Jack had been having a bad day. Actually, it had started with a bad night before, with one of the new employees getting injured while out on a call. Something about the alien being too fast, and her not getting her gun up in time. After that, it had been one thing after another as the rift had a spike located directly in the center of a mall. When at last it had all been sorted it was the middle of the morning, and they had missed breakfast. Discovering that their favorite place was closed, he let the team go home, and he started off for the hub – alone.
As he walked across the plass, looking at the activity around him, he thought about his previous teams, and how much he felt at home with them. Not that this one wasn’t good, he just felt almost superfluous. He sighed, and stopped as he reached the water. Maybe it was time to move on, let someone else take over now that the twenty first century was nothing but a distant memory.
Just then, he heard the one thing that always improved his day. He ran up to the water tower, to see the TARDIS parked in its usual spot. Smiling, he leaned against her side, and waited for the Doctor to come out. After a few minutes, he finally heard the lock turn, and the door started to open.
Jack stood back, ready to greet his friend when he stopped, and stared. “Doctor?” he asked, looking at the unfamiliar face.
The Doctor smiled indulgently at Jack. “Yep, definitely me.”
Jack took in the dark hair, serious but handsome face, and well-built body hiding under a black suit. Very different from the short stocky Doctor he had most recently known, but still with the same twinkling eyes. “Still haven’t made it to ginger, I see.”
“Oh, well,” the Doctor looked down, watched as he twisted his leg back and forth, then looked back up. “This is actually my fourteenth regeneration. Had a bit of bad luck a while back, and had to regenerate twice since I’ve seen you last.”
“Doctor,” Jack admonished, glaring at his friend. “You should have asked me for help, you know…”
“I know,” he said, holding up a hand to interrupt Jack’s impending tirade. “Just believe me when I say there wasn’t any time to do so, or I most certainly would have.”
Jack sighed unhappily, but let it drop anyway. “So,” he said brightly, changing the subject, “what brings you to sunny Cardiff, then?”
“My regenerations,” the Doctor said smugly, then watched as Jack went from confused, to angry, to resigned.
Rolling his eyes at the frustrating Doctor, Jack tilted his head toward the hub. “I have a feeling this will take a while.”
The Doctor caught Jack’s arm and pulled him back into the TARDIS with him. “It will, but it’s one I’d like to have in here, if you don’t mind.”
Jack followed him in, then shut and locked the door. Finding the Doctor had already seated himself on the couch near the console, he followed him up, then sat down beside him. Making himself comfortable, Jack turned toward the Doctor, and waited for him to start.
“So,” started the Doctor, “you’re probably wondering why I’m not dead.”
Surprised at the Doctor’s bluntness, Jack wasn’t quite sure how to react. “Nothing like jumping right in,” he muttered. “Not that I’m not incredibly happy to see you, but after your last lecture on Time Lord Laws,” he rolled his eyes,” I am wondering how you got past twelve.”
“Did you ever find out what happened in those missing years you had at the Time Agency?”
Jack blinked at the non sequitur. “No, never have.” He shrugged. “It’s been so long now that I’ve just gotten used to not knowing. Two years out of thousands…”
“Oh, but Jack, it really might have been an important two years.” The Doctor watched as Jack started looking suspicious, and changed the subject again before he had a chance to speak. “What do you know about Mandos?”
“Who?” Jack asked, getting tired of the abrupt changes.
“You know, Mandos, tall, long hair, pointy ears?”
“He also gave me my extra regenerations, and is the one keeping you around.”
“Doctor, you’re not making any sense.” Jack sighed, confused.
“I’m trying to explain it to you without you questioning my sanity,” he explained patiently.
Jack snorted, “I already question your sanity.”
“Hey,” the Doctor objected. “I’ve been known to be quite sane. At times.” He shared a grin with his friend. “Right, back to the very beginning, then. What do you know about elves?” he asked.
“Elves,” Jack frowned, then thought. “If I remember correctly, they’re part of a mythology about a very early part of earth. They lived in Middle Earth, had pointy ears, and basically lived forever unless they were killed.” Looking pointedly at the Doctor, he waited for further explanation.
