Title: Role Reversal
Fandom: Torchwood/Dr. Who
Pairings: Jack/Gwen, Jack/The Master, Jack/John, Gwen/Lucy
Characters: Jack, Gwen, The Master, Lucy Saxon, John Hart
Notes: Written for teamharkness, for getting me through the night after CoE Day 4, by holding my hand and promising me my worst fear would not come true. Thanks babe! This one goes out to you and all the real!Jack believers. Merry Christmas and a happy Torchwood S4 bigger and better than ever year. Special thanks to my fabulous beta_goddess for quick turnaround and keeping me company in the sandbox.
Cross-posted to torch_wood, dw_slash, jack_and_gwen, jack_in_cuffs, roguetimeagents, dwfiction, master_x_jack, galactic_conman, torchwoodslash, and omni_fiction.
Warnings: Spoilers for CoE. Jack is a bastard. (And he wants Gwen.)
Summary: Jack thinks he's out of the hero business. The Master has other ideas.
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Jack hates being stood up.
Sitting in a bar. Waiting. Feeling time pass as only a time traveler can. As only someone who was left behind can.
He especially hates being stood up by John, of all people, now that he’s ready to admit the truth. His illusions about himself are long gone. He’s the same man he always was. The time agent. The con man. The bastard. John was right and the Doctor was right in his way too. Jack can aspire to better, maybe save a few lives here and there, but in the end he’ll always cut and run.
John should be thrilled. More important, he should be by Jack’s side, with a drink in front of him and weapon near at hand. Ready for anything or anyone, and most of all together, at least as long as either one could stand it.
Only John isn’t here.
Jack runs through the possibilities. Drunk. Drugged. Imprisoned. Dead.
If it’s the last, at least this one won’t be on his conscience, assuming he still has such a thing. He’s starting to think he jettisoned it, along with his real name, the day he joined the Time Agency.
Of course, John could just be playing some petty revenge game.
Two can certainly do that particular dance. He’s spent months proving that he still has his touch with pretty much anyone or anything he comes in contact with and there’s several likely suspects within his sight right now. No reason to be alone, just because he actually wanted to talk to someone for a change, preferably someone who knew him, shared a little history, maybe even loved him once…
There’s a stunner at the end of the bar, with long dark hair, and a few extra appendages that might prove interesting. He’s about to signal the bartender when he senses someone taking the seat next to him, and even before he hears the voice, still smug and utterly self-confident, he knows who it is.
Jack doesn’t bother with any of the obvious rejoinders, such as “What the hell?” or “It can’t be!” or the most ludicrous of all, “But you’re dead.” He’s heard them all too many times himself. It gets old after a while, even if he doesn’t. He doesn’t care why or how, and while he would have thought that this was the last person he ever wanted to see again, the fact is there’s something about the Master that Jack has always been attracted to. It’s not like he’d been planning to vote for Harold Saxon because of his hot policies.
He hates the Master, of course. The list of reasons would start with physical pain inflicted on Jack and end with the sight of the Doctor in tears over the death of a monster, one he’d been willing to spend the rest of his long life with, regardless of Jack’s feelings, or anybody else’s.
This hate is one he has nurtured for over a year, letting it glow hot and bright, but Jack also knows that hatred is no reason not to share a drink or a night of gambling or any of the other vices that occupy most of his time these days. The man who can’t die is also the man who has patience. Seeing the Master alive means the chance for a revenge he thought he’d been deprived of.
He’s bored, lonely and most of all curious. The Master knew exactly where to find him, which means he was looking. Jack wants to know why.
Ianto had begged to be remembered, but it was Gwen that Jack couldn’t forget.
Getting away from Cardiff hadn’t helped, so he left the UK, and then the Continent and finally the planet, only to find himself reliving every moment, still trying to figure out what he could have done differently.
There’d been so many times where he could have changed everything with a word, a look or a touch. He’d resisted taking something he so desperately wanted…and why? To impress the one man in the galaxy whose opinion actually mattered, and who turned out not to give much of a damn how hard Jack had worked to live up to his ideals. He’d let something precious slip away and all for nothing.
