Panic rose in his throat as the inevitable dawned on him; he wasn’t going to make it out of this alive. “Peggy, it’s no use, there’s not enough time. I have to put her in the water,” he declared, trying to sound calmer than he felt.
“No, Steve, there has to be another way! I’ll have Howard grab your co-ordinates, find you a place to land,” the Brit insisted, and Steve wished he could believe her.
“I can’t, the bombs are already armed; I land her anywhere, it goes up with me in it. It’s safer this way, I’m sorry.” He paused, biting his lip, his heart thudding in his ears. “Pegs, I— could you—“
“I’ll get Jack on the line,” she said immediately, and he choked on a laugh. Peggy always could read his mind.
“How did you—“
“I know, Steve,” she cut him off once more, and he could tell by the tone of her voice she was trying not to cry. “It’s him, it always has been as far as you’re concerned. Here.” There was a pause, and the crackle of static, before a voice filtered through the radio that made Steve want to try and survive, regardless of who died in the process.
“At ease, soldier. What’s this I hear about you taking a swim?” Steve laughed softly, shaking his head.
“Hardly by choice, Jack. I’m afraid I’ll have to take a raincheck on that drink I owe you.” A raincheck on the drink, and everything they had hoped would come after. They had foolishly planned their whole lives together once the war ended; as together as they could be, at least. God, he just wanted to kiss him one last time.
“I’ll wait,” Jack said without hesitation. “Just don’t keep me waiting too long; you know I’m not patient.” A smile tugged involuntarily at Steve’s lips, remembering the first time Jack had told him that. Right before shoving a hand down Steve’s uniform pants, back in barracks in France.
“I’ll try, Jack, but no promises. Look, I’m sorry, I don’t have much longer.” The water was drawing closer than ever, and Steve was almost certain he’d have a heart attack before he could even reach it. “God, Jack, so many things I wanted to say to you.”
“You never had to say them, soldier. I know,” Jack assured him. “You were kinda obvious.” Steve chuckled, fingers trembling on the controls of the plane.
“I’m sorry, Jack. I hope your future is as bright as you thought it would be,” he said sincerely, trying to pretend it didn’t hurt to think about leaving Jack behind, about Jack finding some other handsome man to pledge his life to.
“You kidding me? Everything’s a little dimmer without you around, baby. But… I’ll find a light somewhere. There’s always people to save.” Steve knew he probably had seconds, but wanted to keep Jack talking, wanting to die with his lover’s voice fresh in his ears.
“Look after Pegs for me,” he said quickly. “Even though she can look after herself. Jack, I lo—“ Too late. Cold. Ice. Lungs filling with water, frantically trying to find air. Blackness.
Steve jolted awake, sitting straight up with his chest heaving for breath, his limbs feeling chilled to the bone. His eyes wide open, he immediately knew he was in his SHIELD barracks. The plain walls, steel wardrobe opposite him, red-numbered alarm clock the only light in the room. They’d given him an apartment, but he’d refused it. He was a soldier; his place was in barracks, even if they weren’t the ones he was used to.
Pulling the blanket up around his shoulders in an effort to ward off the chill that was in his mind more than the room, he squeezed his eyes shut, Jack’s grinning face burning a brand on his eyelids. There was no way he could forget that smile; no way he wanted to. Jack had been the best thing in his life until all of it had gone to hell, and it was times like this — the dead of night, with nothing but his nightmares to keep him company — that he wished he could just go back, more than anything. Sometimes in the day, when he was training with some other agents or having Agent Coulson teach him about computers, he thought he could do it; thought he could make a life for himself in the 21st century. Then he thought about everything he’d left behind, and wondered who he was trying to fool.
Sighing to himself and resisting the urge to turn the heating up, knowing it wouldn’t help, Steve dragged himself out of bed and over to his desk, where a stack of files rested up against the wall. He knew that if he flicked through them, he’d see faces and names he could recite in his sleep. Every single one of his Commandos, Peggy Carter, Howard Stark. He had read through each of their files a hundred times, until he could probably recall them from memory. Most of them were marked deceased, and the files described a fairly peaceful life after the war, sometimes with wives and kids. Others were still alive, but probably not for much longer, living with grandkids or in nursing homes. Howards was about two inches thicker than anyone else’s, including a ton of writing about Stark Industries and an entire subfile on Anthony Stark. Steve was assured that Tony’s personal file was about three times the size of Howard’s on its own, but everything in Howard’s was information enough. Seeing the red ‘DECEASED’ marker across the front of Peggy’s file had been like a physical blow to the heart, but at least he had been assured that she had lived a long and fruitful life. She’d moved to SHIELD a year after the war, and stayed until gone retiring age, marrying a fellow agent and raising three boys; two of whom were SHIELD agents themselves, and the other was a doctor. Old age was the cause of death, and Steve found it hard to breathe when he remembered how she used to tell him off for ever mentioning that she was older than him.