“It wasn’t a myth, Jack,” the Doctor replied seriously. “Middle Earth did exist, back on earth, and many of the residents – including elves – are still around. Although many of them have left earth.”
“Okay,” Jack slowly replied. He’d seen such a variety of bizarre things, learning that the fantasy books of earth were true wasn’t such a stretch. “But I still don’t see how this relates to either of us.” He waved his hand between the two of them.
“You were born on the Boeshane Peninsula, right?”
“And all your life you were apparently told you were human. I even thought you were human, which proves how good your kind are at concealing their true identity.”
“My kind.” Jack frowned, starting to glare at the Doctor.
“Boeshane was an elf colony. You’re an elf, jack.”
“Coming from someone else, I would think this was a joke, but from you I fear for your sanity because you really believe it,” he looked closer at the Doctor’s face, seeing the honesty there, “ don’t you?”
Jack stood up and looked down at himself. “I hate to tell you this, but I’m not an elf. My ears aren’t pointy,” he wiggled one with his fingers, “I’m tall, but definitely not delicately built,” he waved a hand in front of his body. “And,” he said, finally, “I distinctly remember my people not living an exceptionally long time. There were plenty of deaths in my colony,” he finished sadly.
“I know, Jack, and I’m sorry that happened.” The Doctor gently squeezed his shoulder. “But you never knew anyone who looked old, did you – old like a human gets? And those who died did so mostly from the war, isn’t that right?”
Jack was quiet for a while, thinking back to his childhood. “But it was a colony, of course everyone would be young.”
“A colony that was actually several hundred years old by the time you were born,” the Doctor countered. “Oh, your people were old, Jack, believe me.”
“And as for not looking like an elf, it had been thousands of years. Of course they would look different from the descriptions in the stories. Besides, they had to change enough to be able to blend in with humans.”
“Why would they want to do that? And why settle so far from earth?”
“Good questions. I’m happy you’re starting to believe me.” The Doctor grinned smugly.
Rolling his eyes at his old friend, Jack sat back, and waited for the long story he knew was coming.
“Elves initially left earth for several reasons, but the most important was that as earth got more crowded, their beloved land was destroyed, used up, paved over. They initially learned to blend in, and lived with humans a long time, with no one the wiser. Finally, though, as humans developed, and met other races, elves had the opportunity to leave, and they did.”
Jack nodded as the Doctor paused, still not quite believing, but listening all the same.
“They left just in time. Their mortal enemies, the orc, had managed to increase in numbers once again, and had been ready to wipe them out.”
“Doctor, people would have noticed if an army of goblins were running around,” Jack pointed out suspiciously.
“Ah, ah, ah,” the Doctor admonished. “I didn’t say they had attacked. Besides, their advanced scouts most likely were seen. The stories of ghosts and goblins had to come from somewhere,” he finished smugly.
“Okay,” Jack conceded. “So what happened next?”
“Well, unfortunately, somehow the orcs managed spaceflight as well. They left the earth in search of the elves. Apparently they’ve got quite the grudge.”
Shaking his head at the Doctor’s quip, Jack took a deep breath and got more comfortable. “We all have our issues, Doctor.”
“They had big ones.” The Doctor agreed, smiling briefly, then continued. “By the time you were born, the orcs had destroyed all of the larger elf colonies, and many of the smaller ones.
“Your colony was far enough out, and hidden so well that it took them quite a long time to find out you were there. When they finally did, your people managed to put up enough of a fight that they weren’t completely obliterated.”
“Love the sympathy,” Jack grumbled.
“Jack,” the Doctor leaned forward, and squeezed his shoulder once more, “you know I am sorry about your family and everyone you lost. What I’m saying is that I am impressed with how they defended themselves.”
“Sorry,” Jack apologized.
“That’s quite alright.” The Doctor gave Jack a reassuring smile, then sat back.
“So,” asked Jack, “why didn’t my parents tell us we were elves? They raised us as human. When we went to other places, they always pointed out how like other humans we were.”
“All children are basically honest, Jack. They can’t be expected to keep secrets very well. And I’m sure they would have told you when you reached the right age, but the Time Agency got to you first.”
“What do you mean, got to me first?” Jack asked, confused. “It was an honor to be selected. My town was proud of me. Weren’t they?” he questioned, trying to think back.
