Jack thinks he may just be starting to get the hang of this.
He thinks this cautiously, because he’s not very superstitious but he absolutely believes in the perversity of random chance, and gingerly allows himself a small sense of satisfaction. He’s passed Jo’s weapons test, he’s got a list of usual suspects for anything that goes wrong (explosions - Henry, anything else - Fargo) and a list of people to ask for help (Henry). He’s even making good headway on memorizing the ridiculously complex labyrinth of paperwork required for any incident report within town limits.
Naturally, this is when a wheezing sound fills the office and a big blue box magically appears three feet in front of his desk.
Jack stares at it.
The front door opens and a man with gravity-defying hair and an honest-to-God bowtie bounces out, takes one look at him, and says “Sheriff Jack!” in a joyous tone of voice.
Jack hits Henry’s speed dial.
“Henry, there’s a big blue box in my office.”
“Oh, you haven’t met us yet. That’s awkward,” says the crazy bowtie-man.
“Really?” Henry says over the phone, sounding far too enthusiastic. “Is it bigger on the inside?”
Jack looks at the phone, then leans to the side so he can look in through the box’s door.
“Yes, Henry. It’s bigger on the inside,” he says, hating his life.
“I love it when they say that,” Bowtie Man says nostalgically.
“Fantastic! That’s the Doctor, he’s harmle- well, he’s... You know, I’ll be right over.”
“Henry, it’s bigger on the inside and it’s in my office,” Jack says, but Henry’s already hung up, the bastard.
“Oh, you must be new,” Doctor Bowtie says fondly. “Hullo, Jack, it’s nice to meet you again for the first time.”
“Again for the first time?” Jack repeats, warily.
“Yup, time traveler, can’t be helped,” Doctor Bowtie says, picking up Jack’s paperweight and licking it oh for crying out loud. “You’ll get the hang of it by the next time we meet. Well, by the next time we meet in your chronology. The next time we meet in my chronology, who knows? You might be a big head floating in a jar!” He grins happily.
“Does that happen to a lot of people you meet?” Jack asks, waving off the licked paperweight when Doctor Bowtie tries to hand it back.
“Oh, no! Well. Er, look at the Ponds, they’re fine, yeah?” Doctor Bowtie says, gesturing vaguely behind him and stuffing the paperweight in one pocket, where it appears to vanish completely.
Jack goggles. “Um. You have ponds in that thing?” he asks politely. Henry is hurrying over, right?
“And a swimming pool!” Doctor Bowtie says, and cracks himself up. “No, because the Ponds aren’t water, see...” his voice trails off as he realizes Jack is staring at him blankly. He glances back into the box and tsks in irritation. “OI! PONDS! You ruined my punchline!”
A tall, skinny man pokes his head out of the door. “Was it the swimming pool one? Because I’m sorry, Doctor, but it isn’t actually that funny.”
“It’s very funny!”
“It’s not,” a woman with red hair says, pushing her way past the skinny man and wandering out into the room. “Didn’t you say we were going to a diamond planet? Because I have to say, they’re covering up the diamonds pretty well.”
“Little side trip, completely intentional,” Doctor Bowtie says airily. “This is Eureka, brilliant place, but we’re good now. We can go.” He herds the others towards the door to the box. “Lovely to see you, Jack, tell Henry I was sorry to miss him, oh, and I think the milk in your refrigerator’s gone off.”
“What?” Jack says, but the door’s already slammed shut behind them.
The wheezing sound comes back and the box fades from view.
Henry skids into the office. “Oh no - did I miss him?”
“Yes,” Jack says, wondering vaguely if he’s in shock. “There were three of them - Doctor Bowtie and two Ponds, and it was bigger on the inside than the outside, and the Doctor licked my paperweight and then stole it.”
“Oh,” Henry says, as if everything’s been explained. “Time Lord saliva, of course.”