Despite all of those files, all of those tiny details about the lives of the men and women he had considered family, there was no word of Jack. Not even a whisper of the name Jack Harkness turned up anywhere, and Steve could hardly believe that Jack had just disappeared like that. Hadn’t Steve told him to look after Peggy?
He wasn’t brave enough to search Jack’s name on the internet. It wasn’t exactly an uncommon name; he didn’t want to get his hopes up, only to find out he’d found the wrong Jack. He just wanted to know if the man had been okay after the war, if he’d made it through to settle down in London like he’d always dreamed of doing, like he and Steve had planned to do at the end of the war. They’d thought up a story and everything, how they had both lost wives in the war and decided to live together instead of attempt to remarry, out of respect for their widows. Steve just wanted to know Jack had survived. The uncertainty was killing him.
Shaking his head, he pushed the files away from himself and turned back to the bed, determined to get an hour or two more sleep before breakfast. Maybe he could ask Coulson; the agent was becoming somewhat of a friend, and Steve was sure he could keep a secret. Settling back down under the blanket, Steve hugged a pillow to his chest and pretended it was the smooth muscled chest he’d only rested on a handful of times, trying to remember any moment with Jack other than his last. There were so many happy times; why did his brain have to fixate on the unhappy one?
Resolved to stop living in ‘what-ifs’ and ‘maybes’, Steve approached Agent Coulson in the man’s office the next day, shortly after breakfast. Coulson had insisted that his door was always open for Steve, and he only had to knock; it was the first time the super-soldier was actually taking him up on the offer. “May I come in?” he asked nervously, seeing the surprise on the other man’s face.
“Of course, Steve. What can I do for you?” As Coulson set down his pen and leant back in his chair expectantly, Steve slipped inside the room and nudged the door shut behind him, taking the seat opposite the desk.
“I, uh, wanted to know how I would go about finding someone. Someone I was friends with during the war; I haven’t got his file in the ones I was given. Hell, at this rate I’d be happy just finding out if he’s still alive,” he added belatedly, running an anxious hair through his hair. Coulson frowned slightly, brow furrowed.
“I should think our databases would have your friend, if he was a soldier.” Steve nodded in confirmation. “Then I’ll have a look through the servers for you, and if I don’t find him there I’ll do a little digging myself,” Coulson assured easily, reaching for his phone. “What’s the name?”
“Harkness,” Steve replied, a small smile creeping across his face at the prospect of finding out what had become of his Jack. “Captain Jack Harkness.” Coulson’s phone clattered to the desk, and the man looked up at him, cursing softly under his breath.
“That bastard, I knew it,” he muttered, making Steve frown, perplexed.
“Excuse me?” he asked, but Coulson shook his head.
“Don’t worry about it, Captain. I’ll have the file as soon as possible; I just need to check a few things, first,” he confirmed. Still confused, Steve smiled anyway, heart fluttering in anticipation.
“Thanks a lot, Agent Coulson. I really appreciate you taking the time to help me with this,” he said sincerely, only to be waved off.
“It’s no trouble, I assure you. And this might actually give me some answers I’ve been looking for. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting with the Director to get to,” the dark-haired man declared, getting to his feet and slipping his dropped phone into his jacket pocket.
“Right, of course,” Steve said somewhat awkwardly, standing to follow the man out of his office, turning the opposite way down the corridor. Putting the agent’s strange reaction out of his mind, he made for the gym with a spring in his step, knowing it was only a matter of days before he finally got some answers.
It took two days before Coulson appeared while Steve was alone in the gym, beating the hell out of a reinforced punching bag. The blonde immediately stopped as soon as he saw the thick manilla file in the older man’s hand, but Coulson held up a hand before he could say anything. “Scram, Barton. This is a private conversation.” Steve frowned in confusion; they were the only ones in the room. He startled as there was a loud whine from somewhere above him, and a deliberate-sounding clatter.
“You’re such a buzzkill, Coulson. Fine, I’m out,” a disembodied voice assured, and there was some more purposeful noise before it went silent once more, and Coulson smiled slightly.