A few scenes played through his mind over and over again. Having her body tantalisingly close as he taught her how to handle the weapons. The panic he’d felt when he thought Suzie had killed her, and the pain that surged through him when she instinctively reached out for…Owen. Seeing her marry Rhys when every fibre of his being wanted to claim her for his own.
The very worst moment was telling her he’d come back for her, only to touch the hard reality of her engagement ring.
Right then, right there, he should have let her know what she meant to him, should have taken the chance, should have pressed her against a wall like there had been no yesterday and would be no tomorrow and certainly as though John Hart and some cluster-bombs weren’t threatening the city. Nothing should have been as important as letting Gwen know how much he needed her.
He couldn’t do it.
Too many fresh wounds marked him, courtesy of the Master’s deliberate sadism and the Doctor’s casual cruelty. He’d seen their connection, and heard the Doctor offer to spend eternity with his so-called enemy. Jack had been through wars and famines, floods and massacres and all the guilt he’d brought upon himself as the Time Agency’s man and then Torchwood’s. Nothing since the Doctor’s abandonment had hurt him half so much.
Pride had risen, pushing him away from Gwen and toward someone who would never challenge or question or fight him. Jack wanted someone who would never leave until Jack was ready to do the leaving.
Ianto was convinced. Gwen was convinced. If he’d had half a mind to, Jack might even have troubled to convince himself that he was happy with the situation.
Then the old ghosts had come back to haunt him and things had gone horribly, horribly wrong.
It had been so easy to reach out to Gwen that he’d forced himself to send her away. He couldn’t stand the guilt of being glad she was still alive, when it was his fault that the rest were dead. He spent six months planning exactly how he was going to tell her everything, give her the choice to go with him, and give himself a chance for happiness. Then he saw her with Rhys and the evidence of life growing inside her and he’d wound up leaving Gwen with tears her eyes.
He was a coward and Gwen Cooper deserved a hero.
Oh for god’s sake will you please stop whinging? said a voice in his head that sounded like the one person who’d always been able to make him smile. So you screwed up. Happens to all of us sometimes. Now get off your arse, and go have some fun.
How could he have fun when…Listen to yourself. Please tell me I taught you better than that.
It was true. He couldn’t keep wallowing in self-pity forever. He was Jack Harkness, after all. Reputation to keep up and all that.
That’s when he sent John the message, naming a date and co-ordinates and went to wait for his old friend.
Funny thing attending your own funeral.
Seeing the mourners sitting in the pews. Hearing the priest commend your soul to the Almighty. Looking at your dear wife shedding copious tears, the miserable sow. Some day, about a hundred and forty years in the future, you’ll be telling Jack that you’ve been “living like a priest.” It will be a joke, but it won’t be as amusing as your current situation: wearing monk’s robes and serving at Mission San Francisco de Asís, in the city of St. Francis himself.
The con should have been simple enough, given the wild and wooly reputation of San Francisco in the 1860’s. All that gold still around from the gold rush, and no need to actually go out and dig it up yourself.
Anna was an easy mark in all senses of the word, and you’d honestly planned to grab the money and run, but things got a bit out of hand. The wench had come up pregnant and demanded you make an honest woman out of her if you wanted even a sniff of the money she’d inherited from her father.
There’d been a wedding and children. You were almost respectable for a few stultifying years there, but your habits got the better of you, and then Anna’s anger got the better of her. Luckily, she was a lousy shot. Not so luckily, she’d figured out a long time ago that you were not John Hart of County Meacham, as you’d been presenting yourself.
Bit of a relief not to have to put on the brogue anymore. Accents were never your strong suit. Neither was staying around for the fall-out, but this time you were well and truly stuck getting her off the hook for your murder. Hence the current situation. You can’t think of anyone less suited for holy orders unless it’s that bastard you used to run with and it’s pretty much his fault you came here anyway. Couldn’t leave his precious team to play for a few decades, even after you risked everything for him.
Well, fine then. You’ll stick this mess out in these moronic robes, and watch them bury another man in your place.
That’s the deal. She doesn’t hang and “Father John” will convince the widow to turn over a goodly portion of her assets to the Church. Then you’ll vacate yet another identity, with plans to meet Anna in Monterey and start a new life together. That’s what she thinks, anyway.