Jack blinks. “The purpose was to come lick my paperweight?” He frowns. “That sounds dirty.”
“Well, where did the paperweight come from?”
“Um.” Jack can’t help but feel that Henry is maybe missing the point here a little. “I don’t know, it just showed up one day.”
“Yeah, that was definitely it,” Henry says, nodding sagely.
Jack stares at him. Henry smiles back.
“I think I need a beer, Henry.”
Henry nods. “That’s pretty common. Let’s go, Spencer has a still in the garage he thinks I don’t know about.”
It’s about six months before Doctor Bowtie (apparently just the Doctor, and Jack thought GD scientists could be arrogant) shows up in Eureka again, but this time Jack’s more-or-less ready for it. He’s gotten the facts from Henry, a danger assessment from Jo, and some severely embarrassing fanboying from Fargo, all of which essentially boils down to: he shows up randomly, for random reasons, acts randomly when he arrives, has random people with him, and rarely looks the same twice.
Jack also discovers that just mentioning the Doctor’s name has the power to make Jo twitch, which manages to be simultaneously entertaining and deeply, deeply scary.
Jack’s first warning that his day is going to be comprised of a level of danger, excitement, and sheer confusion that is impressive even by Eureka standards is when three people burst out of Vincent’s physics-defying back room while he’s having his afternoon coffee at Cafe Diem.
“Don’t mind us!” The one with big ears sing-songs. “Just three people popping out of a freezer, hello, nothing to worry about. Don’t suppose anyone’s smelled anything particularly pepperminty lately?”
Jack tenses for a moment, and then realises how incredibly random the whole situation is and sighs.
“I’ll ask around,” he says. “What should we be ready for?”
Doctor Ears stops dead and stares at him. “What, that’s it? No ‘Why?’ No ‘Where did you come from?’ Your species is so incredibly lacking in curiosity, I really don’t know how you manage.”
“Hello, Doctor,” Vincent says cheerily, rounding the counter. “Would you like a jelly baby?”
“Oh,” the Doctor says, deflating. “We’re in Eureka.”
The blonde girl behind him snickers. “You wanted to be all mysterious, didn’t you? Aww, poor Doctor.”
“I would love a jelly baby,” the man with movie star looks says, and yes, he’s full-on leering at Vincent, who blushes.
“You must be Captain Jack,” Vincent says, beaming. “I can make absolutely anything you’d like, just let me know.”
“Thank you,” Captain Jack breathes. “Love the apron, it does wonderful things for your eyes.”
“Oh!” Vincent says, and honest-to-God giggles.
“All right, that’s enough,” Doctor Ears says, glaring. “You, law enforcement person, do you have a rotary phone?”
Three hours later, after Jack’s jeep has been turned into a robot snail thing, he’s been doused in liquid which the Doctor insists a little too vehemently isn’t snot, and Captain Jack has tackled him three times ‘for his own safety’, Jack is starting to understand why Jo has been suspiciously hard to reach. He’s bruised, sticky, reeks of peppermint, and has spent the last ten minutes being laughed at by Stark.
“Don’t feel too bad,” Captain Jack says as they make their way back to Vincent’s freezer. “You look fantastic in that wet shirt.”
Considering Captain Jack has hit on every person they’ve run across since he arrived (and a few inanimate objects as well, Jack will never look at Henry’s truck the same way ever again) Jack’s taking this with a grain of salt, but he does appreciate that the Captain means it kindly. “Well, I suppose that’s somethi- augh hands!”
“The clinging trousers are nice, too.”
“And peppermint’s a mark of high status on Rxtlkntq Five,” Rose adds helpfully. “Although... even they might think it’s a little too strong right now.”
Jack sighs and decides that at least he can take comfort in the fact that the Doctor makes even Eureka scientists look like idiots, which is probably good for them. Fargo passing out cold from overexcitement upon meeting the Doctor had definitely been a high point, too.