“My apologies; Agent Barton seems to forget that he’s not actually entitled to eavesdrop wherever the hell he wants,” he remarked wryly, sounding somewhat fond. Steve smiled back hesitantly; he’d never met Agent Barton in person, but he’d heard enough about him from the other agents to know that he was a… unique character. Still, he was one of Coulson’s assets, and they were close from what the man said, so Steve figured Barton couldn’t be that bad. “I have the file you wanted, but I’m afraid it’s not as simple as that,” Coulson told him, handing over the file. Steve’s heart sank; was Jack dead? Had he been tortured or died in the war in some horrific way?
“What do you mean?” Coulson merely shook his head, gesturing for Steve to open the file, and he did so, breath catching in his throat. Attached to the front with a paperclip was a full-colour photo of a handsome dark-haired man in an RAF greatcoat, the rest of his uniform casual underneath; the shirt was undone at the top two buttons, and he wore no tie or jacket. But it was unmistakably the Jack Harkness Steve had left behind in the 1940s, looking exactly the same as he had the last time Steve had seen him. “This… this doesn’t make sense. Why is this in colour?”
“Because it was taken six months ago,” Coulson told him, making Steve gape. “We’ve been keeping an eye on Jack Harkness for a while now, but never been able to confirm anything until you mentioned it to me. He works for a British organisation called Torchwood; the Cardiff branch. They deal with extra-terrestrial disturbances, though they’re the only part of the organisation left after a major incident in the London branch. The Glasgow office gave up doing any real work decades ago.”
Steve flicked through several more pages, seeing how most of the early ones were ‘rumoured sightings’, dated right back to the forties and the very founding of SHIELD itself. “This is impossible,” he murmured, stunned. “Jack… This is my Jack, but it can’t be. How can he be alive at all of these times, and at the same age?” Coulson smiled wryly, shrugging.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to figure out. Unfortunately, we’ve never had the pleasure of doing business with Torchwood ourselves; they don’t tend to accept help from other organisations. And whoever Jack Harkness is, he knows how to cover his tracks,” he added, sounding almost impressed. Steve looked down at the picture once more, swallowing thickly at the sight of the grin that haunted his mind in both waking and sleeping hours. There was no doubt in his mind that the man in the photo was anyone other than his Jack.
“Is… is there any way he could know? About me, that I’ve been found and, uh, defrosted?” Coulson snorted, and Steve smiled sheepishly; there really wasn’t any other word for it.
“I doubt it. His people are good, but ours are better, and secrecy is of upmost importance regarding you in particular. He’d have to be actively searching by hand and be able to get through all of our defences. If he’d just put out an alert program to go off whenever something relating to your name is brought up, it wouldn’t register with our servers,” the agent replied. The details of the technical talk went over Steve’s head, but he got the point; Jack couldn’t know that Steve was alive again.
The super-soldier let out a long sigh, biting his lip, and Coulson gave him a searching look. “If you’d like, I can requisition a jet to fly you over to Wales, if you want to try and track him down. Fury’s been mentioning trying to get you off base a little more, and, well… this is obviously important to you.” Steve blushed on instinct, despite knowing there was no way Coulson could know he and Jack had been… like that.
“Oh, no, I don’t want to be any trouble,” he started, but was cut off.
“It’s no trouble at all,” Coulson insisted. “I’ll have Barton fly you. He’s been going stir-crazy anyway, and he’s due a little down time. He’s a good pilot, I promise you. One of the best,” he added, clearly spotting Steve’s apprehensive look before he could hide It.
“I didn’t doubt his skills, I just…” Steve took a breath, squaring his shoulders a little. He shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, and if there was any chance the man in the file was really his Jack, he had to take it. “That would be swell, thank you. If you’re sure it’s not a problem.”
“Barton will be waiting for you in the hangar at 0800 tomorrow morning,” Coulson replied, flashing a quick smile. “Pack an overnight bag.” Not waiting for confirmation, he turned on his heel and left the gym, leaving Steve alone with the file still in his hand and his heart somewhere in the pit of his stomach. He ignored the fact that he was only halfway through his workout and still sweaty, leaving the gym and making a beeline for his room in barracks, wanting nothing more than to pour over every line of Jack’s file in search of some sort of explanation. A lot of things about his life didn’t make sense, but this was not one he’d anticipated.
Sure enough, a cagy-looking man in a SHIELD uniform was waiting in the aircraft hangar when Steve arrived. He was fidgeting impatiently, and had a bow and quiver over his shoulder, so Steve assumed he was Agent Barton. Somehow, he’d expected him to be taller. “Agent Barton?” he checked anyway, and the man rocked on the balls of his feet, smirking.
