Disclaimer: Jack, Alex, Suzie, Tosh and Owen do not belong to me. They belong to the BBC and to Starz, as does the concept of Torchwood. The characters from the other fandoms don't belong to me, either. Everything else belongs to me. I’m willing to share, just please ask first and return them to me intact.
Cardiff, Wales, UK
Alex Hopkins hadn’t quite figured out what to make of the newest member of his team. In the six months since Captain Jack Harkness arrived in Cardiff with his barely-out-of-her-teens wife, trying to figure out the handsome, somewhat enigmatic Torchwood operative was akin to herding cats. Even though that wasn’t really the best way to put it, nothing else seemed to even fit. Each time Alex thought he had the man figured out, Harkness completely threw him off balance. Worse yet, he seemed to take pleasure in it. And then there was his wife. Saying that she was barely out of her teens wasn’t entirely fair ... she would be twenty-four in June. But she tended to fade into the background, smiling affectionately at her husband all the while.
Not that he really saw much of Alexandra Harkness most of the time. Her husband was fiercely protective of her, wanting to keep her away from Torchwood as much as possible. Alex supposed he really couldn’t blame the man. Most Torchwood operatives didn’t live past their thirty-fifth birthday, if they were even lucky enough to reach that particular milestone. Lacey (a rather unlikely nickname for Alexandra) wasn’t a Torchwood operative, but she was married to one, and sometimes, that was all it took. And apparently, the girl had already taken out an alien bounty hunter looking to collect on a bounty for a former companion of the Doctor, Torchwood’s Public Enemy Number One. Alex found that very hard to believe, but it seemed the girl was far stronger and a helluva lot more resourceful than she appeared.
She also had her Bachelor’s Degree in History, with a minor in Anthropology, and lived in at least two countries while she was growing up. They found that out the hard way when someone made an uncomplimentary remark in Italian ... Alex really didn’t remember who it was or what it was or even what it was about ... and Lacey fired back a retort in very good Italian. She smirked at their stunned expressions and explained that she lived in Italy as a child while her father was posted at one of the United States Army bases in country and her roommate through most of college was the great-granddaughter of an Italian émigré. That was the last time anyone at Torchwood Three underestimated Lacey Harkness.
Of course, their view of her was further thrown off balance when they returned from a mission, about six weeks after the couple arrived in Cardiff and at Torchwood Three. Jack suffered a particularly unpleasant death that morning. Not entirely believing that Jack would revive, despite what he found in the archives, Alex called Lacey so she could say good-bye to her husband. His injuries were concealed from sight and he looked as if he was only sleeping. Upon their return in the early evening, the team caught Jack and Lacey engaging in conjugal relations in the med-bay ... it was particularly jarring to see Lacey straddling her husband, who was still lying on the autopsy table. No, that wasn’t the right way of putting it. Jack’s wrists were tied to the table, using his own braces, his legs looped around his petite wife’s shoulders as she trailed kisses along the insides of his thighs.
The new bride made an odd ‘eeping’ sound as she slid back up her husband’s body and hid her face against Jack’s chest, while he just smirked at them and asked if they would like to join in. No one saw anything, but there was the sound of flesh striking flesh and a yelp from Jack. However, he never lost his smirk. You would have thought that he was caught in that position on a regular basis. Then again, given the stories he often told, he probably did. His wife, on the other hand, couldn’t look at any of them for weeks. Alex later learned from a fiercely-blushing Lacey that it was her way of making things right with Jack after she botched rather spectacularly her first, last, and only attempt to give him a blow-job. She didn’t elaborate beyond a mumbled ‘panic attack’ and Alex dared not ask, especially not after seeing far more of both Jack and Lacey than he really wanted on that particular occasion. There were simply some things you didn’t want to know about your employees or their partners. Their mating habits topped that list.
And again, on the other hand, there was also the matter of Lacey at the funeral of Princess Diana the previous month. She stood at her husband’s side, a petite statue in black, executing a nearly-perfect curtsey when she was presented to the Queen and softly offering her condolences to Prince Charles and the two young princes. The girl would glance at Jack ever so often, as if to ask ‘am I doing it right?’ And then she would relax at his approving grin and wink. So very quiet, so very demure, it was hard to reconcile her with the little wanton whom Alex and the others caught in the med-bay with Jack. And he was just as bad, if not worse ... a strange combination of irrepressible flirt, steely-eyed warrior, and wounded child. That was how the man’s own wife described the various sides to Jack’s personality, and Alex wasn’t about to argue with her. She knew Jack far better, after all.
