He doesn't sleep, but sometimes he dreams.
Sometimes dreams stay with us.
Captain Jack Harkness climbed out of his bunk and up, into his office, glancing around the interior of the Torchwood headquarters. It was still quiet -- quiet as it ever got, anyway. None of the others had arrived yet and Jack wasn't expecting them to arrive for some time; after the long, late night they'd had he'd shooed them all away with stern reminders to make it in before lunch and not a minute before.
Barring alien invasion, of course, but that was always the case.
He half expected to see Gwen at her desk regardless. Her work ethic was still quaintly normal, polished by the police force that assigned regular shifts and expected properly filled out time sheets. They'd grind that out of her sooner or later, but for now Jack had to admit he found it refreshingly...quaint. Even when it was exasperating.
But Gwen wasn't in; only the distant sound of machinery and the Pterodactyl sleeping high above gave Jack any indication he wasn't completely alone.
Unbidden, his feet found their way down the steps to the small glass chamber. He pressed his fingers against the side, just inches away from the fingerpads of the hand within. It moved slightly; Jack still had no idea if the nerves were reacting to something or if they were just firing randomly.
With all he'd seen, done, and heard of, Jack had to admit he still found it just the slightest bit odd that the severed hand was even alive. However, he wasn't one to turn down gifts. For a moment he stared, seeing the ghost of the man who should be wearing the hand.
Fiercely, Jack turned, cutting off his train of thought and focusing on the first thing he saw. Toshiko's work station, the computer screen she left on to monitor communication signals. They rarely picked up anything, but occasionally someone flying nearby would send a call -- asking for directions to someplace more interesting was the most common transmission. Jack sat down at her desk and glanced through the night's log. Nothing, though he'd expected as much as otherwise there would have been an alert. He glanced through the logs from the last several days, not because he thought Toshiko would have failed to mention anything, but just because looking was better than sitting in the quiet, thinking.
The logs were all empty save one, the barest hint of chatter directed elsewhere, far past the edges of the Earth's solar system. They'd barely picked up enough of a signal to warrant recording something, but Jack gave it a listen. Two Manarien ships, from the sound of the language, calling each other as they flew by. Changing their headings to... somewhere, Jack couldn't make it out. He scowled, dialing up the volume and concentrating on a language he hadn't heard properly in years.
He doubted it was important, the logs were five days old, but he felt, for a moment, his heart pounding ever so slightly faster. He heard the first ship responding, words garbled. The second ship spoke in a burst of noise, and Jack made out the words 'Emperor Castlain's Fifth Annual Grooming Party'.
The social event of the season, nothing more. Jack cut off the recording and sat back in his chair. He'd been to Manarie once before -- that he could recall, at least. He'd been there in between seasonal events, but the locals had been more than eager to share stories of parties past.
He'd always meant to go to one, see what the fuss was all about.
Jack quickly scanned the rest of the logs for the month and found nothing of interest. Pushing himself away from the computer, he left it scanning for transmissions. Sighing, Jack drummed his fingers along the top of the desk. There were reports to be done, though not his -- his had been written up and filed away last night. The others' reports would get done today, he expected, and he'd go over each one meticulously and send them back for clarification, inclusion of seemingly minor details, and to fix spelling errors. Someday, someone might be trying to save the world and have only what they'd written down, to guide them. Jack knew what it was like to try to save a planet with faulty or sketchy information at hand and didn't intend to do the same to anyone else.
Besides...someday, someone might be scanning through ancient paperwork and find his name scrawled at the bottom of each one. Approved, Capt. Jack Harkness. It wasn't technically his title any more -- not that it ever had been. He'd flown during the war, but mostly inside a stolen spacecraft, which made him a Captain only in the most nominal sense.
But it was a name he would recognise. He would see the name, the careless title, and if he were in the proper place in their personal timelines, he would know.
The Doctor would know Jack was alive.
Jack rubbed at his forehead, trying again to change his train of thought. He glanced around, though there was nothing in the place that he hadn't seen a thousand times, didn't have completely memorised. He'd toyed with the idea of getting an apartment somewhere nearby, a flat he could rent just for the chance to see something different. But every time he considered it, he felt that stab of what he would never, ever call fear. There was something about this spot -- if the TARDIS was going to slide into this country or this year at all, it would most likely be here.
Come and gone in a flash, and Jack would be damned with a century of boredom before he would let his chance escape.