“That’s me. You must be the good Captain; Coulson can’t stop talking about you, y’know? It’s kinda cute when it’s not creepy,” he remarked by way of greeting, offering a lazy salute. Steve flushed, feeling a little indignant on Coulson’s behalf. The man’s admiration was flattering, not creepy. Steve just didn’t know how he could deserve it from a man who was more of a hero than Steve was. “Come on, let’s get out of here. I haven’t had air-time in weeks so thank you for needing to go to goddamn Wales of all places. Why are you going there? Coulson didn’t say.” Steve followed Barton towards the nearest jet, which looked to be all ready for take-off.
“I’m looking for someone,” Steve explained evasively. “Someone I knew in the war. Only, according to his file, he hasn’t aged since at least 1920 and he works for an organisation that doesn’t technically exist.” Clint raised an eyebrow, and Steve tossed him the file, which the sniper flipped open with one hand to rest on the jet’s dashboard, starting up the engines. Steve buckled himself into the co-pilot’s seat despite not actually being able to pilot anything, trying to ignore the irrational panic that flared when the jet hit the air. This one wasn’t carrying bombs, and Coulson assured him that Barton was a skilled pilot. Everything would be fine.
“You good?” Barton asked casually, a measure of concern in his tone, and Steve nodded stiffly. “There’s a bag over there if you have to puke.”
“No, no, I’m okay. Just… my last trip in a plane wasn’t so great,” he remarked, making the archer laugh.
“You can say that again. But don’t worry; there’s no way these babies can have anything other than a smooth landing. Autopilot safeties, back-ups, and an emergency link to Stark’s AI as an absolute last resort. The guy may be a cocky little shit, but damn, he knows his stuff,” he mused wryly.
“You’ve met him?” Steve asked, wondering what Tony Stark was like outside of his file, if he was anything like Howard.
“A couple of times,” Barton confirmed. “Tagging along when Coulson goes to harass him about something or other he’s meant to be doing. Only agent he’ll deal with without a tantrum.” Steve frowned, but the grin on Barton’s face took some of the sting out of his words.
“Sounds like a bit of a difficult man,” the super-soldier said carefully, and Barton chuckled.
“Nah, he’s not so bad really, once you know how to handle him. All geniuses are weird, and I’ve met worse than Stark. Don’t know how anyone got anything useful out of him before Pepper Potts started working for him, though,” he added, clearly impressed by the woman.
As they started levelling out in the air, Clint flicked on the autopilot and pulled Jack’s file towards him, letting out a low whistle. “Torchwood? Damn, those guys are practically invisible on record. Even we’re not entirely sure what they do, just that it involves alien shit. And you say you knew this guy in the war?” he asked, pointing to the photo of Jack. Steve nodded, ignoring his stomach twisting itself into knots. Maybe, since Torchwood were so invisible, Jack didn’t want to be found. “Damn.”
“He always said that the future would be so amazing, that the world would progress so much after the war was over. I just thought he was being a hopeful old fool, but now… makes me wonder if he knew he’d live through to see it,” Steve mused softly, shaking his head. Jack had said a lot of things that Steve had passed off as hopeful fantasy. It was one of the things that had drawn him to the other soldier; it was refreshing to find someone so overwhelmingly optimistic in the middle of a war. Of course, the charm hadn’t helped, nor had the smile, and Steve had been a goner before he even knew what his feelings really meant.
He couldn’t help but smile faintly as he remembered first meeting Jack, backstage after one of his USO shows to soldiers that had gone terribly, as they always did. Jack had come to apologise on behalf of his men, claiming they were just jealous they couldn’t look as great in tights as Steve did. They had been kissing before the end of the night, hidden in the dark corner of Steve’s dressing room. Jack had promised to see him again, but Steve had thought it would just be an impulsive fling, that he’d never see the older man again. He’d been shocked as hell to see him in the war room once he’d rescued Bucky and found Peggy again. They’d snuck around like two kids for weeks, Steve trying to tell himself it was just meaningless fooling around — it didn’t count if you didn’t have feelings for them, Bucky always said, and Steve wasn’t a queer — but he hadn’t been able to kid himself for very long. Jack never seemed to care that they could get in trouble for it, though, and always told Steve to be proud of who he was, that one day people wouldn’t care who other people loved.
“You still with me, Cap?” The voice cut into his thoughts, and Steve jolted, remembering where he was. Barton was eyeing him warily, and a sheepish expression crossed Steve’s face.
“Yeah, sorry. Lost in memories,” he admitted. Barton nodded in understanding, flipping a couple of pages in the file.
