Categories > TV > Doctor Who0 Reviews
[Journeyman/Torchwood crossover] Dan Vasser meets Jack Harkness for the first time during one of his trips to the past. Twice. Time travel is complicated that way.
Feedback: Yes, please. Comments are more than welcome.
Note: Many, many thanks to my betas, Dune, Sophie and, most importantly, Jades. It wouldn't be as good without them. Any mistakes and oddities still present should, of course, be blamed on me.
Extended First Meetings
“Congratulations, Dan Vasser. You managed to convince me to come down and talk to you. I really hope it was worth the wait. Now I have a question for you: who the hell are you?”
Direct as ever, that was Jack. For as long as Dan Vasser had known Captain Harkness (which was forty years or four, depending on who was counting), Jack had always had that welcoming smile and cheerful tone of voice that didn’t tell you anything, however open and friendly it might sound.
And on all previous occasions, Jack had actually been friendly. The smile directed at Dan now, however, was that of a shark about to strike. Dan had seen him use it before on someone else, but now he got to experience it from the receiving end. It was chilling.
But that was an interesting point. The picture of Jack sitting there, relaxed, one hand on the table and military coat draped nonchalantly over the back of his chair, hadn’t changed. It looked the same now, in 1973, as it had in 2008 when Jack had come to find him. Dan had wondered about that before, but he’d never thought to ask.
“How come you don’t change, Jack?”
Dan blinked the aftereffects of travelling out of his eyes and looked around. The Luna cafe. It’d become sort of a familiar place by now. No matter when he arrived, this place seemed to pop up regularly. And the way it looked now was even more familiar. He’d been here, at some point not too far from now, before.
“Hey you, in the door, either take a seat or take a hike. Make up your mind!”
Dan nodded at the man addressing him from behind the bar. Very rude and impatient bartender, check. Hippies, check. Jaws movie poster, check. Seventies, then. 1975, maybe? That’s when it last looked like this.
A dark-haired man in a long blue coat with a military cut caught Dan’s glance, shot him a brilliant smile and pushed a chair out with his foot. “You heard him, Dan. Grab a chair.”
“Sure.” Dan took the seat. “Thanks.” He tried to look around casually, to get a glimpse of who he was supposed to help this time. Nobody particularly presented themselves. Either his charge still had to arrive, or it was the guy who had just invited him to sit at his table. That was so far the only interaction he’d had, after all. So he might as well strike up a conversation.
He eyed the bottle of Scotch on the table, still three quarters full. “Isn’t it a bit early in the day to be drinking?”
The man shrugged. “Depends on the context.” He grinned . “I’m still on British time.”
Dan noticed the cheerfulness didn’t carry up into the man’s eyes. He also didn’t sound British. When after a few seconds silence, Dan still hadn’t said anything else, the man took a deep breath and introduced himself. “I’m Captain Jack Harkness, by the way. Call me Jack.”
Dan nodded. “Dan.” It felt a little weird, introducing himself, but Dan couldn’t put his finger on why.
Harkness smiled, this time more to himself than at Dan. “Nice to meet you, Dan.”
Dan leaned back in his chair. “So, England, huh? Been there on business?” It couldn’t hurt to find out, after all.
“Wales, actually,” Harkness corrected him. He finished off the splash of Scotch still in his glass, then tossed it around in his hands, seemingly contemplating pouring himself a new glass. “You from around here, Dan?”
“Sort of.” Well, he was. Just normally about thirty years into the future.
Harkness leaned forward. “Did you hear anything about what happened here two weeks ago?”
Harkness shrugged briefly, dismissively. “Nothing much. A couple of hippies short on cash and a conscience stealing tips from the table, as I understand it from him.” He pointed over his shoulder to the bartender, now with his back to his customers. “But a patron prevented him stopping them, the way he tells it. Then that customer also disappeared.”
Dan blinked. Then he shook his head. “Nope. Sorry. Haven’t heard anything about that.” In fact he hadn’t heard anything. He had been the one to stop the bartender from going after those kids with a gun, however. Then he’d travelled out of there before the consequences could catch up. He glanced back at the bartender again, suddenly hoping that the man wouldn’t recognize him and decide to take up the argument again. But he still had his back to the room. “So why are you interested?”
Harkness had been studying him for his reaction. But after Dan’d asked the question, he looked into his glass and snorted a brief laugh. “This is going to sound silly.” He put the glass down on the table and leaned forward, looking straight into Dan’s eyes. “Before all that went down, the bartender heard the guy, and a woman with him, claim they were time-travelers. From 2007.”