The priest is still droning on and Anna is still shedding her crocodile tears and you’re on the verge of passing out from a mixture of boredom and wine, when you feel a tingle in the vicinity of your wrist.
It’s been a long time since you felt that, and there’s only one person you still know to be alive who’d have the capacity to send you a message that way.
Nice timing, Jack, you think, and no matter how long you’ve been waiting to hear from him and how much you’d love to push back the sleeve of your robe, and push the “play” button on your wrist strap, you just can’t risk it.
Sorry, mate. I’ve got enough problems here without starting a witch hunt.
After all these years, it’s kind of nice to be surprised by sex; actually he’s downright shocked. Who would have expected the Master to be…gentle?
They’d exchanged looks over drinks and drinks over looks. It hadn’t taken much of either. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected from a man who’d killed over a tenth of the earth’s population with a smile on his face. He’d done horrible things to the Doctor and to Martha’s family, and saved his worst abuse for Jack, the deaths being the easy part.
Jack assumed he was buying into more of that, maybe a little punishment for what he’d done over the years.
The last thing he anticipated was to find himself lying face down on a bed -- well, ok, he’d thought that might have happened at some point, but not that he’d be positively seduced with soft kisses and light touches. Fingers that moved along his body, stroking, kneading, massaging. A voice that spoke his name in a sensual whisper.
Jack felt himself relaxing, being opened, spreading his legs wide, feeling happy and safe. It couldn’t be the same person. Maybe this was a different man. It was as if Harold Saxon had been real and Jack had been able to work his charms on him, exactly as he’d imagined, although he’d probably envisioned himself on top.
No, he knows better. He’s seen the havoc, heard the screams, knows what this man is capable of. There has to be some deeply twisted ulterior motive that even allows the Master to treat him like this; after all, the Master is a Time Lord and Jack is wrong.
He doesn’t care. It feels too good and he needs it too much. Needs to have that tongue licking him, teasing, delving between his arse cheeks, followed by fingers and then a long slender cock. The fucking is long and deep and slow and seems to go on forever. He loses track of time, of his own body, of his very identity, which is perfect. Absolutely perfect.
“Perfect…” he murmurs, sometime later. Much later. After the second, no, maybe the third time. He’s covered in sweat, there’s come on and in him, and he’s deliciously exhausted. It’s been…how long since he felt this good, this light? And the fact that it’s completely, utterly, dangerously wrong only makes it that much better.
“Yes, it was. But now we need to talk.”
Jack doesn’t want to talk. He’s not even sure he remembers how. He starts dozing off.
There’s both an anger and urgency in the voice.
“What’s the rush?”
“The doors are closing.”
That tone. The last time he heard it, the Doctor was talking about Rose being stuck on a parallel world. “The doors have closed,” he’d said then, a man in mourning.
“What doors?” he says warily, shaking off the sex-induced fatigue, feeling the adrenaline start to wake him up.
“I want my wife back.”
Now Jack has to shake off pure disbelief.
The Master is getting dressed, and each piece of clothing takes him further away from whatever he’d just been to Jack and closer to the evil being Jack has known.
He gives the Master his most skeptical look.
“You never loved her.”
“Oh, Jack. How can you say that?”
“I SAW!!!” he roars.
To which the Master merely shrugs as he knots his tie, and fixes Jack with a look that challenges his right to judge. He’s right, of course. Even if Jack tries to claim that he’s never raised a hand to a lover in anger, there is still the plain fact that no one has ever loved him and not been hurt in some way. There is no point trying to shame the Master. Logic probably won’t work either, but he decides to try anyway.
“She shot you.”
The Master sighs, apparently trying to restrain his temper, which worries Jack considerably.
“What couple doesn’t have their ups and downs? She’s my wife and I want her back.”
“Sorry. Not a marriage counsellor.”
“I don’t need a marriage counsellor, I need a hero.”
The last word Jack ever wants to hear again. He gets up and finds his trousers, prepared to get as far away as quickly as he can.
“I’m out of the hero business.”
“Don’t make this difficult.”
What exactly is the Master planning to threaten him with? Pain? Suffering? Death?