“No problem. So who’s this Harkness guy to you anyway? All our records say you only hung with the Commandos, Stark and Carter.” Steve’s cheeks flamed before he could stop himself, and his mouth went dry.
“Jack, uh. Jack is…” He couldn’t finish the sentence, unable to think of anything but the truth. Jack was and remains the love of his life.
“Chill, soldier, I think I get the idea,” Barton remarked with a smirk, and Steve wanted to curl up in on himself, feeling the embarrassment wash over him. Captain America was not allowed to be queer. “Y’know, that’s pretty common nowadays. Guys with guys, and girls with girls. It’s not looked down upon like it used to be; hell, the only people likely to have a problem with it are the people who probably still think the black kids should take a separate bus to school,” he added with a frown of distaste. Steve swallowed hard. He’d read online about integration, and the black rights movements. It made him proud, to see that people had finally overcome their prejudice on something so stupid; some of the black men he’d served with were the bravest soldiers he’d ever seen. And he knew how modern women had it much better — calling someone a dame would only get him a slap — but… he’d never been brave enough to look at anything about homosexuals. He’d been too scared that someone would check his search history and just know.
“Really?” he asked, voice hesitant. “It’s not… it’s not a bad thing?”
“Course not, Cap. People finally started to see that when they figured out people are born that way, rather than choosing it. Hell, gays can even get married now. Not everywhere, but in some places. A few states, and some parts of Europe and stuff,” Barton informed him, sounding pleased. “Fury doesn’t have a problem with it, in case you were wondering. Just so you know that if your Jack really is still alive and looking as hot as he does in that photo, the boss-man won’t care if you wanna make out with him on TV or whatever.” Steve blushed furiously, but a grin crept across his face at the prospect of kissing Jack again.
“How do you know?” he questioned, wary. “That Fury doesn’t mind, I mean.” Barton grinned quickly, winking.
“He was Phil’s Best Man at our wedding.” It took a few moments for Steve to decipher the sentence, and he gaped.
“Phil? Coulson?” he sputtered, and Barton nodded, nudging aside the collar of his uniform shirt to show a silver ring on a chain around his neck.
“Oh yeah. Together five, married three. Wouldn’t take no for an answer, stubborn bastard,” he added fondly. Steve was still gaping, and Barton reached over to squeeze his shoulder briefly. “I told you, it’s accepted now. Sure, there are bigots, but there are always going to be, and they’re in the minority. You’re free to live your life how you please, Cap.”
“It’s different,” Steve said immediately. “You’re just agents, no offence. If the press find out Captain America is… is gay, it’ll be hell.”
“It’s really none of their business,” Barton retorted. “Who do they care who you’re sleeping with so long as you keep kicking ass and taking names. Besides, Fury hasn’t even decided if he’s announcing you to the world again yet. You’ve got a while before you have to think about that.” Steve frowned slightly, running a hand through his hair.
“If you’ll excuse me, Barton, I, uh, think I’m gonna go lay down a while,” he said quietly, grimacing a little. “This has kinda rocked my worldview a little.”
“No problem,” Barton agreed sympathetically. “And call me Clint. Oh, hey, here,” he reached into his pocket and pulled out a phone, tossing it to Steve, “that has internet, Phil said you know how to use that now. Google it, if you don’t believe me.”
“I think I’ll do that. Thanks.” Undoing his seatbelt, Steve got up and left the cockpit, eyebrows raising at the sight of the rest of the jet. It was clearly a transport jet rather than a battle-ready one, but there were three rooms in the back; a conference room, a store room and a barracks room with several cot beds. Much better than the crate-filled aircrafts he’d had to attempt to make himself comfortable in back in the 40s. Picking the nearest cot, he unlaced his shoes and laid down, his feet hanging over the edge a little. His fingers somewhat awkward on the tiny buttons of Clint’s phone, he eventually managed to pull up the internet and Google search gay rights, reading through the many pages while trying to think of what the hell he could say to Jack when he found him. This… this changed everything.
They landed in a small airbase just outside of Cardiff, according to Clint, and there was a car waiting for them. Steve didn’t yet have a valid driving license, but luckily Clint was perfectly okay driving, even on British roads. It was still early morning there with the time difference, and Steve couldn’t help but stare out the windscreen in awe as they drove into Cardiff itself. He’d only been to Wales once — it wasn’t really the centre of activity in the war — but it was still so very, very different to anything he’d seen of it back in his time. “From what we know about Torchwood, they have a secret underground base in the middle of the city,” Clint told him, a smirk on his face, and Steve couldn’t help but snort. “I know; cliche, right? But with that in mind, your best bet is to hang around the Roald Dahl Plass and wait for him to turn up. If that fails, start heading towards the tourist office in the bay; that’s where we think their base entrance is. We had eyes on them for a little while, but gave up when they seemed harmless,” he added in explanation.