“Jack, at that time, there were only two valid reasons for turning down a commission in the Time Agency. One was being permanently ill or lame, the other was being an elf. Part of the original charter prohibited the selection of young elves. Your kind are very sensitive to time, and the young even more so. The majority of them go mad if they are exposed to regular time travel.” The Doctor looked earnestly at Jack, “you were one of the lucky ones.”
“What?” Jack asked, suddenly concerned.
The Doctor held up a hand, forestalling any more questions. “I don’t know any more, I’m sorry.”
Jack sighed, and looked up at the ceiling of the TARDIS, trying to calm down. He looked at the Doctor, “I knew they weren’t the best of organizations, but… If elves were so good at hiding, was the agency aware who they were taking?”
“Oh yes, Jack,” the Doctor replied. “The elder of a recruit’s community always had the opportunity to protest the selection, but the agency was so powerful at that time, they were never able to stop it.
“The story actually gets worse,” the Doctor said, grimacing. “I found out what happened in your two missing years.”
“The way this is going, I almost don’t want to know,” Jack replied, resettling himself on the couch.
“All the elves they took were young enough that they didn’t yet know their heritage. The time agency did this because once they really knew and understood who they truly were, they tended to leave. Unfortunately, since they were also the best agents, the time agency couldn’t let that happen.”
“I’m getting a bad feeling about this.”
“On one of your more dangerous missions, you died,” the Doctor paused, then continued as he saw Jack’s confused expression. “When elves die, they go to the Halls of Waiting, where they generally stay. For some reason, however, you were sent back.”
“Sent back? You mean, I came back to life?” Jack asked suspiciously. “Sounds very familiar.”
“This wasn’t quite the same. You actually spent some time in that state,” the Doctor explained. “You had been in the Halls of Waiting long enough to learn who you were. When you came back, they watched you until it was obvious you had changed, and then wiped your memory.”
Shocked and upset, Jack was quiet for several minutes, clenching and unclenching his fists. He finally took a deep shuddering breath, and looked back at the Doctor. “I won’t ever remember that; the memories are gone, aren’t they?” At his friend’s quiet affirmative, Jack nodded stiffly. “So is that why I didn’t die on the game station?” he asked, moving on.
“Actually no, at that point you were still mortal. The vortex snatched you from the Halls of Waiting before Mandos could even check you in.” The Doctor answered, with a subtle attempt at lightening the mood.
“Well, you know how I am at following rules,” Jack answered, following the Doctor’s lead.
“Since then, Mandos has seen you pop in and out, but you never stay long enough to settle in.”
“Is that why I never see anything; why it’s always black?” he questioned.
“But,” Jack quietly continued, “it’s always dark; foreboding and lonely.”
The Doctor smiled reassuringly. “That’s because you didn’t know where you were. You never stay long enough to enjoy Mandos’ hospitality.”
“Will I ever?”
“When it’s time,” the Doctor answered.
They looked at each other, slowly developing matching grins. Continuing for several minutes, Jack suddenly broke out laughing. “So, I’m an elf,” he announced cheerfully.
“You’re an elf,” the Doctor confirmed.
“So, what does that get me?” Jack pondered. “ A longing for the sea, and eventual meeting with a guy named Mandos, and a strong attraction for plant life?” He smirked.
“Well yes, elves do still like things that grow, in fact a lot of their ships look like…” he cut himself off. “And elves are very skilled and highly intelligent,” the Doctor added, getting back on track. “You may not have realized, growing up with other elves as you did, but you’re smarter than most humans, even humans in your original time,” he finished, forestalling Jack’s argument. Seeing his friend’s continued non-belief, the Doctor added, “I don’t let anyone else tinker with the TARDIS.”
Getting the point, Jack smiled, and leaned forward. “So, now that I’ve heard the story, and know what I really am, are you going to tell me what Mandos has to do with you still being around?”
“Oh, simple,” the Doctor replied. “Since the rest of the Time Lords are gone, he’s in charge of regenerations. After we had our nice long chat when my twelfth regeneration died, he let me know that I’d be around for quite a bit longer.”
Not at all surprised, but very amused with the way life is with and around the Doctor, Jack just laughed.