“I do enjoy visiting Eureka from time to time,” the Doctor says in tones of great satisfaction, rubbing his hands gleefully. “So many clever people all in one place. It’s endearing, really, watching their little minds go! You’ll need to get some Worcestershire sauce from Vincent, Sheriff Jack, by the way - otherwise that sno- that substance will set and freeze you in place. A gallon or two should do it.”
Jack stares. “How much Worcestershire - hey, hang on, did you just call it snot?”
“Do keep up, Jack,” the Doctor says, ushering Rose and Other Jack into the freezer. “One or two, it’s pronounced ‘Worcestershire’, and don’t think about it. Good bye!”
They vanish into the freezer.
“Is it really fair to leave him here?” Jack hears Rose say over the noise of what he assumes is the blue box being opened. “I mean, he’s like the only normal one in the whole town. He must feel kind of lonely.”
“Who, Sheriff Jack?” The Doctor says, only a little bit too loudly. “Don’t be ridiculous, he’s the cleverest one of them all. You humans, always letting numbers do your thinking for you.”
Jack decides he owes it to science to grin stupidly before the snot sets and freezes his face in place.
“Let’s see,” Jo says when he gets back to the office. “Major property damage, you’re covered in alien peppermint snot that’s starting to solidify, Vincent just sent over a ludicrous amount of Worcestershire sauce, and you’re still grinning like an idiot.”
“Shut up,” Jack says happily. “He thinks I’m clever and you’re just jealous.”
“I hope your face gets stuck like that,” Jo says sweetly.
Jack’s just getting into the swing of his Monday morning argument with Jo over patrol schedules when the door swings open and Zoe marches in.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in school?” Jack demands.
“Whatever,” Zoe says, rolling her eyes. “Astrophysics class got buzzed and the guy says he’s one of yours, so I got volunteered for tour duty. It’s not my fault.”
“Sounds like you missed English class, too,” Jack says pointedly. “As a narrative that whole little speech was really lacking in descriptors.”
“Ha ha,” Zoe says, jerking a thumb over her shoulder. “Your alien friend in the box is here. How’s that for descriptive?”
“Sheriff Jack!” A man in a trenchcoat and glasses says happily from the doorway. “And Josefina, hello Josefina!”
“Hello, Doctor,” Jo says with a strained smile, and bolts for the bathroom.
“Is she climbing out the bathroom window?” The woman behind the Doctor says with great interest. “Guess she has you figured out, all right.”
“Someday you’re going to have to tell me the story behind that,” Jack says. “Anyway, what’s up? More alien snot monsters? Because I have to tell you, that Worcestershire sauce worked like a charm.”
“Oh, is that what happened last for you?” The Doctor says absently. “No, no snot monsters. I’m just giving Donna here the general tour... what have you been doing with your timelines lately, Jack? This place is a mess.”
“My - my what?” Jack asks. “Um, nothing? That I know of?”
“Hmmm,” the Doctor says, and the next thing Jack knows he’s whipped off his glasses, replaced them with those cardboard things they give out for 3D movies, and is peering intently into Jack’s eyes from a distance of about an inch. Jack rears back, startled, and the Doctor grabs the back of his head to keep him in place.
“Oh, here he goes,” the woman - Donna - says resignedly as the Doctor starts waving a buzzing blue penlight around Jack’s head. “Hey, anywhere around here good for a cuppa?”
“Yes!” Zoe says, grabbing Donna’s hand. “Cafe Diem, best coffee in Eureka - bye Dad!”
“Hey! No coffee for you!” Jack yells, trying to get around the Doctor. “Go back to school!” he shouts at Zoe’s retreating back, when it becomes clear that the Doctor’s got him in an awfully strong grip.
“2492,” the Doctor mutters, fiddling with his penlight. “My, my, my, my, my. Simultaneously sophisticated and completely ham-handed, an interesting dichotomy. What have they done to you?”