“What if he doesn’t turn up?” Steve asked, wringing his hands anxiously. Clint smirked at him, looking confident.
“Cap, man, he will. We know Harkness and his team have eyes all over the city, and you’re hardly a face to forget. Soon as he sees you, he’ll be out of his little rabbit hole like a shot.” They pulled over, and Clint clapped him on the shoulder. “My number’s in your phone when you’re ready to head back. And don’t worry if you want to stay a night or two; I haven’t got anything to get back to, and it’s been a while since I’ve had more than ten minutes of downtime anywhere outside of base.” He grinned, releasing Steve. “Good luck, soldier.”
“Thanks, Clint. I think I’ll need it.” Feeling a little like he was going to puke, Steve unbuckled his seatbelt and stepped out of the car onto the damp paving stones, ducking his head against the slight drizzle of rain. He could see the plass between two buildings, and started towards it with his hands in his pockets and a nervous spring to his step. There were more people around now as everyone started heading to work and going about their days, and Steve checked his watch, which had adjusted to UK time. 8:30AM. The journey from America to Britain was definitely quicker than it had been the last time he’d taken it; or maybe that was just Clint’s flying.
Sighing to himself, he looked up at the enormous silver water tower up ahead, wondering where he would even start. All he could do was wait and hope, he supposed.
Jack Harkness spun absently in his office chair, wishing something interesting would happen. Not world-endingly catastrophic, but a small rift flare would be nice. Maybe a weevil or two, just to give him something to do. He peered out at the rest of the Hub, smiling slightly at seeing the rest of his team working diligently. They hardly needed him anymore, except for emergencies; Gwen was quite happy bossing everyone around and making sure they all actually did their work, Ianto was flourishing in his position as archivist-slash-field-agent, Tosh was happy so long as she had a computer in front of her, and Owen just wanted to continue cutting up dead things. He sighed to himself, fingers tapping on the casing of his vortex manipulator. If there was ever a perfect time for his Doctor to come, it was now.
He paused mid-spin when his gaze flicked over the security camera screens, eyes widening at the sight of the man standing in the middle of the plass with his hands in his pockets. “No,” he breathed, stunned. “It can’t be.” Lurching over to his desk, he pulled up the image on his computer, zooming in, and his heart just about stopped beating. “Steve.” It was unmistakably Steve Rogers, looking exactly the same as he had the last time Jack had seen him… in the middle of World War Two.
Jack’s chest tightened at the memory, more vivid than most of his older ones. His fingers tight around his old radio microphone as he listened to Steve guide the plane straight into the water, promising to raincheck on the drink. Quite possibly one of the worst days of his long, long life. Steve… he’d loved Steve more than he ever expected to love anyone on Earth, in the strange time period he’d found himself in. The blonde had just been so good, so strong and brave and completely selfless. Jack had thought he’d hit the jackpot when he’d caught the attractive man in blue tights shyly eyeing him up after the disaster of a USO show. Despite all the jokes, guys who were interested in men were incredibly hard to find in the army, especially in the 1940s. Sexually frustrated and more than a little tense, Jack had jumped at the chance for a little harmless fun, some kissing and cuddling as the men called it back then. He couldn’t persuade Steve into anything further than kissing — it was clear even then that the blonde had never done that sort of thing before, and Jack wasn’t cruel enough to push him for his first time in the dingy dressing room — but it had been enjoyable, and had seemed to cheer Steve up too.
Then they’d found each other again in New York, when Jack was called in to help Peggy Carter with strategy. She had been an incredible woman, right up until the end of her life, and had Jack been a better man he might have tried to marry her. Not that she would have accepted; she knew all about him and Steve. It had only taken a little flirting outside the war room before Steve had agreed to meet Jack in his off hours, and before the time-traveller knew it he was head-over-heels for the crazy, reckless, incredible man that was Steve Rogers, Captain America.
Looking back at the screen, he studied Steve closer, sure he was hallucinating. He knew Howard had sent out recovery mission after recovery mission in an attempt to find Steve, right up until the day the man died, but Tony had never taken over the effort, and as far as Jack knew that was the end of it. Only, apparently not. He peered intensely at it, and his jaw dropped slightly when he spotted the tiny crest on the left shoulder of Steve’s jacket. SHIELD. Of course. If anyone would have continued Howard’s work, it would have been those sneaky bastards.
