re taller now.”

The Doctor laughed and plopped himself down on the sofa next to Fitz. “Fitz Kreiner, you are magnificent. You don’t mind if I tell you that, do you? Because you are.” He pulled the surprised human into a bear hug and then gave him a quick kiss on the mouth.

Fitz blushed and rubbed at the back of his neck and looked faintly chagrined. “I wish you’d stop doing that,” he muttered, and the Doctor laughed again.

“Never,” he told his friend. “I enjoy embarrassing you too much.”

Fitz grinned at him, a little shyly, and then he looked up and around the Hub. Jack, though, remained in his office. “What are you doing here?” he asked, turning back to look at the Doctor. “You haven’t–I haven’t seen you since I left. Why are you here now?”

“You have something,” the Doctor said. He tilted his head, giving Fitz a half-smile. “You found something, didn’t you? Gallifreyan.”

“Oh.” Fitz shifted on the sofa, inching away from the Doctor infinitesimally. “I didn’t find it; Tosh and Owen did. Um. I kinda swiped it out of their hands.”

“Good,” said the Doctor, in a brisk sort of tone that Fitz had never heard come from his Doctor. “They didn’t get anything from it then?”

“Some energy readings that they couldn’t make hide or tail of, but that was it.”

“Even better.” The Doctor held out a hand. “May I have it?”

Fitz’s hands strayed to the sides of his jacket, but they stilled before actually sliding into the pockets. “Is that why you’re here? To pick up a piece of–debris?”

The Doctor looked down, and then he looked up at Fitz with steady brown eyes. “You’ve started over, Fitz,” he said. “I know it’s taken you a while, and you’ve probably hated every other moment of it, but you haven’t fallen into an alcohol-soaked, nicotine-stained stupor, and you have no idea, no idea, how glad that makes me.” He wrapped a hand around the back of Fitz’s neck, sat so close they were almost nose-to-nose. “I worried about you, Fitz. When I wasn’t feeling miserable on my own account or thinking about Rose or even Captain Jack, I worried.” Fitz squirmed, but the Doctor didn’t let him go. “You went through so much, all on my account, and I honestly wasn’t sure you could survive it.”

He grinned, just the odd sort of shifting grin that Fitz’s Doctor might have grinned himself, in one of his more whimsical moods. “I’m so very glad to see my worries were unfounded.”

Fitz dropped his head, and the Doctor let him go. Fitz’s hand slid into his coat pocket and came out with an ordinary little wooden box, Seal of Rassilon circling around itself back and forth, forever and ever. “What is it?” Fitz asked.

The Doctor looked down at the box. “I honestly don’t know,” he said. “Another Artefact of Rassilon, no doubt. He did have an awful lot of them,” he added in a confidential whisper. He held out his hand again, and Fitz handed him the box. Their fingers did not brush. Fitz shoved his hands back into his coat pockets and looked down at his knees. “It’s powerful enough that my TARDIS could detect it, and I prefer not to leave such objects lying about for just anyone to find. Certainly not anyone related to Torchwood,” he added, with a flick of his eyes upward to Jack’s office.

“Including me?”

“No, Fitz,” the Doctor sighed. “I knew I could trust you to keep it out of the wrong hands–including Toshiko’s and Owen’s. This group is something of an epitome of the old cliché, ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.’”

“I didn’t keep it because I thought it might be dangerous,” Fitz admitted, his head still lowered. “I kept it because it reminded me of you.”

“You don’t need reminders of me,” the Doctor told him. “I’ve dominated your life long enough, don’t you think?”

Fitz looked up at him again, finally, studied him for a long time. The Doctor accepted the scrutiny calmly. “You’re not really at all like him, are you?” Fitz asked.

The Doctor shrugged. “I have bits of him, just as I have bits of all my other selves,” he said. “But no. I am my own self.” He looked distant for a moment, lost in his own thoughts. “I grew up a lot when I was him.” He refocused on Fitz. “You did too, when you were with me.”

Fitz laughed, a short laugh that was not particularly amused. “Hard not to.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I’ve had many companions, Fitz, and while they all learned from me and I learned from them, you–well.” The Doctor half-smiled again. “I think we learned a great deal from each other.” He sobered. “You saw me through a lot, Fitz. A hell of a lot. I’ll always be grateful to you for that.” He stood up, tucking the little wooden box into his coat pocket. “I have to go now.”

Fitz stood up too. “Does that mean I really won’t see you again? None of you?”

“I honestly don’t know. I do seem to pop up in the oddest places at the oddest times, and you’ve gotten yourself tangled with an organization that likes to keep tabs on me.” The Doctor paused. “I won’t come looking for you, Fitz. Don’t wait for me.”

“I haven’t,” Fitz told him, pushing his hands deep into his pockets. “You were dead, remember?”

The Doctor looked sad at that, and nodded, and kissed him again. When he would have pulled away, Fitz wrapped his arms around him and kissed him back.

“Good-bye,” Fitz was able to say this time, when he stepped back.

“Good-bye, Fitz,” said the Doctor. He smiled. “I’m very proud of you, you know.”

And then he walked away.

Fitz listened to the sound of a time machine entering the vortex and thought about how odd it sounded, outside the TARDIS, and how odd it was to know that he would never hear it from inside the TARDIS again. Eventually Jack left his office and sat down on the sofa armrest again, hovering over Fitz. “You okay?” he asked.

Fitz didn’t respond for a long time. “I used to dream about him,” he said at last, and Jack didn’t blink at the apparent tangent. “Every night. Time was screaming, and he was kissing me good-bye. Every night. Every day, too, for a while there.”

Jack didn’t know if he should take Fitz’s hand, or rest a hand on his shoulder. He didn’t move. “I know,” he said instead. “I woke you up from a lot of those dreams, remember?”

Fitz looked up at Jack. “I don’t dream about him anymore. I mean, I do, yeah, but it’s just mixed in with the usual bits and bobs. Just an ordinary dream, like the one about my dad, or this bird I met in a fake reality, or being onstage naked with laryngitis.” Jack did blink at that, and Fitz shrugged self-consciously. Jack smiled. “It’s weird,” Fitz went on. “It’s weird how your life just…gets on with it, and you get on with it too, when you weren’t paying attention.”

Jack nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “And suddenly you have a whole new life, and you didn’t even notice.”

“The Doctor once told me, when we were pinned down by some of these human clone-guys the Daleks had created, that the people he loved slept in his mind. He brought them out of his memory when he wanted to. He said it was comforting.” Fitz sat back on the couch and closed his eyes. “It’s a nice thought, isn’t it?”

Jack watched Fitz fall asleep sitting up. He smiled crookedly and stood up, throwing Fitz’s blanket over him.

“Yeah,” Jack said to himself. “It is.”



So I must be on my way,
and face another day

~George Harrison, “All Things Must Pass”