“Sorry. I’m a difficult guy. Complex, I think they call it.”
“And it’s your fault she’s stranded there.”
Jack is sick of things being his fault.
“Besides, you have to save your Miss Cooper, as well.”
“She’s not my…”
Again, the Master shakes his head, letting Jack know that the lies he tells himself to get through the day will do no good.
“Fine. What happened?”
“Right. I’m a coward. That’s been established. So why are you asking me to come to the rescue?” he demands.
“You were supposed to take care of her.”
At first Jack thinks this is another slam at his abandonment of Gwen, but then he realises what the Master is saying, and it’s another bulls-eye. He insisted that Torchwood, rather than UNIT, would take responsibility for Lucy Saxon, but then he couldn’t face her himself. Jack wanted to put that year behind him and every second of it still lived in her eyes. Luckily, Torchwood had someone who’d be able to help such a wounded creature.
“Gwen Cooper, meet Lucy Saxon.”
“I know. Do what you can. Help her get her life back.”
Gwen seemed to sense instinctively that Jack wanted to know as little as possible. She wrote reports and he signed off on all her requests without looking too closely. He can’t even remember the last time he thought about Lucy. He does know that Gwen takes her responsibilities seriously, especially ones she’s been given by Jack. Torchwood was blown apart, but as long as Gwen has breath, she’ll continue to do her job, including taking care of Lucy.
So if Lucy is “lost,” where is Gwen?
“You really thought that was a good idea, Jack? Your Gwen and my Lucy. You had to know what would happen. All that sensitivity. All that empathy. All that unrequited love. Made for each other in a way. Ah, you look shocked. Never had a clue, did you? Good thing you can’t die, because if you really are this stupid…”
The Master is at his most scathing now. Not bothering to conceal his hate and disgust as he had earlier.
“What happened?” he asks, holding back a sense of rising panic.
“What happened, Jack,” the Master says, drawing out each syllable for maximum sarcasm, “is that Gwen and Lucy were thick as thieves for months and you never noticed. Very, very close, if you take my meaning.”
He does, and for the briefest second all he can feel is jealousy and a hint of anger. If Gwen was willing to take another lover, why hadn’t she come to him?
“So?” he asks, warily.
“So, my dear Captain, poor, poor Lucy wanted to make her friend happy. But she couldn’t really, not until your little clubhouse went…” The Master trails off, then makes the approximation of an explosion with a graceful arc of his hands. “And then she could give Gwen what she really wanted.”
“Which was what?” Jack demands.
The Master shakes his head in a way that Jack can’t help thinking is extremely Doctor-like.
“You! She wanted you, but she thought you were in love with someone else.”
For a few seconds Jack is honestly perplexed. Gwen might have heard him speak wistfully of the Doctor, but has no way of knowing either the depth of his feelings or their hopelessness. He told her about the real Captain Jack whom he’d loved so fiercely for such a fleeting moment, but he was dead, as was his dear Estelle. So who the hell could Gwen have thought he loved enough to make it necessary to change reality?
Then it comes to him.
Ianto was convinced. Gwen was convinced.
He’d tried to keep his options open, giving Gwen little hints, a few hot looks and the occasional dirty joke. He wanted her to know that she could have him in a heartbeat, if she’d only give the word. Maybe it would have worked on another woman, but not Gwen. She believed in Jack and couldn’t let herself see him for what he really was.
Jack grits his teeth, clenching his fists in frustration. He is sick and tired of things being his fault.
“Yes, yes. Of course not. You couldn’t if you wanted to, really, could you?” The Master appears unimpressed by Jack’s show of emotion. “But we’re dealing with women. Beautiful, irrational women. And now they’re both stuck in a parallel universe and there’s a timeline that needs to be fixed.”
“Sounds like a job for a Time Lord,” he says, still wanting to walk away, even though he suspects he can’t.
The Master is quickly on his feet and reaching for Jack’s wrist strap.
“No, Captain. This is a job for a Time Agent.”
A man walks into a bar…Isn’t that how it always starts?
This time it’s not a joke. He’s been here before. It’s the place where he told Ianto to meet him for their “date.”
