On a sunny and clear spring London day that was not marred with even one cloud in the sky, something unusual in a form of a blue police box appeared in a park. Luckily, it was Tuesday morning so not many people were around to notice it. Out of the door of the small police box bounced out a man who looked about forty and a young woman of about twenty-three.
“Here, we go. London. The year: two thousand and five. One thousand years before you were born and before the Earth knew much about aliens, as you requested. Quite thrilling time too. Marvelous time! They still think they are the center of the universe,” said the man to his companion while throwing his arms wide as if to show her the whole of the city at once.
“Oh, Doctor, this is quite exciting!” said the young woman. She continued, “Look at those trees. There are so many! And the air! It’s so smoggy! Can we see the shops and the river and, look, pigeons! Jack, you need to come see this!” She turned back toward the door of the police box and looked at it expectantly.
Another man came out of the police box, not with as bouncy but with more of a confident stride. He had some gray hair on his temples, wore a nicely fitted coat and he looked, perhaps, forty-two. His smile lit up his very handsome face.
Jack said, “Lizzy, calm down. The city is not going anywhere. And you’ve seen the Regelian Waterfalls and the Medusa Cascade; this is just a historical London. Besides I spent some time on Earth in this century, it is not altogether new for me.”
“You did, didn’t you?” said Lizzy. “How long has it been since you were last on Earth, in this place? I mean, I met you in my time but did you time travel to get there? I don’t think I ever asked.”
“A thousand years for me, Lizzy. No time skipping anymore. Someone always drops me off fairly close to when he picks me up when he needs help and he won’t let me use my vortex manipulator no matter how many times I fix it,” said Jack looking sideways at the Doctor.
“Well, it is easier for the timelines. How else am I going to keep track? My timeline is a bit different than yours,” said the Doctor.
“Hey, at least you let me travel with you again,” said Jack.
“At least you say yes most of the time when I ask you to travel now and you stopped trying to blow up planets! That took me ages to sort out. Not traveling was your punishment.” said the Doctor.
“Stop it, boys! Here we are a thousand years before the time I was born, I want to explore!” said Lizzy.
“Sorry,” Both the Doctor and Jack said at the same time.
“So Jack, since you lived on Earth in this time period, what is the best place to start?” asked Lizzy.
Jack furrowed his brow. After a short pause he said, “I have no idea. When I was living here in the twenty-first century – or now, I suppose, I wasn’t in London. I was based in Cardiff, that’s a few hours off. I would come up to London sometimes but not for long. I don’t remember much. Now London in three thousand and eight, I can tell you all the best places to get in trouble!” Jack grinned again. Lizzy slapped him on the arm.
“Hmm,” said Lizzy, “Well, is there anything you do remember?”
“The aliens? But that’s later. Let me think. 2005. What was I doing in London then? Before the aliens became commonplace and in the open we had more work to do to keep a lid on things. We must have. Yes. I remember coming to London only for occasional Torchwood One briefings and after we would go to…” Jack trailed off. He looked startled. He looked at the Doctor, “Wait, Torchwood One is still here?”
The Doctor nodded and then his voice got louder, “Jack. What are you thinking? You better not be thinking what I think you’re thinking! You can’t interfere!”
Jack’s face was cautiously hopeful as if he was putting some sort of puzzle together. He said to no one in particular, “Not interfering, right. 2005. Torchwood One is still here. And he would be how old? Yes. Yes.” He grinned again. “You two go ahead, I’ll catch up.”
“Jack, don’t you dare!” Doctor moved to intercept as Jack tried to wander off. Lizzy looked at them uncertainly.
“What’s going on? And what is Torchwood?” she asked. The men appeared to ignore her.
“I’m not going to interfere! I promise. Can’t I just look around?” He looked at the Doctor pleadingly.
At that exact moment something beeped. They all were a little startled. The Doctor reached into his pocket and pulled out a gadget. It was pulsing with a maroon light and beeping.
“Doctor? Why is the sonic screwdriver beeping?” asked Lizzy.
