Fandom: Dr. Who/Torchwood
Pairing: Jack Harkness/Jackie Tyler
Notes: My last Jack-fic before Series 3. Takes place in London in 1997 and on the TARDIS during Journey's End. Thanks to rose_cat and hllangel for superb beta services and to mad_jacks for additional cheerleading and assistance. Somewhat inspired by this Song Lyric Prompt
Warnings: Includes stalking as described in canon and potentially squicky implications of said stalking.
Summary: Jack had never expected to see her again, but he never should have met her the first time.
“I remember you.”
Of course she did. He hadn’t done anything to make her forget and probably quite a lot she’d thought about for years afterwards. Sloppy on his part, but who’d have thought he’d ever see that particular face again, much less under these circumstances?
Jack had been hoping she’d make it easier by pretending they’d never met. For a while, things had just been too busy for awkward reunions, but now that the world had been saved and the TARDIS was heading back to Earth, there was no way to avoid this one. The most he could do was guide her toward an area of the TARDIS console room where they wouldn’t be overheard.
“Hello, Jackie,” he said, using the lowered voice with a touch of wistful nostalgia that he reserved for old lovers, so she’d know he remembered as well. Most of the names and faces were long gone, except the ones he kept in his arsenal of anecdotes for shock value or sentimentality, but this was a face he couldn’t forget if he wanted to. This was Rose’s mother.
Not that he ever should have met her in the first place.
His admission to the Doctor of visiting the Estate “a few times” in the nineties was a bit of an understatement. He’d actually volunteered for meetings with Torchwood One, just to have an excuse to be in London. His secretary had mockingly accused him of shagging Yvonne Hartman, and for a change he was actually telling the truth when he denied it, although Yvonne was still on his to-do list. Liza claimed she understood his need for certain distractions that she couldn’t provide, and Jack pretended to believe her, because it was easier than noticing the pained look in her eyes every time he signed out one of the cars with an intended destination of London.
That day, he had Torchwood’s most flash car, a black Renault Laguna, and the absolute knowledge that this had to be his last visit to the Powell Estate. Rose was nearly ten and even from what should have been a stealthy distance, Jack could see past the baby-fat to the woman who would someday fall off a balloon and into his arms.
This was dangerous territory. Even the Time Agency, with its notoriously low morals, would disapprove, which was saying something. His former partner might even have qualms and that was saying more. The Doctor? Well, the Doctor had already done the worst thing to Jack that he possibly could, so sod him, anyway.
It was the Doctor’s fault he was stuck on Earth, watching Rose and Mickey playing a game that involved running between the bins in some specific order. It was impossible to see her and not get lost in memories of Big Ben and Glenn Miller and all the regrets that went along with them.
“Get away from there!”
The sharp voice broke into his reverie and Jack saw a woman wearing a pale blue track suit grab Rose’s arm and pull Mickey by the collar of his West Ham jacket, a fierce lioness protecting the cubs from a dodgy stranger in an expensive car. Might as well face it. He was an emotional pervert stalking his own past, because that girl was the only connection to the life he’d lost. It was time to go and never come back.
He’d just turned the key in the ignition when the woman in blue came running back, blocking his way out. She clearly had it in her mind to confront him about what the hell he was doing there, leaving Jack with no alternative but to pull out some official-looking ID and convince the woman, who must be Rose’s mum, that he was on official business for someone. The task would be even more difficult because he’d worn civilian clothing in order to diminish any chance of Rose thinking he looked familiar when she first saw him in the past, or the future, depending on how you looked at it.
How to explain the jeans, tee-shirt, trainers and leather jacket? Undercover assignment to root out drug-dealing scum who were trying to tempt the impressionable kids of the council houses. Why not? He’d pulled bigger cons than that back in the day, and some days that weren’t so long ago. Time to roll down the window and face the music.
“Who the hell are you and what are you doing hanging around those…OH! Hello!”
Maybe there was another way to handle this.
“Hello. That’s hello twice, isn’t it?”