Besides, she happened to be right. He wasn’t entirely sure about the wounded child part, but he couldn’t deny there was a core of pain in Jack. The same man whom Alex saw grappling with a Weevil to distract it from another team member, he also saw comforting a terrified alien without even a hint of flirting. The same man who flirted outrageously with the entire Torchwood Three team showed only tenderness and compassion to the two young princes in the wake of their mother’s death, his eyes shadowed with an ancient pain. Everyone had more than one side to their personality, but Jack ... the different sides were pronounced. Not a split personality, just. . .
Sod it. He couldn’t figure either one of them out. He knew from the archives that Jack was far older than the thirty-four or thirty-five that he seemed to be; that despite his accent, he wasn’t American (his wife was, though); and that he wasn’t even from Earth. Alex also knew that back in the 1960’s, he was one of the delivery boys of a particular package to some aliens holding the British government hostage. Alex didn’t approve of appeasement. It never worked and it set a bad precedence. He approved of dumping all the blame on one person even less. However, he made a mistake in telling Harkness: the man made his standard flirtatious comment (something about having broad shoulders and wouldn’t Alex like to find out just how broad), but Alex could see the pain that flickered in the other man’s blue eyes. And so, no further mention was made of the events of 1965. That didn’t stop Alex from resolving to learn more, in order to better protect his entire team. Yvonne Hartman ran Torchwood One, and she was starting to scare the hell out of him, but if she made such a foolish choice, he would do everything within his power to stop her. Torchwood was formed to protect, not to endanger.
Cardiff, Wales, UK
“Everyone out of the way!”
Alex was out of his office and headed downstairs at the bellowed instructions before he even realized what he was doing. And then he saw Jack Harkness carrying a limp figure toward the med-bay, blue shirt stained with blood ... and not all of that blood belonged to the body in his arms. There was a flurry of activity, including the door to the conference room nearly exploding off its hinges as the occupant almost literally flew out of the room. Jack took note of the newcomer with a quick glance, glowered at Alex, but continued toward the med-bay. Oh yes, he would be hearing about this later, of that, Alex had no doubt.
Still, what was done was done, and they had a team member to save. Jack was settling the injured woman on the table as Alex arrived, and the immortal was breathlessly explaining what happened. About what he expected, even with what Jack wasn’t saying. She ignored what Jack told her and that was why she was lying on the table. Probably also why Jack died today, at least once today. Maybe more than once. The immortal paused, and then asked, “Why is she here?” This was said as the individual from the conference room joined Alex. Lacey folded her arms over her chest, glaring right back at her husband. There were a few sniggers at her expression, which died as she turned her glare onto them. Jack raised his hands into the classic ‘surrender’ pose and said, “I just. . .”
“We’ve had this conversation, Jack, even before we got married, and I had this conversation with my parents. I stopped being an innocent several years ago, when my father’s best friend was shot repeatedly with a crossbow while rescuing me, and I’m just as safe inside the hub as I am out in Cardiff. Probably even more so,” Lacey responded quietly. Well, Alex wouldn’t go that far, but he could appreciate her perspective. She continued, “I’ve respected your wishes, but I can do more good in here than I can by sitting at home and worrying about you.” She gave her husband a once-over, adding, “And it looks like I had reason to worry. Give me about ten minutes, and I’ll get you a change of clothes. Alex, I’m almost done with the notes I was taking. It shouldn’t be more than another hour after I get Jack’s spare clothes and I should be done.”
Alex nodded and Lacey disappeared back into the conference room, where she had been going through the journals and reports of past Torchwood operatives. She was trained as a historian, but also had a background in anthropology. When she approached Alex the previous day with the request to do something to help, Alex gave her the old journals and reports. It was intended just to keep her busy while he figured out what to do with her (and to ask Jack about it), but she began to use her training in a way that he never anticipated. Though Jack encountered these life forms before and knew about their habits, Lacey wisely pointed out that Jack wouldn’t always be available. What if he suffered an especially nasty death and the team encountered a problem while he was still dead? She could compile the information and add what she found to the Torchwood archives and the computer systems.
