Jack saw the Doctor half a dozen times over the next few weeks. She avoided Torchwood following an unfortunate incident involving her sonic screwdriver, a Torchwood security guard, and an elevator cable, which occurred while Jack was out investigating suspicious weevil activity. Instead, she took to dropping by Jack's flat unannounced, frequently at odd hours of the day or night. She called him one afternoon from his own landline to say she'd ordered Chinese takeaway using a menu she'd found stuck to his refrigerator, and could he pick it up on his way home? Three days after that, she dispensed with the formalities (such as they were) and landed the TARDIS directly in his bedroom in the dead of night. Jack decided then that so long as the Doctor considered him on call, so to speak, he'd better refrain from bringing anyone else home with him.
By the time the Doctor next appeared, over two months later, Jack had identified the flaw in that plan.
"You won't disappear on me, will you?"
"Hmm?" The Doctor lifted a hand and wiggled her fingers, examining them. In the dark, her palm nearly touched her nose. "I seem fully corporeal to me. Why? Do people often teleport out of your bed without warning?"
Jack grinned. "It's been known to happen." He took a breath to launch into the tale, then recognized the distraction for what it was. Some other time, maybe. "I mean if–I mean when you decide you don't want to do this anymore. You'll tell me, right? You won't just leave one morning and never come back?"
The Doctor gave a heavy sigh. Lying alongside, Jack felt her chest rise and fall.
"You know me, Jack. I can make you promises all day; doesn't mean I'll keep them. I'm not so good with things like that."
Things like saying goodbye, Jack thought dully. She'd answered the question he hadn't asked–their relationship remained a means to an end, subject to termination as soon as the Doctor got the child she wanted. Still, he hadn't made it this far as an immortal without learning to live in the moment. He settled for kissing the Doctor again, committing every curve and every shiver to memory.
* * *
She surprised him in a bar one Friday night, and they spent the evening playing at being total strangers for the benefit of Jack's teammates (mostly). The performance was repeated the following Saturday, when Jack went out with a different crowd. On her next visit, the Doctor insisted he'd miscounted, saying she'd only slept with him eight times, whereas Jack distinctly remembered twelve separate occasions. Jack suspected she'd gotten (or would get) the timing wrong, but as the Doctor had at that moment just shimmied out of her trousers, he refrained from casting any aspersions on her piloting skills. You had to pick your battles sometimes.
A minor Rift-quake damaged some machinery, and Jack spent thirty-eight hours at Torchwood trying to prevent the whole assembly from going critical. He made it home in the early morning, but he'd only snatched about an hour of sleep before the Doctor shook him awake, claiming she "could kill for some good chicken tikka masala right about now."
"Have you tried India?" Jack mumbled, too tired to lift his face from the pillow. "They'll be awake in India."
"Chicken tikka masala is a British dish," the Doctor replied impatiently. "Going to India would be like going to China for a fortune cookie. It's got to be here. Don't you want to go out? You always want to go out."
"Good luck finding someplace open at this hour," Jack grumbled. Then another chunk of his brain clicked into gear, and he rolled over. "Look, come back tomorrow, okay? Twelve... no, fifteen hours from now. Meet me then."
"All right," said the Doctor, drawing back, "but there had better be chicken."
"There will be," Jack promised, speaking into his pillow again.
He woke again around noon, looked at the clock, thought hell with it, and went shopping.
* * *
"I never knew you cooked," the Doctor said when she arrived, sounding as impressed as Jack had hoped she would. She stuck a finger into the saucepan and licked it. "Not half bad, either."
"This is the first time you've given me enough warning to prepare anything. Though if I woke me up as early as you did this morning, I'd worry about what I might slip into my food."
The Doctor dipped her third and fourth fingers into the sauce as well. "Mmm. We can stay in from now on."
"I'll take that as a compliment. Here." Jack scooped some chicken onto a plate and handed it to the Doctor.
The Doctor frowned, set down the plate, and strode from the kitchen without a word.
Jack followed a series of unpleasant retching noises and found the Doctor sitting on the tiled floor of the loo, hugging her knees, face pale beneath a sheen of sweat. There was something jarring about the sight. The Doctor shouldn't be susceptible to something as human as an upset stomach.
"Hey," Jack said, "this had better not be a commentary on my cooking. I was kidding about the poisoning, you know."
The Doctor shot him an unamused look.
Jack knelt beside her. "You okay?"
"I'm fine. I will be fine. Ugh!" She gave a cough, which turned into a dry heave. "Ugh, I thought I was done with this part!"
A colorful parade of shock, alarm, and sheepishness crossed the Doctor's face. Then one corner of her mouth tilted upward in an impish who, me? expression.
"Didn't I mention?"