Despite the history of the Doctor being Torchwood’s number one enemy, the team quickly warmed to Jack’s friend. He was funny, brilliant, and seemed perfectly content to give their fearless leader a hard time. It had been awhile since they’d seen Jack squirm.
They’d been searching the deserted building for the better part of an hour. “I’m going to have a look in the basement,” Jack said as he waved the team forward. “Doctor, stay with them.”
“I’m not one of your new recruits, Jack.”
“Just go with them,” Jack ordered. “Help Tosh decipher that manuscript we found earlier.”
“And here I thought working with Torchwood would be a challenge,” the Doctor replied with a completely uninterested sigh.
“I resent that,” Owen snapped.
“You would,” Ianto said. He rolled his eyes for effect.
“Here’s the manuscript,” Tosh offered after they walked outside. She handed the tattered parchment to the Doctor who pulled a pair of black spectacles out of his pocket.
“You wear glasses?” she asked.
“These are purely for effect,” the Doctor replied as his eyes busily scanned the manuscript. When he looked up, all hint of humor was gone from his eyes. “Get Jack on the phone. Now. Tell him to get —“
An explosion ripped through the street as rubble and debris flew past them. The seven-story structure had been decimated in seconds.
“What the hell?” Owen gasped.
“Jack’s in there!” Ianto exclaimed.
“Jack, can you hear me? Jack!” Gwen kept pressing her earpiece trying to make contact with their missing team member.
“There was a spike in energy right before the explosion,” Tosh explained. She tried to show the Doctor the readouts, but he was standing with his arms crossed over his chest glaring at the pile of burning rubble. “Doctor?” She reached out to touch his arm, but he brushed past her and starting walking in the opposite direction.
“Where are you going?” Gwen called.
“To get Jack.”
“But the building’s the other way,” she replied. She jerked her thumb in the direction of the smoldering remains of the structure.
“Well aware of that, thank you.”
The team stared in stunned silence as the Doctor stalked down the street and disappeared around the corner.
“Just what exactly is he a Doctor of?” Owen asked.
Several minutes went by before they heard the grate of metal on metal and the distinctive sounds of wheezing.
“Oh, what now?” Owen barked. “Torchwood is bloody closed!”
“Isn’t that the blue police box that fell out of the rift?” Tosh asked.
The door to the mysterious box opened and the Doctor stumbled out. He was covered in ash and dirt, his forehead was cut, and his arms were wrapped around Jack’s bloodied upper body. The Doctor was walking backwards with Jack’s legs dragging on the ground. It would have made a laughable sight if Jack wasn’t still dead. They really were quite a pair.
“What’s he saying?” Tosh asked curiously.
“Whatever language it is, I’m sure he’s cursing,” Ianto stated.
“How do you know?”
Ianto shrugged. “Jack tends to have that effect on people.”
“I’m a trouble magnet?” the Doctor growled. Jack’s head rolled to the side against the alien’s chest. “Pot. Kettle. Black.”
“The SUV is parked around the corner,” Gwen offered. She pulled the keys out of her pocket and jogged away.
“What do you think caused the explosion?” Tosh mused as she rechecked the rift activity device.
“I don’t know. Maybe the aliens we were tracking somehow — “
“Are you three always this thick?” the Doctor barked. “What do you think caused the explosion? It was Jack! It’s always bloody Jack! The only way to seal the bridge was to ignite a —“ The Doctor stopped immediately when he felt Jack stir in his arms.
“That hurt,” Jack groaned. He forced his eyes open and became acutely aware of the cooler-than-human arms around his chest. “Doctor, I didn’t know you cared,” he teased. The Doctor immediately released him, and he crumpled to the ground in an undignified heap.
“I don’t care,” the Doctor replied as he jerked his hand through his hair. Dust and ash floated to the ground. Owen, Gwen, and Ianto shared a private look. Sure, he didn’t care. And Torchwood didn’t have its name printed on the side of their super secret vehicles.
“I just — well, I shouldn’t care! It’s not like you care about your own life.”
“Not this again,” Jack grumbled as he struggled to his feet. He dusted himself off and lifted his gaze to meet the Doctor’s. Raising an eyebrow, he pointed at the Time Lord. “What the hell happened to you?”
The Doctor crossed his arms across his chest. “Last time I checked, I don’t answer to you.” Ianto’s eyes widened, Tosh found the ground suddenly interesting, and Owen snickered.
“How did the TARDIS get here?” Jack questioned.
“Didn’t you know? She comes when I call her. I was just leaving,” the Doctor explained as he pushed past Jack.
“Always running away, aren’t you?” Jack accused.
“Always looking for a chance to die, aren’t you?” the Doctor returned.
“I saved the world, you know,” Jack replied. He paused as scratched the dried blood behind his ears. “Last thing I remember was falling chunks of concrete.”
“Isn’t that a lovely thought,” Owen sighed as he continued cataloging Jack’s healing injuries from a distance.
“How did I get out of there?”
“Torchwood to the rescue again,” the Doctor called as he stepped inside the TARDIS. “You don’t need me after all.”
“Looks like I saved the day, Doctor.” Jack smirked as the Doctor rolled his eyes and slammed the door closed. “Score one for Captain Jack Harkness.” Apparently the Doctor didn’t like to be shown up either.
“You do realize he saved you,” Owen said quietly as the TARDIS began to dematerialize.
Jack’s smirk disappeared immediately. “He — he what?”
“How do you think you got out of there?” Ianto asked. “You were buried underneath a mountain of rubble. It would have taken us days to dig you out.”
“But he said — “ Jack pointed to the spot where the TARDIS was standing moments before.
“Yeah, he lied,” Owen replied.
“I hate him,” Jack growled. He realized it had nothing to do with their silly game. The Doctor all but verbally admitted that he cared — really cared. Alien bastard.
“Don’t lie,” Owen sighed.
“It doesn’t suit you,” Ianto finished. Gwen pulled the car around, and they started walking towards the SUV.
“So who won that round?”
“Shut up, Owen.”