“Who’s done what to me?” Jack says, feeling alarmed. “This isn’t a mind-control thing, is it?”
“Oh, no!” The Doctor says cheerfully, letting go of Jack’s head. “Well, not really. Well, probably not. Well, someone’s erased some of your memories, and I can’t really say why yet. But no.”
“Oh,” Jack says, relaxing. “Yeah, that was an ex-friend of Henry’s, about a year ago. He was using a memory-eraser to steal people’s brilliant breakthroughs and pass himself off as some kind of visionary. He was really irritating.”
“A year ago?” the Doctor repeats slowly, blinking, and then suddenly springs into manic action. “Well! That’s all very interesting, but I have questions to ask and you have caffeine intake to disrupt! I’m going to go see Henry, don’t wait up.”
He darts out the door, coat billowing behind him. Jack sighs and goes to find Zoe, reasoning that Henry and the Doctor are old friends, which makes wanting to catch up completely normal and harmless, and in any case it’s Henry so if something really goes wrong he’ll be able to hear the explosion from town anyway.
Besides... Henry’s still really upset about Kim’s death, and Jack’s not so selfish of a friend that he doesn’t hope the Doctor will be able to cheer him up a bit. Jack certainly hasn’t been able to.
Zoe and Donna are sitting at the counter when Jack comes in, talking animatedly. “School, now,” Jack says, confiscating Zoe’s coffee.
Zoe scowls. “Dad, this is way more important! How often do I get a chance to talk to a time traveler? Come on!”
“Besides, it’s educational,” Donna says, grinning. “I’ve been to ancient Rome and solved a murder mystery with Agatha Christie. There’s your history and literature covered.”
“And don’t you feel more comfortable knowing exactly where I am while the Doctor’s visiting?” Zoe says innocently, which is totally playing dirty.
Jack sighs and caves like the total softie he secretly is. “All right, fine. But no coffee and I’d better learn something too.”
By the time the Doctor reappears an hour later, Donna has all of Cafe Diem crying with laughter.
“ - and so the Doctor looks him right in the eyes and says, ‘Well, a good matter reducer will do that, you know.’”
“I’m not sure that story accurately captures my innate sense of dignity,” the Doctor says, which makes Vincent laugh so hard he starts hiccuping.
Jack wipes tears of laughter from his eyes and holds his aching ribs with one hand. “No, it really doesn’t! Oh my gosh, that felt good.”
The Doctor tries to hide a smile with a stern expression and fails completely. “Well, I think we’d better be off before I can’t show my face here in the future anymore. Donna! Allons-y!”
“Aw!” Zoe complains. “But then I have to go back to class!” She catches Jack’s eye. “I mean... but it’s so educational and I’m learning so much...”
Jack rolls his eyes. “Nice try, squirt. Get gone.”
Donna shakes Zoe’s hand as she collects her backpack. “It was nice to meet you, Zoe. Remember that advice.”
“Wait, what advice?” Jack asks, alarmed. Zoe smirks. “Seriously, what advice?”
Donna just grins at him. “All right, Doctor, let’s go.”
Jack insists on escorting them back to the blue box thingy (for the town’s safety if not theirs), which turns out to be sitting in a field to the west of town.
“Wait, Zoe said you interrupted her astronomy class. How did your box thing end up over here? Does it fly, too?” Although Jack’s had to radically revise his interpretation of the word ‘possible’ since coming to Eureka, the blue box still looks like the most un-aerodynamic thing ever. Bigger on the inside or not, there have to be some laws of physics that haven’t been reduced to guidelines yet, right?
The Doctor coughs and looks embarrassed. “Well, you know. And it was an astrophysics class, not astronomy.”
“To answer your question, it’s not really supposed to fly,” Donna says, giving the Doctor a pointed look. “But if you’re a terrible pilot and your aim isn’t worth sh-”
“Anyway!” The Doctor says hastily. “Lovely to see you, Jack, I look forward to the next time.” He pushes Donna inside, ignoring her squawk of surprise. “Look, Jack, about Henry...”