“No. No. No. Why are you? You shouldn’t. But that is impossible! Yes!” The Doctor smiled and looked at both of them. “We have to go. This is detecting an energy matrix that should not be here. Definitely alien and not of this century. Need to follow it, come on.”
Lizzy clapped her hands in excitement and started to move at a fast pace behind the Doctor to the west side of the park. Jack began to walk fast in an opposite direction.
The Doctor stopped to look back at him, “Jack. We have no time for this! Aliens to find and possibly a planet to save!”
“You can handle it! You and Lizzy will be fine. I’ll just go for a few hours. Three at most. Maybe four. I’ll be back. Don’t leave without me. I promise I won’t interfere. Not even a step inside Torchwood One!” Jack was running backwards as he kept talking to them. He was also pushing buttons on his wrist strap. Then he smiled again and turned to run to the east side of the park.
“Damn it!” Doctor seemed to waver but his sonic screwdriver was beeping again. “Fine, let’s see what this is. Jack is a big boy.” He turned, smiled excitedly, grabbed Lizzy’s hand and they took off running. “He better not mess up the timelines,” The Doctor mumbled as they ran. The screwdriver beeped again. London a thousand years in the past was turning out to be delightful.
“Are you sure he’s here? This area is not that interesting, all concrete and, well, not that pretty,” Lizzy said as she followed the Doctor.
The Doctor was holding another gadget in front of him and he kept looking at it before changing direction slightly to avoid a tree. “Yes, yes, he’s close according to this. I can track his vortex manipulator with this. And don’t tell him. He doesn’t know I calibrated this to track his specific one. Never know what trouble Jack can get into. And Torchwood London is here,” said the Doctor while still following the red arrow on his gadget.
“But why would he be here? Of all the places in London? This looks depressing! And what is Torchwood?” Lizzy started asking after another minute.
The Doctor looked up at her and pointed to a very tall building to their left without stopping his stride. He said, “See that building? That is Torchwood. Well, Canary Wharf. Well, One Canada Square if one wants to get technical. The tallest building in the United Kingdom right now for a few more years. 50 storeys. All because of a tiny hole in time and space. Jack worked for Torchwood, but not this one, the one in Cardiff. He better not have gone inside this one.”
“Yes, but what is Torchwood? What do they do?” Lizzy asked.
“Find aliens and their technology. Defending the Empire,” Doctor replied. Then he added, “I’m their number one enemy. Not a great place, this Torchwood. That’s why we took a cab not the TARDIS. Never mind, then. Let’s find Jack.”
“But Doctor…,” said Lizzy.
“There!” said the Doctor. He pointed to a small park ahead and Lizzy could see Jack sitting beside a tree. The Doctor quickly put his gadget in this pocket. They came closer but Jack hadn’t noticed them. He was just sitting by his tree starring intently ahead.
“Jack!” said Lizzy as they came closer. She could see Jack better now. He was leaning against the tree looking quite relaxed and happy and he had a smile on his face while continuing to stare. At the sound of his name he twitched, turned and grinned at them.
“Doctor! Lizzy! You’re back! How did the saving the planet go?” he said enthusiastically. He remained sitting so Lizzy sat next to him.
“Oh, it was fabulous. They wanted to destroy the whole city but the Doctor stopped them with just a pen. Can you imagine? Just a little pen,” Lizzy recounted smiling.
“I don’t doubt it,” said Jack. “Doctor, sit. Enjoy the rare sunny London day. This day is just perfect.”
Jack was looking ahead again and he seemed very content. The Doctor sat down. “So if you are not going into Torchwood One, why are you here? Are you ready to go back? There was this colony in the Arctus system that I wanted to show you and Lizzy. With bears who have six paws!”
“Can we just sit here for a little while? Another fifteen minutes. Then the lunch hour will end and we can go anywhere in the universe,” said Jack, still looking ahead. Lizzy looked at Jack, puzzled. She probably never saw that type of expression in Jack’s eyes before. It was … tender. The Doctor looked in the same direction as Jack, frowning a little, but then he just relaxed against the tree.