“Wear something red; it’s your colour,” Jack had tossed off, as a joke, after multiple reminders from Ianto in the subtle but pointed way that had become so familiar. Ianto had worn a red shirt, further proof that he’d do anything Jack wanted, anytime, anywhere. That knowledge had been a comfort when the wounds of the previous year were still so fresh.
He looks at the table where Ianto had been stood, looking somewhat uncomfortable, looking at his watch. Someone’s standing at the same table, alternately looking at the door, checking a watch and picking at long, polished nails.
Gwen in a dark suit, with a short skirt, high heels and a red blouse. Gwen, looking like a woman afraid of being stood up. Gwen, more breathtakingly sexy than he has ever seen her.
She bites her lower lip and scans the room again, her face lighting up when she spots him.
He walks over, putting on a smile to cover the confusion.
“Oh, there you are.”
“Here I am.”
“Thought something might have kept you.”
Since when had she been so unsure of herself?
“Nothing could keep me away from you,” he answers, sounding as casually flirtatious as he had that night, while meaning something so much deeper.
“Jack,” she says, seemingly struggling with the words, “we really haven’t had a chance to talk since you’ve been back. Or much before,” she adds ruefully. “But after what happened with Rhys…after you let me come back….”
He’s still lost. What had happened with Rhys? The situation with the alien being sold for meat was still weeks in the future.
“You know, I never meant for anyone to die. I came here trying to save him and I never thought…It was his only chance to survive after the Cybermen…I loved him, but…it was wrong.”
He gives a quick wave, the same one he’d given Ianto, to show this wasn’t anything he had any intention of discussing. There would be forgiveness only though denial. It’s what he’s good at, due to decades of practice.
The sense of déja vu is sickening.
This? This is the parallel universe that Lucy Saxon had brought about using the artifacts that Torchwood had accumulated and god only knows what genetic modifications the Master might have made during their time together.
And if this Gwen had used those incredible legs to wheedle her way into Torchwood 3 after the disaster at Canary Wharf, and her boyfriend Rhys had been the Cyberman, then who had shown up at the Hub with pizzas?
“You’re right. It’s been pretty busy since I got back. How’s everybody doing? Ianto holding up OK?”
Gwen shakes her head, while Jack admires the play of her hair and the slight jiggle of her breasts under that low-cut blouse; silk from the looks of it.
“He’s been amazing! You’d think he’d been with Torchwood for years instead of walking in less than six months ago. And he held us together after you left. Became the heart and soul of the organisation. It was a lucky day when PC Jones showed up, I’ll tell you that. I honestly don’t know how he does it. Always willing to listen to Tosh crying about Owen. You’d think he and Owen never…well that’s neither here nor there, is it? They’ve managed to become friends somehow. I think he’s realised how lucky he is to have Lisa and he doesn’t want to risk it again. He asked me to help pick out the ring before he proposed to her.”
Jack doesn’t know which strikes him as more implausible, Ianto and Owen having an affair in the first place or becoming friends afterwards. But he’s starting to wrap his head around the situation, and naturally certain other body parts are expressing an interest as well.
If this really is a parallel universe, then he knows exactly how this “date” ends up. Gwen has three keys somewhere on her person, each one to a different office, similar to the one where he’d initially asked her out to stave off the feeling of rejection brought on by what he now has to assume is the news of Ianto’s engagement to Lisa.
Gwen has procured the keys and will shyly show them to Jack once drinks had been ordered, demonstrating that her protestations about not having their date in an office had been meaningless. In fact, the date would consist entirely of sex in offices.
Jack has to suppress a slight groan at the image and the effect it has on him. He sees himself putting Gwen on a desk in what’s clearly a big executive’s office, pushing her skirt up and spreading her legs so he can fuck her. He’d pushed Ianto forward over the desk but he wants Gwen to be looking at him, wrapping her legs around his back. He can feel himself getting hard, and his cock stiffens further when he remembers there won’t be anything under her skirt but the garter belt holding up her stockings. Jack always trains his lovers to be as accessible to him as possible at all times.
The memory/fantasy has him so aroused he might not be able to wait. Maybe they could manage something in a stall in the loo.