With a sigh, Jack picked up the ring of keys he didn't precisely need and walked down to check the archives. Too often of late people other than him had kept secrets down there.
Sometimes dreams come and go, and are easily forgotten.
The sound of Toshiko calling out drew Jack back up to the hub. A quick tense of concern, but when he heard Gwen's laughter and Owen's angry voice, Jack relaxed. Sauntered, then, up the stairs and took everything in. Gwen was still laughing, one hand in front of her mouth like she was trying to stifle her laughter, or at least be polite about it. Toshiko was grinning, ducking her head as she sat down and began scanning her computer screens for activity.
Owen was glowering at the pair of them, hands on his hips and looking thoroughly insulted. Jack smiled.
"Morning," he called out as he headed over.
"Morning," Gwen and Toshiko glanced his way; Owen was still glaring at Gwen.
Jack tried to look mollifying and asked, "Is there a problem?"
"Owen's got a girl!" Gwen exclaimed.
Jack blinked, then gave Owen a wide grin. "Congratu--"
"You lot don't have to act like it's never happened before," Owen interrupted, glowering at each of them. "I've been with lots of girls."
Toshiko gave Owen a pitying look. "It doesn't count if you pay £3 a minute to talk to them."
Owen just sneered at her while Gwen giggled. Jack didn't bother hiding his grin, even when Owen turned his glower on him. "Fine," Owen finally grumbled. "See if I bother telling any of you about my girlfriend." He started to storm off, towards his desk.
"Inflatable?" Toshiko called after him, and she and Gwen both laughed out loud when Owen just flipped them off.
Jack waited a moment, then gave them a somewhat serious look. "You shouldn't tease him," he began. Toshiko gave him a confused look; Gwen's expression fell, slightly, into guilt. Jack considered it for a moment. "On second thought, never mind. You probably should."
He turned away, flashing Owen a bright smile, and took a step over to perch on the edge of the table. He waited as Owen busied himself with work, saying nothing. Gwen followed suit and soon all three of them were settling in, checking over the events of the last few hours, checking up on anything that might have happened which might require a second look.
A few minutes later, Owen pushed himself away from his desk and snapped, "It's a girl I met last week, we've been out three times and she's really quite nice!"
"That's lovely, Owen," Gwen said in a tone that was almost sincere -- and just overly-solicitous enough that it made Owen narrow his eyes. He'd raised his hand, pointing a finger at her when Toshiko spoke up from where she was staring at her computer.
"Has she got -- oh, wait, here we go. Elin Roderick. I've got her driver's license photo -- oh, she's cute, Owen." Toshiko gave him a smile as Gwen and Jack hurried over to see.
"What the bloody hell are you--" Owen began, getting to his feet but staying at his desk, gaping in disbelief.
"Well, you told us where you had dinner with her Saturday," Toshiko explained. "It was really quite simple to find a photo from CCTV. I've got her work records, her parking tickets -- three this year alone." Toshiko made a tsking noise, shaking her head briefly. "All paid up, at least."
"Oh, that's good," Gwen said, leaning over Toshiko's shoulder. "I'd hate for Owen to be dating a criminal type."
"Jack!" Owen finally managed. Jack looked over at him, raising an eyebrow. "Are you going to let them get away with that? Using Torchwood resources on...on... spying on my girlfriend? Haven't you got aliens to track down or something?"
"Well, technically we're not spying," Jack pointed out. "We're just vetting her. Poking our noses in to make sure she deserves you." He clapped Toshiko lightly on the back. "Though he has a point. We should make sure there aren't any aliens invading before we find out where she works, where she went to school, who her friends are, and what her favorite color is...."
He winked as Owen folded his arms and glared at them -- as though it would do any more good now than it had before. But Toshiko nodded and Gwen returned to her own desk, and soon Jack could see their attention was once again on sifting through the morning's flotsam and jetsam.
Owen stayed where he was for a minute longer, before grumbling to himself and sitting down at his computer. Jack, for his part, went to refill his coffee mug then returned to his office. It felt like it was going to be a quiet day, and while Jack freely admitted to being paranoid at times, he wasn't paranoid enough to think that 'quiet' was excuse enough for disaster to strike. He expected the others to begin teasing Owen about his girlfriend again; of all of them only Gwen had managed to hang onto her boyfriend while working at Torchwood. Toshiko had never really managed to get one, and Owen usually dated girls once then never again.