Lizzy turned her head to see what Jack was looking at. A little farther from them, clearly visible, was a young couple eating their lunch. The young man was very pale but well dressed and handsome and he was laughing at something the young woman was saying. She was dark skinned and quite beautiful. She held a sandwich in her hand as she gestured with it and seemed to be telling quite an amusing story. Lizzy could hear the sound of their voices but they were too far for her to hear their conversation. They looked like a perfectly normal couple eating their lunch. Lizzy, puzzled, looked at Jack again to see if maybe he was really watching something or somebody else. But, no, his gaze was intently focused on the couple in front of him.
“Do you know them?” asked Lizzy.
Jack didn’t say anything for a minute. Then he nodded. “Yes. His name is Ianto. Ianto Jones. Isn’t he gorgeous? Her name was …” He looked pensive for a while as if he was trying to remember something just out of reach. “I can’t remember. It was a long time ago. She was his girlfriend and he loved her with all of his heart. I don’t think he knew how to love otherwise.”
“Oh,” said Lizzy. “How did you know them?”
“I didn’t really know her. Just him. He conned me into giving him a job,” Jack smiled as if recalling something very fun.
“He did? I never knew that! He doesn’t look like a con man,” exclaimed the Doctor.
“For a right cause he could be very persistent,” said Jack.
“Wait, you said Ianto Jones. Why does that name sound familiar?” Lizzy asked. Jack shrugged. Lizzy looked down and her eyes fell on Jack’s hands which were holding an old stopwatch.
“Your stopwatch!” Lizzy exclaimed. “Your broken stopwatch that you never want to fix but always have with you! Ianto Jones. That’s the name inscribed on the back of it! You never answered me before when I asked about it.”
Jack just smiled and kept looking at the couple. Ianto was leaning towards the young woman and sharing a piece of fruit with her. Jack’s hands were holding the watch very tightly.
“So why do you have a watch with the name of someone who lived a thousand years ago? Or is he a time traveler or something?” Lizzy could not contain her curiosity.
“No, not a time traveler. I haven’t seen him properly in almost one thousand years, maybe a little bit longer. He was...special. I wanted to remember him. I promised. So I have his name on the watch to remind me. Not that I really need it to remind me. He liked this stopwatch,” Jack replied.
“So you tracked him down. To see him again. Jack, that could be dangerous, especially if you are crossing timelines. And you could be recognized here,” said the Doctor.
Jack turned towards the Doctor and raised his eyebrow “Really?” He said. “You’re the one to talk. I just wanted to see him. And I was very careful. I just… I don’t remember the details. I wanted the details again. Some things are just gone. His voice, for example. I forgot his voice. He has such a lovely voice. Just listen to his laugh. And look at his suit.” Jack sounded wistful.
Lizzy nodded her understanding. “You loved him,” she said. Jack did not answer.
“What made him so special?” Lizzy asked softly biting her lip but not really expecting Jack to say anything. The couple ahead of them started to wrap up the remains of their lunch. Ianto was looking at his watch and speeding up the clean-up.
“He had such a big heart.” Jack started speaking suddenly. “One of the biggest. And he was brave and strong. And very funny. And he was always there when I needed him. He was there with fantastic coffee and a good ear and he’s sexy and he … He was my Ianto.”
Ianto and his girlfriend finished cleaning up and started walking toward the big building Lizzy and the Doctor had passed earlier. Jack watched them go. When they were some distance away, he got up and put the stopwatch into his pocket.
Doctor briefly put his hand on Jack’s shoulder. He said, “Well, are you ready to go now?”
Jack paused still looking in the direction the couple had gone. “Yes. Let’s go.” He started walking, with Lizzy and the Doctor following him.
“Lisa,” Jack said after a few minutes.
“What?” asked Lizzy.
“Her name. Ianto’s girlfriend.” Jack said. “I think her name was Lisa. She is going to die soon. And I wish he didn’t have to go through that.”
“Yes,” said the Doctor.
They walked in silence for a while.
Then Jack turned to them, “So Arctus. Do you think those bears have more than one...”
“Jack! Stop it!” Doctor and Lizzy both said at the same time.