Heart racing, Jack jumped to his feet and wrestled his coat on, closing down the image on his computer screen and practically sprinting out of his office, startling his team. “Personal emergency,” he announced vaguely, hurrying over to the exit up to the tourist office. “Hold down the fort until I get back, it might be a while.” Ignoring the questions they called after him, he ran up the stairs and out of the fake wall, almost tripping on his way out of the building. He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the figure standing at the other end of the quay, staring at him in shock.
Steve couldn’t believe it. Right there, right in front of him, stood Jack Harkness; his Jack, looking just as he had when Steve had last seen him. “You haven’t changed a bit,” he declared, and the other man cracked a grin, stepping closer.
“Neither have you,” he returned, blatantly eyeing Steve up in a way that made the blonde blush faintly, even as he smiled. He’d missed having Jack look at him like that. “How… how long have you been around?”
“I woke up about two weeks ago,” Steve explained, edging closer to Jack. “SHIELD found me in the ice and dug me out, but it took a while for me to, uh, warm up. Everyone just assumed the serum helped me survive until I could be found.” He shrugged, then raised an eyebrow at Jack. “How come SHIELD has a file on you that goes right back into the 20s? Hell, Jack, how come you’re here? I thought I’d lost you.” He hated how raw his voice came out, but he couldn’t help it. “Howard, Peggy, Falsworth, Dugan, everyone is either gone or close to it. I had all their files presented to me, but none of them had a word about you. It wasn’t until I asked my handler… SHIELD have been trying to figure you out for a long time.”
“They’re not the only ones,” Jack retorted, and sighed. “I can’t die, Steve. It’s a long story that I’m perfectly willing to tell you, but the short of it is that something happened to me, and ever since that… I don’t stay dead, when I die. I wake up after a minute or so, completely healed. I think I might be ageing, but it’s slowly… too slowly for people not to notice. After the war I stuck around a little until it hit the point where people would start catching on, then went back in thirty years or so under some bullshit story about being my own son. I kept track of them while I could, though, even after I’d gone back to Torchwood. I tried to look after Peggy like you asked.” Steve’s heart clenched, and Jack managed a small smile. “She didn’t believe a word I said about being my son. She knew it was me, said she didn’t know how and she didn’t care, but I had hell to pay for ducking out on her and Howard for so long. By then Tony was already a teenager in college and outshining his dad on a regular basis, and Howard died not long after I showed back up in their lives. I swear, Steve, if I’d known there was any chance you’d actually come back, I would have left you a letter, or something. I wouldn’t have disappeared so easily.”
“One of the other agents, my pilot over here, he said… he said guys like us can be out in the open now. That people don’t mind,” Steve said, and Jack’s grin widened.
“Didn’t I tell you the future would be amazing?” he returned with a wink. Steve couldn’t hold himself back any longer; he took two long strides towards the shorter man and grabbed him by the collar of his greatcoat, pulling him into a firm kiss. He intended for it to be chaste, but as soon as their lips touched and Jack’s hand came up to Steve’s shoulder to steady himself, they both knew they were done for. Steve’s heart felt fit to burst out of his chest as he kissed Jack like he’d dreamed of doing ever since he’d woken up out of the ice, and he was sure that any minute now he’d wake up and it would all be a dream. He slid an arm around Jack’s waist, trying his best to practically fuse himself with the other man, never wanting to be parted from him again. Eventually, they broke apart, still in an embrace. “God, I missed you, Steve,” Jack breathed, pressing his forehead to Steve’s chin. Steve ducked his head a little so his lips touched the man’s brow, and he held him tighter. “I hoped every day that Howard would find you. When he died… I gave up hope. I’m so, so sorry.”
“Not your fault,” Steve insisted, shaking his head. “It had been decades, no one could know I’d be okay when they eventually got me out. But… damn, Jack. What happens now? I’m with SHIELD, you’re with this Torchwood thing… but I don’t think I can say goodbye to you a second time around.” They both tensed at the reminder of that fateful day, holding each other a little tighter.
“Y’know, I’ve been getting a little tired of Torchwood recently,” Jack mused conversationally. “My team are doing just fine without me, and I’ve been there for a century now. Maybe it’s time I expanded my horizons a little.” A slow grin crossed his lips, and he gave Steve a quick wink. “Think SHIELD might have some better options for me? After all, every secret government agency could use a man who can’t die.”
“Are you serious?” Steve asked, gaping. Jack nodded, leaning in for another kiss.