“I only want to keep her safe, Alex,” Jack lamented as he joined Alex, allowing the team medic to do his job. The head of Torchwood Three smiled sympathetically. . .ah yes, the lament of all new husbands in dangerous jobs. . . and he grew even more sympathetic when Jack went on, “I’m out of practice, doing domestic, and Lacey is still so inexperienced. She wants so much to please me, but she doesn’t have to. She doesn’t have to prove anything to me.” Which was, no doubt, the reason for Lacey and Jack’s tryst in the med-bay ... she was trying to prove herself to Jack. The question was, what was she trying to prove? Uhm ... no. Not his problem. Focus on doing his job and alleviate the mind of the new husband, so he could focus on his job.
For that reason, Alex explained, “I think, though, that Lacey is looking for more than just proving herself to you as a good wife and a good partner.” Jack frowned thoughtfully at this observation and Alex continued, “Think about it from her point of view. She’s thousands of miles away from her family and most likely homesick. She has you, but you’re often needed here. Finding a job is a bit dodgy, and she’s a recent college graduate. You work for Torchwood, an institute that is supposed to protect others. Lacey’s a very young and idealistic girl, and she wants to make a difference. She’s not a warrior, not a computer specialist. Yes, she’s a decent shot, but she hasn’t the training or the knowledge to be a real Torchwood operative. This is her way of helping us, of helping you.”
He enumerated each point on his fingers, seeing the understanding dawn in Jack’s eyes. Alex said softly, “I can’t guarantee your wife’s safety, Jack. But that’s true of here or your flat or the street. However, on the other hand, I can tell you this. The rest of the team may not know what to make of your wife, and they may not understand her, but there isn’t a person here who wouldn’t give their life for her. And I will not allow her near the dangerous tech.” Jack nodded slowly, still not looking happy, but accepting. Alex understood. She was his wife, but there were times when Jack saw the child she was once.
“Okay, here’s your duffel bag, Jack. Alex, did you want my notes typed up or turned in as is? I gotta warn you, my handwriting is plenty tiny,” Lacey warned as she rejoined the two men. Alex bit back a smile ... yes, he had seen her microscopic handwriting and told her that typed was perfectly acceptable. Lacey nodded and handed the duffel bag to Jack with a wary look before heading back up to the conference room. The door was closed quietly behind her, and Alex noticed that the immortal’s eyes never left his wife’s small, retreating figure. It wasn’t his place, but Jack had done his duty today and then some.
“Go after her, Jack,” Alex said quietly and the other man looked at him, startled. Alex reiterated, gently nudging his operative’s shoulder, “Go after her. I know, you didn’t argue as such, but it’s going to bother you both until you get this settled. I need her focused on her work, and I need you focused on the report you’re about to write. I’ve seen your reports when you’re distracted.” Jack tried to pout at that, but a reluctant smile drew the corners of his mouth upward. He nodded and strode after his wife, long coat billowing out behind him. Alex shook his head, not even bothering to hide his smile.
He still didn’t understand Jack or Lacey. However, he didn’t need to understand them, only accept them. And just to make sure Jack didn’t put his foot in his mouth, all the way up to his hip (it was known to happen), Alex trailed after his unofficial auxiliary member as well as her husband, stopping when he reached the door to the conference room. He heard Jack say, “You could have told me that you were homesick, Lace ... I would have understood.” Alex all but face-palmed. There was an exasperated sigh from the dark-haired woman currently shifting papers on the table and Alex had to grin. She was definitely one for preparations and thinking ahead.
“And how often were you homesick during those thirty-plus years you were exiled? Hmm? How often did you complain about feeling homesick? Never that I can remember hearing. Besides, it doesn’t make any sense for me to feel this way. This is not the first time I’ve been outside the US,” Lacey replied, turning to face Jack. She eased herself onto the table, legs dangling. Jack leaned forward, each hand on either side of her thighs. He was not, Alex noted, trying to intimidate her ... merely making sure they were on eye-level. Jack was in far too vulnerable a position to try to intimidate his wife.