“Hey,” the Time Lord mock pouted, but chortled along with his friend.
Finally composing himself, Jack took a deep breath, and sighed, contented. “Where to next, then?”
“Well, the elves finally defeated the orcs and are now able to live openly. So, want to go meet your kind?” The Doctor asked, a sparkle in his eye.
“Sure,” Jack replied, following his old friend to the console, ready for another adventure.
As soon as they had landed, the Doctor ran to the door, ready to go out. Not hearing Jack behind him, he turned to see him slowly making his way over. “Come on, Jack, don’t dawdle.”
Jack finally reached the door, but put his hand on the Doctor’s arm, stopping him from opening it. “Doctor,” he said, uncharacteristically reticent, “what if they don’t want me. I’m…” he waved his hand down his body, “different.”
“Oh Jack,” the Doctor chided, voice warm, “of course they’ll love you. And you always have a home with me, you know that.”
“Thanks,” he smiled. “Let’s go.” He opened the door, and stepped through into a small garden surrounded by low buildings backed by a two-storey office complex. He took time to observe the setting, then noted uniformed men coming out of one of the doors. “Doctor,” he said nervously, as he recognized the uniforms, and then backed up towards the TARDIS, “we’re at the time agency.”
“Oh, did I forget to tell you that?” The Doctor answered brightly. “We’re meeting your people here.”
“You might have forgiven and forgotten certain elements of my past, but I doubt they’ve done that,” Jack continued inching back towards safety. “Last I heard they were still looking for me.”
“Nonsense Jack,” the Doctor put his hand on the small of his friend’s back, stopping his retreat. “I have it on good authority that the head of the time agency will be very happy to see you.” He started walking forward, pushing Jack along with him. “Besides, the last wanted notice they put out was a little misinterpreted by some who already knew your reputation.” Suddenly looking at Jack, he asked, “What did you do to the Rellaxian ambassador, anyway?”
“Nothing,” he quietly growled. “And now’s not the time, Doctor, there are more of them coming.” Somewhat comforted by the Doctor’s reassurance, and kept from retreat by the Doctor’s hand, Jack carefully continued forward.
When the strangers had gotten within several feet, they stopped, allowing a tall woman to step through from behind. She was beautiful, with dark hair that flowed down her back, and small lines on her face that spoke of age and wisdom. She exuded power, making Jack want to bow at her feet, until he realized who she was.
“Mother?” He hesitantly asked, inching forward.
“Iorthalion?” She questioned, searching his face, then ran forward, pulling him into her arms. “It is you, after so long,” she cried, holding him as tightly as she could.
After several moments, his mother pulled back enough to free one hand, wiping tears from her face. “Thank you Doctor, so very much, for finding him for me.” She ran her hand over his hair, then carefully traced over his face. “I thought I’d never see him again.”
“I told you I would,” the Doctor replied smugly.
Looking up from his embrace, Jack eyed the Doctor. “How long have you known my mother?” he asked somewhat testily.
“Iorthalion,” his mother chided, pulling back to glare at him.
“It’s fine, Nurvadhril.” He looked at Jack. “I came to get you as soon as I could. But it’s actually a long story.”
“As long as yours, I would imagine,” Jack’s mother smiled at him. “Starting with the reason he calls you Jack.” Laughing at her son’s blush, she hooked one arm through his, “Shall we move inside?”
“Yes ma’am,” both the Doctor and Jack replied, following the regal lady indoors.
After sitting down, the Doctor and Nurvadhril convinced Jack to tell his story first. He started with leaving home to go to the Time Agency, and his time with them. The Doctor filled in the missing two years, which Jack would never remember. Jack continued with his stint as a con man, shamefully telling his mother what he had done. When he reached his first meeting of the Doctor, the man in question jumped in, helping Jack tell stories, and filling in what he missed. Finally, Jack told his mother about Torchwood, and his long tenure there. He spoke of his teams, his loves, and his failures, including the fateful encounter with his brother, and his inability to save him.
“Oh Iorthalion,” she sighed, pulling him into her arms, “it was never your fault.” Hugging him tighter, she caressed his back. “You were so young when it happened - you don’t remember well. So many died or were taken that day, I was lucky not to have lost you as well.”
