Jack knew something was going on as soon as the Doctor fled the room an hour and a half ago. He could never imagine though the real cause of his hesitation. Rose! Rose is here! He doesn’t need asking to see she’s hurt and just wonders if that’s because Doc has River or there is something else. Soon though he thinks that the fantastic life she was supposed to be living didn’t turn out to be that fantastic. The way she avoids talking about anything really important and the way she clearly hasn’t been looking after herself for a while now. She must be absolutely alone. Even the Doctor was now taken. Jack looks at her and can hardly see the girl he used to know all those years ago. Sometimes when she smiles he thinks he sees a glimpse of her there. He wishes he could do something for her. At least show her she isn’t that alone here. He offers her the job and is a bit hurt when she refuses. He doesn’t know everything though so he just decides to wait till she comes back with her explanation. So he just watches the Doctor, who doesn’t hide his relationship with River and Rose seems well aware of that. River seems really calm as well and Jack isn’t at all surprised when she stands up and follows Rose a bit later.
Mickey is waiting for the right time to ask the only question that bothers him and as soon as River leaves he does.
“So, boss, what’s going on?”
One look at Jack confirms that he’s not the only one curious. Sarah Jane sensing the tension asks Martha to help her in the kitchen and they leave the room.
“The other me is dead,” the Doctor says quietly. He doesn’t mention Cathie because Rose will be here in a few minutes and it’s… well it’s her life to talk about. Probably he shouldn’t have told them even this, but what was he supposed to say?
By the looks of him, Jack is about to ask the question the Doctor fears the most, as he has no idea how to answer it. “What are you going to do now?” He looks at the man waiting for the inevitable but is only met by a wide grin appearing on ex Time Agent’s face.
”Oh, Rose! That’s brilliant! It’s just what I was thinking about you working for Torchwood!”
The Doctor turns around to see Rose and River standing at the door, Cathie holding both of them. He beams at the scene. River looks at him with a soft smile and Rose stares at Jack in amusement.
“Jack, I have a baby daughter. I haven’t done fieldwork for 4 years! I can’t risk my life anymore. I’m all she’s got!”
“Not all. She has the Doctor and me and all of us.” River tells her. “But you’re right about risking.”
“No, no, no,” Jack replies hurriedly. “It’s not that. No guns or running for your life. Promise.” He’s glad to have the attention of the whole group. Even Martha, his right hand, looks puzzled from the kitchen door. “You see, we have many extraterrestrials living on Earth. They work, marry, have children, who are not always humanoid enough to go to normal earth school. Or they are too clever and get bored there. So my idea is to set up a school for these guys and we do need someone experienced enough with both aliens and children. And I’m quite sure you’re both. So, Rose. What would you say?” He marvels at her amazed look. She looks stunned. Well, everybody does and Jack is savoring his moment of glory. Not everyday does he get that proud look from the Doctor. It doesn’t matter he’s over two thousand years old. This man’s- alien’s- approval is still the most valuable thing for him. Just as this lost woman’s one. He’s getting a bit nervous at the lack of her response but just then her face splits into a widest grin he’s ever seen from her and he mirrors it with his own knowing, he’s won.
“I’m in,” Rose replies. “Jack. That’s the best thing Torchwood could ever do.”
“Told you, it’s changed.” He winks at her. “So, are you going to introduce me this little beauty?” He stands up from the sofa and comes to pick up the girl. Surprisingly she doesn’t resist being pulled up.
“Cathie, Jack. Meet each other,” Rose replies smiling.
“Okay, so, Cathie. Let’s meet the family,” Jack says turning away from Rose and moving to the sofas.
“Doc-tar,” says the girl pointing at the man.
“Okay, I see you’ve met him. Moving on then. This man here is Mickey. Well, probably Uncle Mickey from now on.”
“Uncle Mickey, I think I could get used to that. Hello Cathie,” Mickey, who’s much more relaxed now waves his hand at the girl.