“You’ve been outside the States, yes, but you were with your parents and sisters at the time. I don’t always understand family dynamics or those ties, but I do understand that having your family with you made all the difference in the world,” Jack pointed out. How long had it been since he lost his family? Jack never discussed what happened to his parents and whatever siblings he might have had. But Alex couldn’t forget the expression in Jack’s eyes as he comforted Princes William and Harry after they lost their mother ... as if it was a pain he knew too well himself.
“You’re my family now, Jack. I just ... I need to do something, aside from worry about you. I’ve read and kept the house in good order. And I still can do that. But I need to do something else, something when the house can’t take another cleaning and neither can I. I don’t miss Mama, Daddy, and the girls as much when I’m working. And I don’t worry about you as much, either,” Lacey replied. Alex drew back as Jack leaned forward to kiss Lacey, because he really didn’t need to see what came next. He had known the couple for more than a year, and that silence generally meant that they wouldn’t be stopping with a kiss. He blushed as he heard a low moan from Jack, unable to resist a peek inside. Lacey had wrapped her legs around his hips, drawing his body against her own.
Yes, he really needed to return to the med-bay. Maybe check for some things in the archives? This was liable to take a while. And if he moved a little faster after hearing more of the sound effects ... well, how could anyone really blame him for that?
December 31, 1999
This was the end. And it was the beginning.
For years, Alex Hopkins did his best to guide Torchwood Three, to protect humanity ... and this was how it ended. He looked around the Hub at his lost team, his lost friends. There was only one left, and he was lost in another way. His wife was right. . .there were three parts to his personality, although he would have described that part as ‘lost child’ rather than ‘wounded child,’ but it was all a matter of semantics. And it didn’t really matter, the semantics. He wished he could extend this mercy to the final member of his team.
That individual wouldn’t be back for another few hours, and there were things Alex still needed to say to Jack Harkness, things that couldn’t be said in a note, shouldn’t be said in a note. And so, he sat quietly in his office, looking through photographs taken during his tenure at Torchwood Three. He touched faces and whispered names, remembering these people. Not for the first time, he wished Jack’s exile had ended much earlier. He would die, and these people would be forgotten. Jack, however ... so long as Jack lived, the people whom he knew and loved would live on, even when he forgot their names or their faces.
And now he reached the part of the album which covered the years since Jack’s return to Cardiff. How long did it take before he started seeing the vulnerable man behind the masks Jack wore to protect himself? When, he realized, he actually started looking. Masks only worked for people who didn’t want to see past them. He smiled tenderly at the seemingly-young man in the pictures, who was laughing, smirking or sometimes not even paying attention to the camera. Those were Alex’s favorites, the pictures taken when Jack was wholly unaware that someone else was in the room or watching him. Not that he stayed unaware for long ... the man had a sixth sense about when someone was watching him.
He learned, quite by accident, that Jack lost his entire family when he was still a child. It wasn’t anything that Jack or Alexandra said ... rather, he learned it while in an audience with her Majesty and young Prince William. Once the formalities were out of the way, Alex noticed the young prince barely holding back his curiosity and once he received permission from the Queen, asked the boy kindly what he wanted to know. The boy asked after ‘Captain Harkness,’ adding that he had been so very kind to both William and Harry after the death of their mother. Alex answered the child’s questions, and then learned, quite unexpectedly, that Jack had told William that he lost his entire family when he was just about William’s age. It was rare to get such information about his operative, but Alex checked his desire to learn more. Instead, he told the young prince that Captain Harkness was well, that he just completed another mission successfully (and chose not to tell the boy that he had died three times during the mission).
Once the youngster rejoined his father and brother, Her Majesty thanked him quietly for not revealing Jack’s inability to die. It was still close enough to the loss of his mother that William might have asked uncomfortable questions about whether Jack could have saved the Princess of Wales. There was no point in causing the boy further pain. No point whatsoever. And he wished he could spare Jack the pain that was coming. Alex knew the future, thanks to that damned artifact, and he knew that Jack, particularly with the support of his father-in-law, was in a better position to stop the terror coming ... or, at the very least, blunt it. Maybe there was nothing anyone could do to stop the horror, but Jack could at least blunt the worst of it. And Alex himself? He could spare the rest of his team from that horror, but not Jack. When he realized what was coming, and after the others were dead, he briefly thought about going to the flat Jack shared with Alexandra and granting her that mercy as well. However, he didn’t put it past Jack to find a way to bring him back to life, just to kill him again, if he laid a finger on Jack’s young wife. So he left her alone.