Jack waits. The Doctor looks indecisive. “About Henry?” He prompts.
“About Henry,” the Doctor repeats. “Look, just... remember he’s your friend. Grief can change people, sometimes, but you should know that under it all, whatever happens, he’s still your friend. Okay?”
“Okay,” Jack says, unnerved. “I mean, of course. He’s Henry.”
“There you go,” the Doctor says, smiling. “Knew I could count on you. And we’re off!”
Jo’s back in the office by the time Jack returns, cleaning her guns with single-minded ferocity. Jack sits himself down and props his feet up on his desk.
“Always nice to see the Doctor,” he says airily. “Nice man, that Doctor.”
“Someday you’re really going to have to tell me how you guys met.”
Jo slides a magazine home with a little too much force. “The Mouse King,” she says tightly. “Is not supposed to have tentacles.”
Jack considers that statement for a moment, and decides it’s actually about as much information as he needs on the subject.
The rest of the afternoon passes quietly until one of Zoe’s classmates accidentally turns the school parking lot into magma.
Martha finds Eureka by accident, without the Doctor, and after the world has ended.
The Master has been in power for three hundred and forty-two days, and Martha has been walking the Earth for three hundred and forty-one of them. She is leaving the labor camps of California, sore and hungry and exhausted in a way she hadn’t thought possible a year ago, when she feels a slight shock against her skin and everything goes black.
She wakes up in a clean bed, in a warm room, being watched by a blonde teenager with one sleeve pinned neatly up over a missing arm.
“Welcome to Eureka, Miss Jones,” the teenager says. “We’ve been expecting you.”
Martha never sees outside the room. A curly-haired man in a chili-patterned apron brings food that tastes better than anything Martha’s eaten in approximately three hundred and forty-six days, and beams at her while she eats it. A tall man with an Australian accent and some serious facial scarring comes in with a cardboard box full of paperwork and gadgetry and enthusiastically shakes her hand. Through it all, the teenager is obviously in charge.
“My dad used to be the Sheriff here,” she says when Martha asks. “I guess I just inherited it.”
Martha nods, understanding. Most of the people left now are either clever enough not to get caught or afraid to do anything worth punishing. The brave and the passionate stood out too obviously to survive for long, and law enforcement personnel tried too hard to protect the people the Master targeted.
“I’m sorry,” she says, because that was what her mother taught her to say back when the world had the luxury to care about single deaths.
The girl shrugs, her face dark. “We’ve got some information that might help you,” she says, and begins unpacking the cardboard box. “Some of this might be useful and some of it might not, but it’s better if I don’t know. Don’t tell me what your plans are.”
Martha watches her lay the items out. It’s an impressive array, and the girl and her people have clearly put some thought into what kinds of strategies Martha might be considering. In the end, she pockets a list of compromised Resistance agents, a CD of technical readouts from the South African Toclafane incident (“How did you even get this?” Martha asks. “The international veterinary community is very tight-knit,” the girl says, almost smiling a little), and a scattering of odds and ends that probably won’t be useful but might lay a false trail. The girl is right - it’s foolish to take chances.
“There’s also this,” the girl says, hesitantly. She places a box in front of Martha and opens it to reveal a gun-shaped device with four vials of colored liquid. “We don’t know exactly who or what the Master is, but we have in the past had contact with... an individual who seems to resemble him. If they’re anything alike, this should kill him.”
Martha stops breathing for a moment. A town full of geniuses, on Earth, in the twenty-first century... of course the Doctor wouldn’t have been able to resist.
“I don’t know what your plans are,” the girl says, tucking the gun-box into Martha’s pack. “But you were on the Valiant when the Master took control and it’s pretty clear you’re up to something. We’ve tried dealing with this ourselves and it... hasn’t gone well. I think it’s up to you now.”
