The brilliant light that had signaled the opening of the rift faded as Jack and Tosh sped towards the staircase. Jack hoped it was closing behind them, but he strongly suspected things would not — could not — be so simple. He was rounding the landing midway down the stairs when something caught his eye and stopped him dead in his tracks. Toshiko nearly plowed into his back, but he didn’t notice.
There, on the wall. Bad wolf. He muttered the words under his breath and knelt down to touch them.
“Jack!” Tosh’s urgent voice barely registered as memories flooded Jack’s mind. Memories of nuclear power plants and eggs, satellites and Daleks, Rose Tyler and the right kind of Doctor. He traced his fingers over the letters one by one.
“Captain!” Tosh was practically shouting now, shaking his shoulder with a panicked edge to her movements. “Captain, we have to move!”
Jack shook himself out of his stupor. He kissed his fingers and pressed them to the wall, then shot to his feet and down the stairs. He was out the door and into Gwen’s arms before he’d really finished processing. As Gwen turned to hug Tosh, Jack stared up at the building, his mind racing. What did it mean, seeing the words that had dogged their steps there, in a place he was certain neither the Doctor nor Rose had ever visited? Was it a message, or a coincidence?
He pushed aside thoughts of the graffiti as well as lingering grief for his namesake. His team needed him — a fact underscored by Gwen’s return to his arms after hugging Tosh. He stroked her hair gently and pressed an absent kiss to the top of her head. There was more work to be done, and standing here feeling sorry for himself or confused about things wasn’t going to get it done.
“We should get back to the Hub,” he said, injecting as much authority and confidence into his tone as he could muster. “I’m sure Owen and Ianto will be wondering what’s happened.”
Gwen and Tosh nodded. “I’ll follow you in my car,” Gwen replied.
Jack and Tosh headed towards the SUV, Jack automatically heading for the driver’s seat. As they pulled away from the curb, he felt Tosh’s gaze burning into the side of his head.
“What does it mean, Jack?”
“Bad wolf,” she said impatiently. “What does it mean to you?”
Jack sighed, staring at the road ahead without consciously seeing it, only years of cultivating instincts keeping his driving impeccable. “It means my past is catching up with me.”
Or so he hoped.
“Rift activity has been increasing, slowly but steadily, since Owen opened it yesterday.” Tosh pointed to the CCTV feed of the plaza above their heads, where more people than usual milled about. Odd occurrences attracted attention, and the rift was causing more than its share of odd occurrences. The team stood behind her, watching as she gestured across the screen. “We know there’s a fault line here — we’ve always known that.” She gestured to other monitors, showing similar scenes in other cities across the country. “But now it seems there are more cracks… here…” she moved her hand across the blue-tinged picture of Trafalgar Square. “And here…” she touched the grainy image of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. She switched those two images to maps of the British Isles, peppered with red dots. “Increased rift activity in all these places.”
She turned around to face the team. “And that’s not all.” She clicked a button and one of the maps switched to a world map. “It’s not just Britain, it’s everywhere.”
“And this is my fault?” Owen interjected. “We’re blaming me?”
“I’ve run a profile on every reported temporal anomaly and tracked any physical or temporal pattern.” Toshiko turned back to the computer and hit a series of keys. Red lines appeared, connecting the dots so that they showed clear fault lines leading back to one place: Torchwood.
“Shit.” Gwen muttered.
“The cracks in time trace back here to the rift.” Jack’s voice was cold. “We are at the center. So yes, Owen. The rift is splintering because of you.” He fixed a hard stare on Owen, whose own eyes hardened in response.
“If it wasn’t for me, you two would still be in the 1940s. So are we going to sit around crying into our lattes, or shall we do something about it?” Owen looked at Jack expectantly, but Jack was no longer looking at Owen. His gaze was caught by the monitor still running CCTV feed of the plaza above. “Oi, Jack! You paying attention?” Owen’s voice rose slightly.
Jack ignored him and reached out to the monitor, his fingers brushing over a young-looking blonde turned mostly away from the camera. “Turn around,” he whispered, nearly inaudibly. “Turn around, sweetheart. Let me see your face.”