And Jack would need her, in the days and weeks and months ahead. Yes, there would be a day when she would die and he would once more be left alone. But until that time, she could assist her husband. He learned that she was actually pretty good with administrative tasks, and commented on it one day while he was reading over her notes. She smiled ruefully and admitted that as she grew up, she usually helped her mother keeping order in the house. Her mother had a full-time job, just as a military wife. However, she also had three daughters, and Corinna Winton Keller needed all the help she could get. They said that one could accomplish more with honey than with vinegar, and Alexandra was certainly more ... diplomatic than Jack.
On the other hand, sometimes vinegar was necessary and would work far better than honey. They would figure it out, between the two of them. They were better when they worked by instinct, especially Lacey. If she, if either of them, over-thought things, that was when they got into trouble. Well, well, well. Turned out that Jack was right about that as well. Over-thinking led Jack to be overly protective of Lacey, while that very same stimuli had Lacey doing things that didn’t appeal to her at all, in order to be a good wife to Jack. Yes, while logic had its place, so did instinct. He smiled at a picture of the party they had at a local pub for Lacey’s twenty-fifth birthday ... was it really only six months earlier? Indeed it was. Lacey beamed at the camera, perched happily in her husband’s lap, his arms holding her firmly in place as the rest of the team circled around the couple, laughing with the pair.
Oh, there were such good times in this subterranean base! Alex blinked, his eyes growing misty, no doubt because of the dust. It was ending badly, but Torchwood, he believed, was a phoenix. It would rise from its own ashes and become something even greater. The previous decade, there was a children’s show, in which the heroes used the phoenix as their symbol. He always loved the idea of the phoenix, of life coming from death. Alex willed Jack to be that phoenix for Torchwood ... because while the Institute itself was flawed, its mission was not. It was designed to protect humanity from those who would do harm to the still very young species. And perhaps the Doctor should not be considered Public Enemy Number One ... Jack didn’t seem to think so, and he knew the Time Lord better than Alex.
He will change that, Alex decided, that will likely be the first thing he will change. Most likely, the only similarity between Torchwood Three and Torchwood One will be their names, because I doubt Jack will want anything to do with Yvonne Hartman’s insanity. Alex chuckled to himself ... he almost wished he could be there during that confrontation. But ... his smile died away, but that wasn’t possible. He wasn’t entirely sure if he believed Jack’s assertion that there was nothing after death. Alex liked to think that he would be able to watch over his successor after his own death. He hoped so.
And then, he heard Jack’s voice. It was time, then. Alex gripped his sidearm and prayed for the strength to finish this.
They were dead.
They were all dead.
They were all dead, and Alex’s still-warm blood spattered his face.
Jack returned from dealing with the Millennium Bug (seriously? An actual freaking bug? REALLY?), to find nearly all of his teammates dead where they had fallen. He returned to the base which had been workplace and home to him for the last two and a half years, to find his teammates, his friends, dead, and only moments later, his boss killed himself in front of Jack as well. And now, Torchwood Three was his. More than one hundred years after his initial encounter with Alice Guppy, Emily Holroyd, and Charles Haskell, he was the head of Torchwood Three. Jack wanted to laugh. He wanted to cry. He wanted to put his fist through something. But none of those would do any good, and he had to see to his (late) teammates.
One by one, he carried them to the crypt where their predecessors slept. One by one, he gently laid these members of an unexpected family to rest on a slab, before sliding them into their resting place with equal gentleness. It wasn’t until he placed Alex on his slab that Jack finally allowed himself to break down and cry. As he slid down the metallic drawers that kept so many people whom he knew and loved over the decades, he wept soundlessly. Especially after he realized what caused the damn murder-suicide. It was all so damn ... wrong! The artifact played upon the darkest fears of the user, there was no reason for this to happen!