“What’s your name?” Martha asks, impulsively.
The girl stills for a moment. “Zoe Carter,” she says. “And I’m sorry about this.”
Martha feels that slight shock against her skin again, and everything goes black. When she wakes up, she’s back outside the labor camps. The only signs that anything happened are the new contents of her pack and the honest-to-god take-away container full of food placed carefully in plain sight.
She picks herself up, and keeps walking. She has twenty-four days to set everything in motion.
Jack has just finished putting on his uniform when the wheezy sound of the Doctor’s box-thing fills the house.
“Oh, for crying out loud,” Jack mutters, and goes to see what’s gone wrong and who the Doctor is this time.
It’s the one with the bowtie and the inadvisable hair, and Jack feels a quickly-suppressed surge of nostalgia at the sight. Things from before the timeline got messed up often get him that way, although he’s gotten to be pretty good about covering it up fast.
“Hello, Sheriff!” The Doctor says cheerfully, flitting around the room. “My goodness, what did you do to your timeline this time? Shoddy work, very haphazard, oh well, glad it worked out. How are you?”
“Fine,” Jack says suspiciously. “Is there something you needed?”
“Hmm?” The Doctor says. “Oh no, not really. Well, a cup of tea might be nice.”
“What kind would you prefer, Doctor?” asks SARAH, the suck-up.
The Doctor lights up immediately. “Oh, you must be SARAH!” He says. “Well done, hello!”
Jack frowns. A nasty suspicion starts to form in his mind. “How do you know SARAH?”
The Doctor does a really awful ‘innocent’ face. “You mentioned her.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Sure you did. I’m a Time Lord, we know these things.”
“I’m me, and I know these things,” Jack shoots back. “Where’s Zoe?”
The Doctor blinks. “Oh, you are good,” he says admiringly.
Jack groans. Of course. Of course his baby girl would decide to hop in a time machine space travel thing and go off somewhere. She’s probably out there with danger and space germs and boys that aren’t scared of him right now.
“All right, what happened?”
“First of all, I should be clear that it was entirely her idea to come along,” the Doctor says.
“Of course it was,” Jack says resignedly.
“No, I mean, it really was,” the Doctor says fondly. “I said no way and she stole my screwdriver and then handcuffed me to a park bench - which seems to happen rather a lot recently, actually, but I digress - and threatened to ‘pants’ me and leave me in public if I didn’t take her along. Clearly I had no choice.”
“Clearly,” Jack says grimly. “Okay, where is she now and what kind of trouble is she in?”
“Well, really, it’s not that bad,” the Doctor says, blatantly avoiding eye contact. “It’s only, we were exploring these ruins in the twenty-fourth century, as you do, and she might be locked in a room.”
Jack waits. “That’s it? Locked in a room?”
The Doctor beams. “Yes! You see? Not bad at all. Only she still has my screwdriver and it’s a genetic lock, which is where you come in, and the room might be shrinking a little. But it’s not bad at all!”
Jack sighs. “SARAH, cancel the Doctor’s tea. We don’t have time for it.”
The Doctor claps his hands. “Marvelous! I’ve never had a father-daughter team on board before - well, except the Ponds for a while but we didn’t know they were all related until a few years in so I don’t think that counts.”
“Actually, SARAH, we’re going to need to bring some alcohol along.”
The Doctor laughs. “That’s very funny! But you can’t drink and time-travel, Jack. You wind up with disco.”
He’s totally serious about that. Jack can tell. Great.
“Okay, fine. SARAH, can you call Allison and Jo and tell them I’ve been kidnapped by the Doctor and I’ve gone to rescue Zoe? Be sure to emphasize that it’s not my fault in any way.”
“Of course, Sheriff Carter!” SARAH says cheerfully. “Bon voyage!”
“There’s nothing bon about this,” Jack says resignedly, and steps into the box.