For a second he wants to find Lucy Saxon, who at this point is still in UNIT custody, and snog her madly for bringing this reality about. His mind jumps to all the fun that lies ahead. Gwen sucking his cock in the SUV. Gwen in the hot-house. Gwen at his sexual beck and call with no inconvenient fiancé to make them both feel guilty. Gwen Cooper all his.
It’s a struggle not to surreptitiously rub himself through his trousers, and why the hell should he retrieve the artifact that’s sitting on his desk and bring it back to the Master? Why not stay right here and screw Gwen tonight, every night, the way he’s wanted to since he saw her staring down at him that night in the rain?
He shakes his head, trying to refocus himself and ignore his own insistent erection.
That isn’t Gwen in this universe; it’s Ianto. Here he is already fucking Gwen, even if she’s essentially been whoring herself to protect her boyfriend. Here he’ll be bored of Gwen in a matter of weeks, keeping up the charade out of pride, but always finding the dark places in bars and cinemas and alleys for his usual pleasures.
This Gwen isn’t the one who will challenge, fight and sometimes infuriate him, but still be the one he can talk to. In this universe, that’s Ianto, who is now home, presumably watching telly and being very cozy with his sweet little Lisa.
He’ll keep fucking Gwen while longing for Ianto, because that’s who he is.
Jack wishes he remembers more about parallel universes from his Time Agent training. Maybe it’s one of the memories that were taken away or maybe he just wasn’t a very good student.
OK, he’ll get the damn thing from his office. He only kept it on his desk because it reminded him a bit of the TARDIS and the good times with Rose and the Doctor, but he’ll have what he wants too, even if it’s just once. Time for him to suggest leaving for dinner and for Gwen to show him the keys.
Come on, he thinks, still anxious to have her on that desk, and then wishes he could stop thinking, because he remembers what’s going to happen in approximately six months.
If he takes Gwen to an office and does what he’s been wanting to do for so long, even if he’s already done it here, then she’ll be the one he’s trying to detach from when the 456 show up. She’ll be the one who pushes him to take action and the one who dies as a result of it. He can’t let that happen to Gwen, this one or any other. She cannot be in that room with him.
Jack asks himself if walking away right now will prevent those events from unfolding here, or if the pattern is fixed no matter what.
He doesn’t know and the more he thinks it through the more frustrated he gets. All the possibilities still lead to the same place and he doesn’t like it one bit.
Where the hell has John ended up? The thought isn’t completely random. John was always good at strategy, a chess player who could think at least ten moves into the future, or the past, as the case might be. Jack’s game is poker, but he doesn’t think he can bluff his way out of this one.
A waitress arrives with drinks. Gwen takes a sip and visibly works up the courage to pick up her purse and take the keys out, laying them on the table for Jack to see. Her smile, shy but also lewd, is nearly killing him.
“That’s great, Gwen. I knew I could count on you. But I just remembered, we have to stop back at the Hub first.”
“Just something I need to pick up.”
You’ve been riding for nearly an hour and you can tell the horse is going to give out soon. It’s hard to tell if the remnants of the mob have given up or are merely hiding in the fog that shrouds the shoreline, waiting for just this moment. It’s a chance you’ll have to take, and hardly your most foolish move today.
Talk about a deal going tits up! So close, so damned close after all these years, and the whole thing goes to hell in a basket. Who knew those priests actually took the whole celibacy thing so seriously? You had pretty much assumed the whole point of the robes was to make it easier to break that particular vow, but apparently not. At least not with a woman, specifically your lovely wife, when she’d come to give “Father John” the balance of her late husband’s assets, and one thing had led to…a bloody riot.
Not only were you exposed as the less than saintly character you were, but you were also recognized as the recently deceased John Hart, and all of his sins were rehashed as well.
You just managed to get a horse and ride away ahead of the police, who included two of Anna’s burly brothers, some vigilantes, and even (who’d have expected it) what appeared to be some representatives of the Inquisition itself.
The money is clearly a loss and once again it’s a matter of saving your own hide.
Fog swirls around, chilling you to the bone and the ocean roars against the shore as you divest yourself of the final trappings of the clerical life and redress in your normal attire.