He probably would have remained there for far longer, but his mobile began to ring. He tapped his earpiece and heard, “Jack? Did everything go okay tonight?” Lacey. He choked back a sob, and Lacey asked, now sounding worried, “What’s wrong, sweetheart? Do you need ... do you need me to come to the Hub?” She made a sound that seemed like a gasp of pain or a choked-back whimper, but it could have just as easily been the result of sore muscles from sitting in one position for far longer than she should have.
“No. The crowds are going to be unreal tonight, Lace. Stay home, stay safe. I have it under control. Just don’t know when I’ll be home,” Jack replied hoarsely. And then, because he never could hide things from her for any length of time, he added, “They’re all dead, Lace. The entire team, they’re all dead. Alex killed them, and then he killed himself, because of a stupid artifact that doesn’t even do what he thinks, thought, it did!” There was a sharp inhale of breath from Lacey and Jack closed his eyes. Shouldn’t have told her like that, shouldn’t have. . .
Lacey’s voice, when it came once more, was calm and steady, telling him, “You do what you need to do for them, Jack. I’ll be here at home, waiting for you. Have you eaten tonight?” Jack thought he said ‘no,’ but the night had taken such a horrific turn, he really wasn’t sure if anything he said. His ever-practical bride responded, “I’ll have something light for you when you get home. Is there anything else I can do, once you get home? Aside from have a light meal for you and hold you?”
Jack allowed himself a hoarse little laugh and responded, “I think that will be what I need most. Maybe a shower. Lacey-Lace ... I’m Torchwood Three now. All the years I worked for this Institute, and now I’m the head of. . . I’ll need your help.” Because that was the one thing that was clear to him. He couldn’t put this branch back together without help of some kind. He was a soldier, not a diplomat, and he knew from Alex (and past directors) about the growing tension with UNIT over the last few years. The UNIT he remembered from the years before his exile no longer existed and the new UNIT scared the hell out of both Jack and Alex. Or maybe the new UNIT was really the same as the old UNIT. You could never tell.
“Then I’ll do whatever I can to help you, love, you know that. Now, if there’s nothing else you can do there right now, program your wrist-comp to notify you if there are any issues with the Rift, and then come home. I’ll have food and a shower ready for you when you get here,” Lacey replied quietly, the steadfast tone doing oh so much to settle Jack’s jangled nerves, along with the sensible suggestions. Yes. There was nothing more he could do here tonight, and right now, he couldn’t bear to stay in the Hub. Not tonight. There was a brief pause, another pained sound from Lacey, then his bride said gently, “I love you, Jack, and we will get through this. Together. I promise you that.”
And when Lacey said that, he believed her. He asked softly, “How do you know what to say and what to do to make me feel better? How is it that you’re always strong when I feel like I don’t have the energy or the strength to take another step?” It was a question he often wanted to ask his mother-in-law, but never quite had the stones to do. There was a faint laugh, and again, Jack thought that his wife sounded like she was on the verge of tears. But why? He didn’t think it was because of Alex and the others, although it was possible.
“I’m the daughter of a military wife, Jack, I’m a military brat. And even though my husband doesn’t serve in the US military, I consider myself a military wife as well. That’s what we do, Jack. We hold it together, even when we feel like we’re falling apart on the inside ... especially when we feel like we’re falling apart on the inside. Because our husbands are fighting another battle to keep us safe, and they, you, need to know that we’re okay,” Lacey replied. There was a hidden meaning mixed in there somewhere, but right now, Jack was too tired and too heartsick to puzzle it out. Lacey would tell him when she was ready.
“Okay. Okay, that makes sense. I’m coming home, Lacey. Will you let me hold you for the rest of tonight? Right now, I don’t feel up to being the dashing Captain Jack Harkness,” he told her. There was a soft huff of laughter, reminding him that Lacey married the human (mostly) man, and not the captain. Reassured, Jack checked the Rift and programmed his wrist-comp for the incoming Rift alerts. He checked the Hub for any possible survivors (or invaders, given the chaos of the last few hours), then headed to the flat he shared with Lacey. As promised, she had a light meal ready for him and while he ate, got the shower ready for him. Once he was clean and fed, he curled up in his wife’s arms and quietly wept as she held him.
It wasn’t until three days later that he learned on the same night Alex Hopkins murdered his team before killing himself, his wife miscarried their first child.