“But you told me not to let go, and I did, and he was gone,” he spit out angrily. “I looked for him for so long, but I could never find him. Anywhere. I lost him,” he whimpered, letting his mother comfort him. “And then when he found me, he was so angry – there was nothing left of him. He killed so many, getting revenge on me, and that wasn’t enough, he was never going to be safe for my people…”
Nurvadhril pulled back to look Jack in the eyes. “Iorthalion, look at me,” she commanded, and waited until he complied. “He was taken by our enemy, the Orc. Once someone has been taken by the Orc, they are gone, irrevocably. Even if they still live, the torture that is inflicted on elves in particular is so gruesome and horrible that no one survives it intact.” She quickly grasped his chin, and turned his head back to face her. “That is not meant for you to feel guilty, my son. That was meant to free you; you helped him gain peace.”
Jack held his mother close for a while longer, then pulled back. “Thank you.”
She smiled, then looked at her companions. “I would say that is enough for today, but I know my ever curious son wishes to know our story, Doctor.”
“Yes, better to tell him before the curiosity gets to be too much for him,” the Doctor agreed. He turned to Jack. “First, you need a little more background. I’ve already told you about the Orcs, and the war with your people. What I didn’t mention was that during your time there, the war in general was going very badly. The Orcs had made several unexpected attacks, which left your population dangerously low.”
“Finally, however, we were able to strike several blows, and the tides were turned. We have destroyed most of their ships, and they are now relegated to a small planetary system light years from any other inhabited area. They are kept under watch, of course.”
“Of course,” Jack agreed. He looked at the Doctor. “Did you have anything to do with this?”
“No, not really,” he denied, then continued, “well, maybe a little. Just at the end.” Looking at Nurvadhril, he added, “That’s where I met your mother. She and her group were in a tight spot, and I helped them out.”
Nurvadhril gave the Doctor an exasperated look. “It was our last battle. We had won, but our ship was failing, and we had no safe place to land. He came in with his TARDIS, helped us fix the ship, and get back to base with great detriment to himself.”
The Doctor looked down for a second, then back up at Jack. “That was my last regeneration, or so I thought. Then I met Mandos in the Halls of Waiting. Not a bad guy, really. He’s not too chatty, but told me about your people, and about you, Jack. He said now that I was the only Time Lord out here, I’d have to stick around for a while; help take care of things. Kind of like you, Jack.” The Doctor smiled as he looked at his old friend.
“Wow,” Jack breathed, shocked by the news.
“Jack?” The Doctor asked, concerned.
“I’ve just gotten so used to the idea of being alone, that it’s hard to make the shift to knowing you’ll always be there.”
Giving Jack a knowing smirk, he continued the story. “So, when I finally came back, the elves were very welcoming and accommodating.” He smiled thankfully at Nurvadhril. “However, having just won against the Orcs, and still in a strong position, they decided to turn their attention to the time agency.”
Nurvadhril frowned. “They had been stealing or tempting away not only our children, but the young of many other species across the universe. We also knew of specific instances when they proved themselves to be corrupt in other dealings, as well. Then, when the Doctor told us what they had wiped your memory Ionthalion, as well as that of all the other young elf agents who survived time travel, we were even more determined to stop them.”
“As you can see,” the Doctor said waving his hand around the room, “they succeeded. The elves managed to take over the time agency with a minimum of fuss.”
Shaking her head at the Doctor’s version of the story, Nurvadhril added, “it came with careful planning, which you, Doctor, helped with. However, it was not without cost: the Doctor once again lost his life while saving the lives of elves.”
“Mandos was not happy to see me again so soon, let me tell you.” He frowned and pointed his finger for emphasis. “He also was not happy that I hadn’t talked with Jack yet. Luckily, after a short discussion of expectations versus reality in a war zone, he agreed that I mightn’t have had time yet.” Looking at Jack, he added, “After I left, I went straight to Cardiff to find you. And that brings us to today.”
“And what a day it is,” Jack replied. “So what now?” he asked. “Not that I’m anxious for action and adventure just yet, but it sounds like there’s some sort of plan for me, if Mandos was intent on you bringing me here.”
“Very true, Jack,” the Doctor agreed, then, “Nurvadhril,” he looked at her.