The pursuers will find your horse and robe and perhaps console themselves with a tale of how you walked into the water to drown yourself out of guilt and remorse for your myriad crimes against God and man.
Meanwhile, you’ll be in another time and place, keeping a date.
Tosh and Owen are manning the Hub when Jack and Gwen arrive.
For a second he’s thrilled to see them again and wants to embrace both of them, letting them know how much he cares, but of course he can’t.
It’s a bit strange not to find Ianto there, waiting for him, until he remembers that in this universe, Ianto is the one with a happy home life, the one he wants but can’t have. It’s still hard to believe, until Owen says, “Back already?” in a tone that lets him know exactly what kind of relationship Jack and Gwen have here, and how little respect anyone, including Jack, probably has for it.
“Just a brief intermission,” he announces, gesturing for Gwen to follow him into his office.
Having her in there, knowing that she would (and has) immediately drop to her knees for him, is unbelievably tempting. Just once? he asks the universe at large, seeking permission and not getting it. He adds it to his list of grievances for the next time he sees the Doctor.
Instead he focuses on the piece of coral on his desk, the one that dropped through the rift sometime around 1964. It reminded him of the TARDIS, of the good times, even though he never had any proof that it had anything to do with the Time Lords themselves. Until now.
According to the Master, it is actually organic material from Gallifrey and has the capacity to cause temporal shifts as well as the creation of a parallel universe when handled by a Time Lord, or in this case a human who’d been… “modified” was the way the Master had put it.
At the time, Jack couldn’t help wondering if a little modification might make him a bit less wrong, but kept those thoughts buried under the overt revulsion at what Lucy must have gone through.
He reaches for the coral, ignoring Gwen’s growing look of confusion. Now all he needs is to punch in the coordinates on the Time Strap so that the Master can do whatever is necessary to make this version of his life dissolve like a bad dream. It’s slightly ungainly, but he’s almost managed it when a flash of light fills the room and the unmistakable figure of his old partner appears in front of him.
“You do not want to do that,” John announces.
“I have to. This universe has to be shut down. “
“What the hell is he doing here?” Gwen demands, aiming dagger eyes at John, apparently more concerned with the return of Jack’s ex-lover than the possibility of her very reality being obliterated.
“Miss Cooper, I must say, red is certainly your colour,” John leers, provoking more glares. “I’m here to stop this fool from giving a madman the keys to a rather extensive and dangerous kingdom. He’s a good-looking madman, I’ll give him that. You must have had him already, right Jack?”
Jack doesn’t have time to try and deny it and there’s no point looking at Gwen to see the hurt in her eyes. His jig is definitely up.
“Well, if you’d been there, instead of off gallivanting about like always.”
“Don’t go all Betty Crocker on me, sweetheart. You’re lucky I showed up when I did. I took one look at that bloke and I figured he wouldn’t be there if he hadn’t done something to you. Had to knock him about a bit, but I finally got something like the truth.”
Jack can’t keep the smile off his face at the thought of John delivering some serious punishment to the Master. There was a reason they’d been partners in every way, after all.
Gwen’s voice is taking on a depressingly familiar tone. He ignores it and addresses John, who has a weapon of what appears to be mid-19th century earth origin. Jack isn’t unduly concerned about its effect on him, but still wants to know what’s so important that John feels the need to threaten him.
“So why shouldn’t I take this back and get this place shut down? He’s just trying to get his wife back, right?”
“You fell for that one? Didn’t you pay any attention at all in training?” Jack shrugs. Because the fact is he paid attention to things that interested him and parallel universes were a bit esoteric for his younger self. “If you had, you’d know that the best way to close off a parallel universe is to use the combined energy of two of these in a synchronized wave pattern, whereas giving your handsome friend any of this stuff…very bad idea. Apparently you two have some history?”
Jack nods, and wonders how such a good con-man manages to get taken over and over again. Well, if Ianto (or Gwen) managed to do it, maybe he wasn’t that good after all.
“Oh, stop pouting,” John admonishes him, sounding exactly like the John in his head who’d told him to stop whinging. “You do remember how to program a synchronized wave pattern, right? We’ll do it in primes starting with 17 on my mark…”
Jack has no time to say anything to Gwen and can only hope that this universe will be well and truly eliminated. Nothing would be as bad as letting that happen to her.
