He'd missed snagging the ambulance vessel by mere minutes; a war salvager had got there ahead of him. By the time Jack caught up with them their comms had gone silent, and when he boarded he found all hands dead, their faces contorted into the smooth glassy surface of an EVA helmet.
Jack decontam'd four times before he re-entered his ship, and decided perhaps his volcano-day con had run its course.
In the records of a 1941 wartime hospital, there is a strange demise listed for one Jane Doe, blonde, age approximately 20 years.
Cause of death: fall from a barrage balloon.
"Delivery," the uniformed man grunted, setting a large carton on the table of the film library's office. "And pickup."
"Pickup?" the archivist drawled. "No film to pick up here."
"Oh yeah," the man flashed a clipboard briefly. "Swappin' out new film reels for your old stuff."
"I thought we were wiping those."
"New trade-in program from the film company. We'll take 'em off your hands," Jack Harkness, time-traveling antique dealer, beamed sunnily.
"Next lot, a complete set of the missing Doctor Who episodes, originally thought to be lost in the early seventies. What am I bid for this priceless archive?"
Jack said all the right things. He raged at the Time Agency for stealing two years from him, threatened to quit, and made a half-hearted attempt to find out what he'd done. Once they'd slapped him on the wrist for that, he played the meek reformed agent and accepted his minor demotion with a humble expression.
He wouldn't for worlds have told them that the Retcon didn't take, now that he knew the Agency's filthiest secrets. With some judicious whispering and a little well-applied pillow talk, he could be director of the agency in ten years.
Well, maybe twelve.
It wasn't that he didn't like Rose and the Doctor. He just wasn't made for settling down, even by their loose definition of the phrase. When they stopped off in Cardiff in the twenty-first century, he left a note on the TARDIS console and quietly slipped away for good.
There was a woman, Suzie Costello, who started out a one-night-stand (quaint term!) and ended recruiting him for this thing called Torchwood. Jack had never put his life expectancy at more than a few years longer so, when she killed him and tested the glove on him, he wasn't very surprised.
He wasn't going honest. He was doing recon in the era, waiting for a valuable shipping pod that was supposed to crash down in the next few months. The teaching job was a cover, an excuse to go specimen-hunting in the greenbelt where the pod was going to land.
But he found he liked his students. When he wore the name Ian Chesterton he felt so...respectable. Besides, Barbara was fun. And it'd been a long time since he'd played the slow-seduction game.
When she suggested they find out what was up with Susan Foreman, he thought, Sure. Why not?
Jack gasped awake -- back to life -- in the empty gamestation. He didn't hesitate; he could feel the time vortex thrumming in him, and Rose's silent call -- Come on, Jack; come, come.
"Anything you say," he muttered as he ran. He reached the control room and dove across the floor, landing just inside the closing TARDIS doors.
He never asked why the Doctor hated him after that. Why tempt fate? Being the Doctor's immortal dog was better than being anyone else's god. He'd stay as long as he was allowed.
The Doctor would get used to him, surely.
Jack left the Hub on December 31st hoping when he came back the party would be swinging. Then he realised that he'd left his sidearm in his locker.
By the time he returned, Terence was dead and Anya wounded. Jack gave her enough cover to slam the archive door shut, locking Elise and Zimmer safely inside.
"You can't stop this, Jack!" Alex shouted.
"He just went nuts," Anya whispered.
Jack took Alex out with a single shot to the head. More merciful that way. Torchwood London sent a replacement.
Toshiko Sato died in a UNIT prison during an escape attempt.
Tosh had flu and couldn't go to London for the research Jack needed. Grumbling, Jack went himself.
Jones, the gorgeous research assistant they assigned him, was clever and quick. When Jack grabbed his ass he just turned and quipped, "My cash is in my coat pocket, Captain."
"You should come work for me," Jack said. "I need an archivist."
"I have a girlfriend."
"I like threesomes."
Neither Ianto nor Lisa could resist the pay, though. Or, once they realised Jack wasn't joking, the sex.
The day Torchwood London was destroyed, Jack gathered them both close and held them for hours.
Jack felt Gray's fingernails scrape his palm as he stumbled and fell. He pulled his brother up by the collar of his tunic, hauling them both into the shadow of a brittle-rooted tree. He stroked his hair and hummed songs as the Creatures culled their homeland.
"Oh, thank god," his mother said, when they returned. She abandoned their father's corpse and wrapped them both in her arms.
Jack couldn't go to war; he had a brother to look after. He went to university instead. His first best-seller was a touching story of life for two brothers on the Boeshane Peninsula.
"In 1965, these aliens made contact," Jack said, lying on his side in Ianto's bed. "They wanted twelve children. I was supposed to deliver them. Orphans. I went along with it, for a while. Halfway to the rendezvous point I shot our entire escort and took the kids home."
"What happened?" Ianto asked.
"Plague 1966," Jack replied. "Twelve million people died."
Ianto's eyes closed. "Because you said no."
"I'm so sorry."
"Sometimes you have to make a hard decision. Sometimes you decide wrong."
"Why are you telling me this?"
Jack traced Ianto's lips with his thumb. "Because I can, I suppose."