Mrs. Tyler had gotten a good look at him, and apparently he didn’t seem so threatening after all. Or maybe she just didn’t mind. She’d been a widow for ten years and despite some less than charitable remarks he’d heard from both Rose and the Doctor, Jack could tell she was lonely. He knew the feeling.
He got out of the car, giving her the chance to get an even better look. The coat hid things; his jeans didn’t hide much of anything.
“Jack Harkness. Nice to meet you.”
“Jackie. Jackie Tyler.” She fluttered her eyelashes a bit, leaving flecks of mascara under her eyes, before getting back to the thread she must have lost when she first saw his face. “How come you’re hanging around here looking at my daughter?”
The ID was in his hand and the lies were coming out of his mouth.
“There’ve been reports of gang activity around here. Just wanted to make sure that no one was bothering the kids.”
She looked willing enough to believe this, but Jackie had fierce maternal instincts as well.
“That don’t explain why you were looking at my daughter.”
Things could have gone horribly pear-shaped right there if he hadn’t said the right thing. He didn’t have much time to think, so he trusted his instincts.
“We’ve been on patrol here a couple of times and I’ve seen the both of you. I was just thinking that if she turns out to be half as pretty as her mother, she’ll be a complete heartbreaker.”
Cheesy. And not in any way that could be defined as good rather than bad either. Jack could imagine grown-up Mickey’s eye-roll of disgust, but he couldn’t have stopped himself if he wanted to.
It didn’t look like Jackie wanted him to either. Must have been a long time since someone went out of their way to flirt with her.
“I’m probably going to get in trouble for this, but I have to ask….I’m just about to go off duty and….”
He upped the ante by giving Jackie his best “you know you want to” smile. He gestured at the Laguna and said “I can take you to the nearest star,” the same way he’d done so often when he had an actual space ship and was speaking the truth.
Jack watched Jackie’s face carefully. She wasn’t much of a poker player and for a few moments, Jack thought he might still end up with a slap in the face and a discussion with local law enforcement. They’d have to give up when he invoked Torchwood, but it still wouldn’t be fun, especially now he had a specific idea of what fun could be had this evening, so he ramped up the smile again, and let Jackie talk herself into something she knew she shouldn’t do.
“Wait right here,” she said, turning around and giving him a nice look at her shapely backside.
He guessed she was making some kind of arrangements for Rose to be looked after, maybe having her stay with Mickey’s grandmother. Mickey, Jack had noticed, was on the verge of being too old to hang out with a nine-year old girl, but still seemed to indulge her like an older brother. He wondered when exactly that dynamic would change, and then put those thoughts away entirely.
There was still time to drive away, but Jackie had a definite appeal and aside from the whole Rose’s mother thing and the fact that the Doctor would be furious, why the hell should he? Liza would be suspicious, but she’d never know for sure, and that wasn’t a good enough reason anyway. He used the time to make a few arrangements of his own.
Jackie came back wearing a black dress that could have been painted on, and a pair of heels that made Jack admire her dexterity in negotiating the less than perfectly paved tarmac of the Estate.
He knew that his own jeans didn’t leave much to the imagination either and their renewed greeting had the air of two predators sizing each other up.
“Hello,” she said, with a smile that held no shyness whatsoever.
Their eyes met and while he might have kissed Jackie then and there, her life required a bit more discretion than that. Jack knew how to play those games, although he often threw the rules out the window for the thrill that came with breaking them.
Jack opened the car door and she got in, giving him a flash of her legs and a slightly nervous smile. As he got in the driver’s side and gunned the engine, he promised himself that he’d make the ride worthwhile for both of them.
He’d booked a room at a deluxe hotel and arranged for dinner at a four-star restaurant afterwards. He even offered to take her dancing, but she declined, stressing that she really did need to get back to Rose, and Jack was secretly relieved at that, because dancing would always mean so much more to him.
As for what had happened in the hotel room, he had no doubt he’d done right by her. He was Jack Harkness, after all.
Except that it was only the once. There was never any question about that for either of them. She’d been the one who insisted that this could never happen again, even as she clutched the sides of his leather jacket as he was risking a good-bye kiss when he dropped her off at Bucknall House.