It was actually encouraging that Owen was talking about dating her, and Jack knew that Gwen and Toshiko agreed. It would be nice if he could hang onto this girl, no matter who she was or what her favorite color was. Jack didn't say so -- not out loud, and certainly not so soon. But these people deserved something more than a life underground watching for aliens. Even if Jack didn't know if he should call them friends, they were certainly companions, and every person deserved something in the way of love.
The words rolled through his head; Jack dug out a newspaper and buried himself in it.
Twenty minutes later, Gwen called over, "Do we investigate missing tyres?"
Jack looked up from an article on Elvis eating some woman's baby that he'd been reading in the World News Report. "Missing tyres?"
"The local police reckon it's school kids playing a prank, but there's about three hundred of them, all missing overnight, from cars parked all over Pembrokeshire." Gwen frowned. "Is that our sort of thing? Do aliens steal tyres?"
"I've never heard of aliens stealing tyres," Toshiko put in. "Buses, once, five years ago. But never just the tyres."
"I have," Jack said, already turning back to his paper. "Rubber-eaters, partial to a little radial steel for flavoring. But if it's them, I wouldn't worry -- a few dozen tyres for breakfast and they hibernate for forty years." There was nothing of interest in the paper, plenty of absurd stories but nothing that smacked of real aliens.
"Oh." Gwen hesitated, then simply went back to her work. The place grew quiet again, punctuated by typing on keyboards and the rolling of office chair wheels. Definitely a quiet day, Jack thought, and he leaned back in his chair and picked up another newspaper Ianto had left for him. The UB Post, direct from Mongolia, was usually a good source of entertainment, though as far as Jack could remember, no aliens had ever landed there.
They'd landed in every other spot on the planet over the last twenty thousand years, except Mongolia. Jack was still working on a theory for that one.
Sometimes dreams are memories and things we still desire.
Sometimes Jack could go all day without thinking about him, without looking at the container. Without seeing those fingers, flexing ever so slighting and making him think of-- things he could go all day without thinking.
Seeing Estelle again had made him forget for one entire day. He had always loved visiting her, listening to stories that made him wish he could whisk her away. Tell her things she couldn't understand and which would solve nothing.
He'd thought more than once about telling her who he was, letting her know that he hadn't left her. Letting her know he still loved her, that he still sometimes wished....
But it couldn't have changed things, and he had known that it was better to leave her with memories. She had never seemed bitter, had only smiled wistfully sometimes when she had looked at him. She'd let go of her long-ago love and moved on.
Jack had buried her in the woods she'd held so dear, sprinkled heather over her grave and pressed a kiss from his fingertips to her gravestone and whispered farewell. He hadn't thought about all the lovers he'd ever left behind, hadn't thought about those few he'd loved.
He'd come back to Torchwood and buried himself in work, gone days without looking up and catching a glimpse of the container and the hand inside. His memories had, for a time, been of shiny brown hair and soft, gentle curves and a light, easy laugh that filled the room. But slowly those memories began to echo others, and as the days passed and Estelle's death eased into his heart, other memories took her place. Another smile, just as easy but not so light. Dark eyes that saw through everything and gave away so little. Hands, rough and worn--
Hands that Jack could recall with clarity even without the reminder, trapped in the chamber nearby. How they felt on his arms, or his face, and their strength when he pulled Jack along -- often while shouting "Run!" and accompanied by explosions or weaponsfire. Jack could remember how those hands looked, tinkering underneath the console of the TARDIS, steady and sure, and Jack had never hid how he would stare, watching every move the other man made.
After a while, Jack pulled out a photograph of Estelle and put it on his desk, but her bright sunny smile couldn't quite erase what he saw.
Sometimes dreams are just noise from the brain, signifying nothing.
"I think I have something!" Toshiko's voice startled Jack from what he would deny was a catnap. If anyone asked, which they didn't, as everyone's attention was on Toshiko.
She read from her computer screen. "Six sightings of so-called weather balloons, all in a direct line from Brigend to Cardiff. The sightings occurred last week, Wednesday night. But this morning, anyone who reported seeing them has been reported missing."
"Did we pick up any alien activity on Wednesday?" Jack asked, already thinking back and knowing they hadn't.
"Nothing," Toshiko said. "No reports of any flybys, landings, or attempted communication."