Jack moves around the room enjoying introducing everyone to the little girl. Rose and River sit down once again watching the Captain. Rose’s never thought that this strong, wonderful man could be so tender with a child. She can’t help her smile and is touched to see the same one on the Doctor’s face his gaze following Jack around the room. Probably it’ll be fine after all. These people would never replace her mum, dad, Tony, her Doctor and Jamie, but they still were her family. Maybe she could live with that.
It’s dark outside the flat and probably cold. Rose doesn’t know even though she’s just rushed inside the flat. She places the bags on the kitchen table and runs to take her coat and boots off.
“Cathie, I’m home,” she shouts from the hall.
“Hi, mum,” the girl emerges from her room. “Mickey called. Said they’ll be here at 11 and Sarah and Luke are on their way.”
“Good. Give me a hand with the food, will you?” Rose asks her daughter.
“Sure. What are you planning to make?” the girl asks pulling her hair in a ponytail following Rose to the kitchen.
“Turkey, salad… usual. Had no time for preparations really. Even with Luke and Maria’s help this school takes everything from me. Have never though a few dozens of children could make such a mess.”
“Even human children can! No wonder aliens do.”
Rose watches her daughter with a twinkle in her eyes. “Aren’t you just too clever for a 6-year old? I wonder who you took after.”
“Well, I’d say me…” they turn to see the Doctor entering the kitchen with River slightly behind him. He looks at both of them in turn noticing slightly annoyed look on Rose’s face. “Oh, am I rude again? Sorry.”
“Anyway, good to see you Dad.” Cathie said hugging River.
“Good to see you too. Any help needed?” the woman replies.
“Familiar with 21st century oven, aren’t you?” Rose asks jokingly.
“Well, not really. But I can cut vegetables… or something. I think I know a few things about knives.” River replies laughing.
“Okay, you don’t need me here then,” Cathie says delighted. “Dad, come on. We still have the Christmas tree to finish.” And moves out of the kitchen pulling the Doctor with her.
Both women exchange looks of relief and settle on cooking. It is a nice tradition they’ve managed over the years to meet on Christmas Eve. It is so normal it is almost alien to all of them, which made it even more precious. Two and a half hours and a few tiny explosions later, the whole team is sitting at the huge table in the living room chatting and laughing when a loud crash in the hallway makes them all jump. In less then a second Jack is at the front door peering into the corridor outside the flat, the Doctor and Cathie staring at each other still stuck between the table and the Christmas tree unable to decide who’ll go first. Their glare competition stops abruptly as the Doctor snaps his head to look at the door when her hears a familiar voice.
“Um, hello. I’m looking for the Doctor. I’ve seen the TARDIS and people told me he went here.”
“Hello. I’m Jack Harkness, and who’re you?” Jack replies in his usual ‘Hello’ voice but is pushed aside by the Doctor. “Oh, Don’t start.”
Captain looks at the Time Lord and a young girl looking at each other with identical grins.
“I’ve found you!”
He sits unusually quiet at the table, watching people around him. His family. His friends. His children. He smiles at Jenny’s stories about her travels and finds Cathie listening to her with delight. His daughters, so different but somehow both his. Even Cathie, who technically is not. HE was startled when she began calling him Dad. It was confusing for both him and Rose, but then… it just turned out alright. He did feel like her father. Sometimes he wishes he could spend more time with her. And with Rose. She’s so different now. She’s shining so brightly. Sometimes he comes here without River just to talk to her. She’s not that wide-eyed girl he picked up at Henriks. It’s still there, but there’s so much more. They talk about the other Doctor and Jamie, about River and Donna, about all those things he’s never thought he could talk to someone about. He’s glad River and her like each other. It could be so complicated otherwise. He looks around the table taking in all the happy faces. Martha chatting to Jenny. Cathie laughing with River. Jack and Mickey solving another computer problem with Luke, Rose and Sarah Jane exchanging experiences of dealing with children. It’s so perfect it frightens him. He catches Rose’s look and the deep buried worry echoes his own. Her words form so long ago come to his mind and he swallows. ‘Universe is an unfair place. Or maybe it’s too fair. For every good thing we get and equally bad one.’ She smiles at him weakly. He smiles back and joins Martha and Jenny’s conversation. This won’t last forever so he’d better take the best of it now.