It wasn’t something he was proud of, but Jack was long past feeling guilty for taking pleasure where he found it, if such a time had ever existed for him.
And here they were, ten years later. The life lived showed in her face, especially the lines around her eyes, while Jack only felt the years and hundreds more on the inside, because life, especially his life, was never fair.
“You weren’t there for me, were you?”
Jackie knew things now. Things about time travel and parallel worlds and Daleks and all the wonderful, horrible things that went along with the Doctor.
“Was it the Doctor sent you to keep an eye on her?”
So maybe she didn’t know everything. Just as well.
Jack watched the Doctor, both of them, making the rounds of his former companions, from Sarah Jane to Mickey to Martha and of course keeping a keen eye on Donna, who was now part Doctor too, and Jack still couldn’t quite wrap his mind around that idea without the rest of his body perking up uncomfortably. The one thing he could tell even from a distance was that the two men who were the Doctor were both completely absorbed with Rose.
“Don’t tell Rose, OK?” he said, feeling oddly disconcerted at the idea of anyone finding out about this particular brief encounter out of so many that he’d had without a second thought. The only person who might have cared at the time was Liza. She’d managed to survive until the Millennium Massacre, even if the affair didn’t last for more than a few more months.
“Like I would,” she replied sarcastically. “I got my husband back and a new baby. Don’t need you coming round to muck things up, do I?”
“Of course not,” he answered, and instead of feeling relieved, he found himself oddly put out. Why was everybody so damn eager to pair up and buy curtains anyway? Jackie had once been a free spirit. “I was just thinking we could have a private reunion.”
It was supposed to be a joke, something for both their egos. Hers for being the one who didn’t get to help fly the TARDIS and his because no matter how many times he went through hell for the Doctor, he’d still be “wrong,” and Rose would still be the Doctor’s ideal. Why not give Jackie the momentary thrill of believing that she looked as good as she had ten years earlier? He had nothing holding him down, especially since Gwen Cooper had made it clear she’d trust him with her life but never her heart.
“No. I couldn’t. Baby. Husband. Did I tell you he’s rich? Not that I care about money, mind you.”
That should have been his cue to switch from the “you know you want to” smile to the “gracefully conceding defeat” smile, only his gears got stuck somewhere and he left the temptation simmering a few seconds too long.
“All right then,” she said, as if deciding on an order at the chip shop.
For a second he thought she might be teasing him back, out-playing the master himself, but her eyes didn’t say that at all. They said that her parallel world and her rich husband and her baby were all well and good, but she wanted another taste of what they’d had that afternoon at the Russell Square hotel.
Jack knew the TARDIS well. There were rooms nearby, and he hoped he could count on the ship to give him some kind of signal if they were in danger of being caught. He was risking the Doctor’s disapproval, which was nothing new, while Jackie was presumably risking much more just for the thrill of the ride. Jack couldn’t help feeling chuffed that she was willing to take the chance for him.
It wasn’t right, but it was going to be good, and while he wasn’t proud, Jack refused to be ashamed. Instead, he’d give her a good enough memory to last another ten years, or a lifetime.
But he’d give her one last chance to turn back too, just like the Doctor would.
“Are you sure?”
“Is she sure about what?”
Jack wasn't sure if Mickey had any idea what was going on or just had a finely honed instinct for protecting the Tyler women from themselves. He did know when a perfect moment had passed.
“I was asking her if she was sure I couldn’t lure you back to Cardiff.”
Mickey took a step back.
“None of that stuff,” he said with a smile, that showed both how far he’d come since they first met and how far he still had to go.
“I meant to work at Torchwood.”
“Oh. That’s OK, then.”
He nodded as if considering it, and Jack shared a quick look with Jackie, who seemed to have taken her own mental step back from the precipice. They’d both have to make do with their memories.
Jack wouldn’t be lonely for long. He’d be back in Cardiff soon enough where Ianto and Gwen were waiting for him; a perfect combination of one sure thing and one challenge he’d never give up on.
Something to keep him busy…while he waited.