The lack of confirmation didn't make Jack feel any better. He was out from behind his desk and striding towards Toshiko's even as she answered his question. "Can we confirm those missing persons all saw these 'weather balloons'?" It was possible something had shielded itself from Torchwood -- unlikely, and damned tricky to do, but entirely possible.
She turned towards her screen, tapping at the keyboard. As Jack feared, she nodded. "There are thirty six official reports of UFO sightings, all Wednesday night between two a.m. and three fifty a.m. Twenty-five missing persons reports filed in the last twenty four hours, all matching those who reported sightings."
"Track down those other eleven people," Jack ordered, even as he was grabbing his coat and gun. "Find out if they're still around and if so, we want to talk to them."
"Already on it," she said, crisp and efficient. Jack could see Gwen and Owen already moving, gathering their equipment and double-checking the information Toshiko was providing.
Within minutes they were on their way. The plan was to start in Cardiff where the most recent reported sighting had been, and work their way west towards Brigend and the earliest sighting. The missing people all seemed to have vanished at the same time, with reports coming in as anyone noticed or realised anything was wrong. As Jack drove, Toshiko and Gwen determined that most of the other eleven were also apparently missing, only nobody had bothered to make the reports yet. Of the thirty six witnesses, only two were unaccounted for.
It was a starting point, and Jack dispatched the others to find those two and try to figure out what had happened. Jack himself went to where the 'UFO' had been spotted to take readings. His wrist-unit wasn't perfect, and in many ways it was far inferior to the computer at Torchwood. But for on the spot detection of alien technology, it had rarely been beaten.
He found an empty lot where two of the last reports had centered, and began scanning. There was a flash of memory -- blonde hair, cheeky grin. Scanning for alien tech, and a name he'd figured out years later. Jack shook his head and concentrated, finding nothing but normal weather patterns, traces of ancient, clunky aeroplanes, and the flight paths of birds, insects, and one invisible flying Grodanian, who had immigrated legally fifty years before.
Nothing unusual, and nothing to explain UFO sightings and disappearances. Jack was just turning back to drive back to where he'd left the others, when his mobile rang and Toshiko's voice came online.
"We've found one man who claims to have seen the...whatever it was they saw, last Wednesday," she began without preamble.
"Excellent. Where are you? I'll meet--"
Suddenly Toshiko screamed in his earpiece, and Jack ran.
She didn't answer him, no matter how often he shouted her name; Gwen and Owen didn't answer when he rang their mobiles. He drove to where he'd dropped them off, already mentally retracing their steps and hot in pursuit as soon as he slammed the car door shut. They'd have begun at the building in front of him, a tenement building -- address on the fourth floor, apartment E. It only took seconds for him to get there, and the acidric smell hit him as he opened the stairwell door.
Somehow he knew, as he turned the corner towards the flat, what he would find.
The spreading stain coming from beneath the door to the flat was dark green and smelled sharply of chromium. Jack's hand shook as he drew his gun, wishing he still had his sonic blaster. He pushed the door opened and froze.
Sometimes dreams are only fears come to visit.
Jack opened his eyes; surprised that he'd fallen asleep, but not at all surprised to find the Doctor wide awake beside him. He looked around the room, but everything in it looked familiar. Exactly the same as when he'd laid down. Exactly the same as yesterday, the day before, and the only thing different from the day before that was the jacket draped over the chair instead of across the foot of the bed.
Fingers trailed lightly down his cheek and Jack looked back at the Doctor.
"Awake now, are we?" A wide, bright smile that was still never quite what Jack expected.
"Maybe you should make sure," Jack said, grinning easily -- enticingly, though he'd never needed much by way of encouragement. Not here, and not any longer. Sometimes, he'd found, simply being awake and breathing could be enough to invite this man in.
His lover returned the invitation with a kiss, leaning back just long enough for Jack to see the glint of desire in his eyes. Then he was there, kissing Jack again, bare skin pressing in all the right places as he moved closer. A knee pressing in between Jack's legs, one hand running up the length of Jack's spine.
He shivered, thinking of that hand. That hand he had memorised when there had been nothing else. Touching him, now, and lips on his own and everything screaming at him that he should relax, give in, and forget everything that had ever come before.
"Shh," he heard, soft in his ear. "Shhh."
Jack closed his eyes and the Doctor kissed him once more.
Sometimes dreams come true.