“I’ve spent so long without you, Steve, and even with the serum we don’t know what your lifespan is. I don’t want to waste another second,” he murmured earnestly. Steve beamed, kissing him fiercely.
“My pilot said I can stay a night or two, if I want. He wants some down time. And, uh,” he paused, smiling shyly. “You said, back in the 40s, that we could, y’know, go the distance, when the war was over. And the war has been over for quite a while now.” Jack raised an eyebrow at him, checking Steve knew what he’d just implied, and the blonde nodded a fraction, surprised when it earned him another firm kiss.
“Well, never let it be said that I’m not a man of my word,” Jack returned flirtatiously. “But we should get dinner first, and I believe you owe me a drink.” Steve laughed, amazed at how for the first time, he could think about their last conversation without wanting to shut down. It was okay now. Jack was with him, Jack was there, and young, and alive.
“Jack,” he blurted, suddenly serious. “Speaking of that raincheck… I didn’t get to finish my sentence back then. I know,” he added quickly, before Jack could open his mouth. “I know you said I didn’t need to say it, and you knew, but… I want to, damn it. Jack Harkness, I am completely in love with you and I have been since 1942, and I don’t care who knows it.” He felt like a weight had lifted from his shoulders at just getting the words out, and Jack gaped at him, speechless.
“Steve, I… I love you too, I always have. I’ve wanted to tell you since the day Howard nearly caught us making out in his lab,” he added with a grin, making Steve snicker at the memory, feeling lighter than air. “God, Steve, it’s so good to have you back. Hang on a second.” He pulled away a little, reaching into his pocket for his phone, and brought it to his ear. “Gwen? Hey, yeah, it’s me. Listen, I’m going to be out of office for a little longer than expected, you’re in charge until I get back. Yeah. It’ll probably be tomorrow afternoon at the earliest, maybe the day after. No, you don’t get to know any more than that. Who—“ Jack laughed, shaking his head. “You’re all nosy little bastards. His name is Steve, and that’s all you’re getting. Goodbye, Gwen.” He hung up, turning to smile at Steve. “Look at that, my schedule just opened up.”
“What a coincidence,” Steve agreed with a smile, surprised when Jack released him and took a step back, standing to attention and offering a sharp salute, then holding out an arm.
“Would you care to accompany me to breakfast, Captain?” Steve smirked, folding his arms over his chest.
“I thought your offer was for dinner?” Jack’s lips twitched faintly, but otherwise he didn’t break character.
“It’s a little early for that, sir, but we could get to that this evening.” Steve laughed, offering his own formal salute in return, before batting aside Jack’s proffered arm in order to wrap his own around the smaller man’s waist, squeezing gently.
“That sounds wonderful, Captain.” Jack grinned, sliding an arm around Steve’s waist and directing them both up towards the plass and the city centre. “So, this isn’t quite London like you said you wanted to go to,” Steve mused, looking around at the city.
“No, but it’s close enough, and my Doctor comes here as much as he does London,” Jack explained, his stride easily matching Steve’s. The blonde raised an eyebrow at his partner, lips pursed in concern.
“You still haven’t found him yet?” he asked; Jack had been looking for ‘his Doctor’ as long as Steve had known him. Steve had never asked for a proper explanation.
“No,” Jack replied, shaking his head. “But… now I’m not so sure I want to. I wanted him to fix me, to make me able to die again. Maybe that’s not the best idea if you’re going to have an extended lifespan. Don’t want you trading me in for a younger model,” he joked, and Steve frowned, squeezing him around the waist and pressing a kiss to his temple.
“I’d love you even if you looked a hundred years old,” he insisted. “But if not finding your Doctor means you stick around a little longer, than… yeah, I'd like that.” Jack smiled at him, then turned back to look at the city.
“How are you finding everything?” he asked curiously. “I mean, I was here for all the transitions, but… this time is so different from the one you left. It’s amazing, isn’t it?”
“It’s definitely something,” Steve agreed emphatically. “It’s taking a lot of getting used to, but everyone here has been great about helping me adjust. I even know how to Google search now,” he boasted, proud of himself, and Jack chuckled, resting his head on Steve’s shoulder.
“Look at you, we’ll have you coding computers and playing video games in no time,” he teased, smiling. Steve laughed, letting Jack chatter to him about all the things that had changed that he’d absolutely love, merely relishing in the sound of the other man’s voice and the feel of him tucked into his side as they walked. No one was looking twice at them, giving them dirty looks for being two men clearly romantically involved. A woman even smiled at them when he caught her eye. Grinning to himself, Steve thought for the first time that maybe the future wasn’t so bad after all. How could it be? It had Jack.