The wrist straps hum and crackle, the whine grows to a nearly ear-shattering pitch and a light beam forms between the two straps. The world shimmers and dissolves around him and what feels like a sonic boom tries to knock him to the floor. Only John’s grasp keeps him on his feet and he doesn’t know if Gwen is screaming because her world is literally coming apart or if it’s because the last thing she’ll ever see is John and Jack embracing like the lovers they once were.
They’re still holding on to each other as they coalesce into solid reality back at the bar, coming face to face with an enraged Master.
“You fools! I will destroy you!”
“Not tonight, Josephine,” John quips, quickly brandishing a blaster to make the point.
The sound of a giggle draws Jack’s attention to Lucy who is standing by her Master, wearing a pair of jeans and a glossy black leather jacket along with a pair of quite fetching boots. Lucy has clearly been shopping with Gwen. His Gwen.
Everything is all right.
He detaches himself from John and graces the Master with his best inscouciant grin. So what if it buys him yet another death?
“You didn’t think you could really scam a Time Agent into giving you enough material to start taking over planets and decimating populations again.”
He suspect that John is smirking and rolling his eyes, but he trusts his partner to keep his mouth shut, at least until he wants to use this lapse against Jack in some way.
The Master looks like he’s torn between blowing them all to kingdom come and having a good pout.
“At least you got your lady back, and may I say she is quite a lovely one.” Jack has to admire John’s transition into smooth seducer. “We haven’t been properly introduced. Captain John Hart.” He even pulls off the bow while keeping a weapon fixed on the Master.
Lucy responds with a little curtsy and now Jack really expects the Master to raise a hand to wreak some havoc. He knows that this Master is operating mostly with the force of his personality, but suspects that he can still find ways to inflict massive damage. He wonders if John has any idea what kind of peril they might be in, but John seems too preoccupied with his flirtation to notice.
He does what he suspects John would in this case.
“Let’s have a drink.”
A drink becomes several, becomes enough for John to sheathe his weapons, and for Lucy to end up on his lap as he tells her tales and she listens raptly. Jack tries to quell a hint of jealousy. This was supposed to be his date with John, after all. When he tries to catch the Master’s eyes, if only to get a bit of attention or maybe an ally, he notes that the Master seems rather entranced himself.
That’s John for you.
Although not for him, apparently. Not this time. He wonders when they’ll have another chance, but he’s not too worried. John may not be immortal, but he’s definitely a survivor.
One who seems to have made an intriguing new alliance.
“We’re leaving,” he tells Jack, putting an affectionate arm around his shoulder. “You’re welcome to come along. I’ll bet that Lucy’s a real pistol.”
You have no idea, he thinks. He decides to give John the best warning he can.
“He’s evil and she’s mad.”
“And I’m a bit of both. We should get along famously.”
He can’t argue with that.
“Take care of yourself,” he says, and to fend off any mockery for getting sentimental after all this time, he kisses John on the lips, trying to express apologies and gratitude and a promise for the future all at once.
Lucy takes an interest and demands her own kiss good-bye. Jack gives it to her, aware that the Master is watching. He can practically hear the drums, telling him that they too will meet again.
Something to look forward to.
Alone with the same damn thoughts that had brought him here in the first place.
The taste he’d gotten in the parallel universe had reawakened the longing for Gwen. His Gwen.
It would be simple enough to find a transport. There wasn’t a ship in the galaxy he couldn’t talk his way onto.
He had no idea what would be waiting for him. Would he come back to find Gwen immersed in her life with Rhys and the baby? Did he have the guts to tell her the truth this time, to say the words he’d had to deny a dying man because they would have been a lie?
Jack could imagine her slapping him as easily as kissing him. Or one and then the other.
When I see the Doctor, first I’m going to kiss him, then I’m going to kill him.
It would be easy enough to keep traveling, keep running away, keep wondering what could have been. He could be who he’d always been and do what he’d always done. Earth still held all its dark memories and only one bright spark of hope.
Jack put down his drink and turned his boots toward Gwen Cooper.