Gwen glanced around at the rest of the team, hoping that perhaps this behavior was some aspect of Jack’s personality she just hadn’t experienced before now. Unfortunately, they looked as mystified as she felt. She reached out and touched his shoulder lightly. “Jack?”
But her voice went unheard as the woman chose that moment to turn her face to the camera and Jack tensed.
“Rose Tyler.” His voice was low and controlled, but there was an undercurrent of excitement underneath that the team wasn’t sure they’d ever heard in it before. Then he lunged forward and kissed the screen smackingly, a huge grin on his face. “Rose Tyler, you beautiful girl!” Without stopping his motion, he pushed away from the console and sprinted towards the elevator. “Watch her!” he yelled over his shoulder. “If she leaves the plaza, I want to know where she goes!”
Gwen and Ianto ran after him. “Jack!” Gwen shouted. “What are you doing? Who is she?”
But Jack was tapping his foot impatiently and staring up towards the sky. Moments later, he’d reached the top, and Gwen and Ianto sprinted back to the monitors. The team watched in disbelief as Jack stepped into the plaza and ran towards the mystery woman. He shouted her name, and they could see as she turned that she was already saying his name before she caught sight of him.
“She knows him,” Ianto murmured. “She knows him by his voice.”
On the monitor, the woman had caught sight of Jack and was running to meet him. To the team’s continuing surprise, he caught her in his arms and spun her in circles, laughing delight evident on both of their faces. The team glanced around at each other incredulously. Jack was an affectionate man. But this joy… this was new.
Out in the plaza, Jack stopped spinning but kept Rose off the ground. He rained quick kisses over her face, enjoying the sound of her laughter. Finally, he set her on her feet and smiled down at her.
“You are by far the most beautiful thing I have seen in years, Rose Tyler.”
“Captain Jack Harkness.” She beamed. “I could say the same for you.” Jack kissed her full on the mouth, and it was so Jack she could have cried. Friendship, affection, and something like love all tied up in one mostly-chaste kiss — no one could do that like Jack Harkness.
He pulled back and glanced around the plaza. “Is he —”
“No, he’s not with me.” Even after having spent three years in the parallel universe, her voice still broke over the admission. Jack’s face fell, but he gathered Rose against his chest.
“He didn’t leave you on purpose,” he said. It wasn’t a question, but she shook her head anyway.
“I got trapped in a parallel universe when we were savin’ the world. Epic battle between Daleks and-”
“Cybermen?” Jack exclaimed, pulling back to arm’s length to see her better. At her nod, he let out a short laugh. “You survived Canary Wharf? Your name was on the casualty list.” He pressed a joyous kiss to her lips. “God, I thought I was going to have to spend our entire time together now avoiding the subject so as to not discuss your death! So he was there, then… of course he was there. Who else could save the Earth from Cybermen and Daleks at the same time?”
Rose nodded sadly. “Only the last of the Time Lords. He opened the void so that everything that had passed through it and had void stuff on it would get sucked in. We’d been through it because we got trapped in the parallel world once, with Mickey.”
“Mickey the Idiot traveled with you?”
Rose punched his shoulder. “That’s Mickey Smith, Defender of the Earth to you, Captain Harkness.” Jack took one look at her face and wisely contained a chuckle. Rose continued. “He tried to send me to the parallel world along with Mum an’ Mickey an’ my dad from the parallel world, but I came back.”
“Somehow, I’m not surprised.”
“Yeah, well. He was going to let me stay, he knew I wouldn’t leave him, an’ we were holding on to these, I don’t know, these weighty things this secret government agency called Torchwood had built from alien tech. But I… I couldn’t hold on. An’ I almost got sucked into the void, but Dad came back and caught me and took me to the other world.” Her eyes filled with tears. Jack reached out and tenderly tucked her hair behind her ear.
“And you never saw him again.”
Rose smiled sadly. “He burned up a sun to say goodbye.” She sniffed. “Set the TARDIS orbiting a supernova and projected himself through a tiny little tear.”
Jack returned her smile. “He loved you.”
She nodded. “Oh, I know. I always knew.”
Jack wished he could be so sure for himself. From either of them.
He glanced around the plaza. Most people were ignoring them, though some watched with smiles on their faces, probably imagining long-lost lovers with epic love stories. Jack put his hand at the small of Rose’s back and led her towards the front entrance of the Hub.