“We’d like you to work for the time agency again. Our goals are still the same – patrolling time, keeping it safe – but we’re taking a less corrupt view of it. All the agents are fully briefed and trained before they ever leave our base. We’ve found a way to test elvin sensitivity to time travel, so there are quite a few out there safely patrolling,” she said proudly. “What we’d like you to do is stay with the Doctor.”
Surprised, Jack looked at his mother, then smirked at the Doctor, “someone has to keep you in line.” He chuckled.
“Jack,” the Doctor growled.
“That’s exactly what you are meant to do, Ionthalion. We all know how much trouble he can get into,” his mother answered playfully.
“Alright, that’s enough ganging up on me,” the Doctor laughed, trying to glare at his friends. “In spite of your continual cheek, however, I would be very happy to have you with me, Jack.”
Sobering, Jack looked the Doctor in the eye, “thank you. And I would love to go to with you again, but,” he grasped his mother’s hand, “could we stay here a while, first?”
“Of course, Jack. However long you need.”
A month later Jack and the Doctor were ready to go. Jack had spent time getting to know who he really was, learning about his own time sense, and how to use it. He rediscovered his relationship with his mother, and found that when she occasionally tried to treat him like a child, he occasionally didn’t mind it. While helping with new protocols and procedures, he realized that his powerful and wise mother really did trust and value him.
Finally, it was time. Their things were packed and on the TARDIS, she was fueled and ready to go. The only thing left was to say goodbye.
Jack looked around at the same little garden surrounded by the same buildings, with the same people, and smiled. At his mother’s questioning look, he leaned closer and murmured, “just a month ago we were in this same position.”
She nodded, then pulled him close. “But this time you are leaving.”
Jack hugged her tightly, then let go. “And this time, I’ll come back. I know where you are now, you won’t be able to get rid of me.” He waggled his eyebrows.
“That’s the same problem I always have with him,” the Doctor laughed, then grabbed his arm. “Come on, Jack, time to go.”
Jack waved, then followed the Doctor into the TARDIS.
“So, Doctor,” Nurvadhril looked at Jack and the Doctor as dinner was finishing, “do you plan on staying with us or in your TARDIS while you’re here?”
Smiling pleasantly at his hostess, he responded, “I would never be so rude as to turn down your gracious hospitality.” He glared briefly at Jack when he snorted.
“What?” Jack asked innocently, then got up to follow his mother and the Doctor into the hallway.
“I thought you might,” Nurvadhril continued, keeping her smile at bay. “Considering Jack would most likely want to stay with us.” She smirked, watching her son’s confused look. Finally stopping at a door, she opened it to reveal a room containing a small sitting area, and a large bed. At the far side was a solid door leading to the en suite, and a large window overlooking an enclosed patio. Smiling serenely, she gestured them inside, “this will be your room Jack, Doctor. My room is at the end of the hallway if you need anything.”
Seeing that Jack was unable to answer, the Doctor thanked Nurvadhril, then pulled Jack into the room. “Jack?” he asked, looking carefully at his friend. “Jack!’ he insisted, patting him on the cheek. Finally seeing some sort of response, he asked, “what’s wrong?”
“My mother,” Jack whispered.
“Your mother what?” the Doctor asked, starting to become concerned.
“She put us in this room,” he answered, still a little shell-shocked.
“Yes she did,” the Doctor replied slowly, like a teacher to a particularly slow student. “Is there something wrong with this room?”
“There’s only one bed,” he answered, stricken.
“Yes,” the Doctor said slowly, “and…” He circled his hand, hoping Jack would make sense soon.
“She thinks we’re sleeping together,” Jack whined.
“We are sleeping together,” he replied, rolling his eyes. “We have been for ages, literally. And you never had a problem with it before,” the Doctor argued, starting to feel a little irritated.
“But Doctor,” Jack insisted, “it’s my mother!”
Breaking out in a gale of laughter, the Doctor shook his head at Jack, and pushed him toward the bed. “Come on, Jack, you can do it.”
Frowning at the obvious lack of sympathy, Jack nevertheless followed the Doctor’s lead. He was, eventually, able to forget his mother was down the hall, but it took Herculean effort on the Doctor’s part – not that he minded.