Dan blinked, calling on his old poker skills to keep a straight face. Harkness’ eyes remained on his. Then he forced a smile. “They were joking, I’m sure.”
Harkness also had a good poker face. The grin that came on his face again didn’t carry into his eyes, but it took a poker player of Dan’s experience to spot that. “Yeah, most likely.” He leaned back in his chair again, his clear blue eyes never leaving Dan’s. “Just in case, though, did you see a blue police box anywhere around here?”
Dan frowned. Where had that comment come from? Then he lifted his shoulders and shook his head. “No, that doesn’t sound familiar at all.” While he was shaking his head, he saw the bartender turn around and look into the café. Uh Oh.
Dan’s words had an effect on Harkness. What little energy there had been in his eyes dropped, and his shoulders sagged as well. “That’s what I thought. Guess I’ll have to wait a little longer.” He poured himself another drink; well over a double, but then again he had the bottle, so Dan supposed it didn’t matter. “Thanks anyway, Dan.”
The bartender’s eyes had settled on Dan, and he could see recognition dawning in them. He got up. “Sorry, Jack, but I have to get going. See you around.” He was out the door before the bartender could get to him, but he heard him shouting for the entire length of the block. Then he traveled away.
Dan saw Jack stiffen at his question. The smile dropped and he abandoned his relaxed posture, sitting up straight and placing both elbows on the table. “I’m not the one under interrogation here, Dan.”
Dan arrived at The Register, and had to move quickly to avoid tripping over an intern who’d had an accident with a stack of paper. He helped her clean it up and started his computer to see if he could find information about ‘Captain Jack Harkness’.
That was odd. There were a few Harknesses around, but none of them seemed to fit the description of the man he’d met in 1975. So apparently the news archives were a dead end. And he couldn’t ask one of his colleagues to look into the military archives without at least a good story excuse. Which he didn’t yet have on this one. Still early days, though. It was likely he’d run into Harkness again. Hopefully he could get some more information on him at that time. Whenever that would be.
Dan hadn’t been at The Register when he’d travelled away, so his car was still at home. He left the building and headed for the nearest BART station to take him home. He’d barely gotten there when a headache signaled another trip. That was quick. Dan turned a corner to get a little away from the crowds—
--and found himself staring into open space. He threw out his arms for balance, then checked his surroundings more closely. The only solid support was a broad red beam under his feet, and then the roadway seemingly about a million miles below. Below that, there was water. He was on top of the Golden Gate bridge. How the hell was he supposed to get down? He wasn’t particularly scared of heights, but this sight was enough to induce vertigo in anyone.
“Easy, Dan,” someone cautioned him. “Wouldn’t want to fall off after taking all that trouble to get up here, would you?”
Dan turned around (slowly; losing his balance would be bad) to see who had spoken to him. It was Jack Harkness, sitting with his back to one of the pillars, one knee drawn up to his chest and the other dangling lazily over the side. Well, that at least answered Dan’s question about who he was tracking, but then why on earth was the man up here? And worse, Harkness had to have seen Dan arrive. Damn. Dan closed his eyes. He had to say something, anything. Nothing came to mind.
He opened his eyes again. Harkness had clambered to his feet and was now walking across the beam towards him, as if he were strolling down a shopping street. Hands in his pockets, not looking where he stepped, completely relaxed. Well, not completely. His face held quite enough tension, and it was all focused on Dan, however casual Harkness had sounded. “Impressive, showing up like that.”
Dan found his tongue again. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he managed to say.
Harkness gave him another one of those insincere bright smiles. “Of course you don’t.” He looked away from Dan, at the sunset that Dan had failed to notice until now because he’d been too preoccupied with not falling. It looked gorgeous.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
Dan considered his possible answers. “Yeah,” he confirmed, nodding. “Not sure it’s worth the climb up here, though.”
“Maybe not,” Harkness agreed. He walked back to the pillar and leaned against it. “But the quiet’s nice. And it’s close to the stars.”
“I think I’d prefer it to be closer to the ground.”
A snort of real amusement escaped Harkness,. “That’s good. Keeping both feet on the ground.” He looked Dan straight in the eye. “I’ve been doing that for too long already. Waiting.” He closed his eyes and sighed. “And just when you think you’ve found who you were waiting for, it turns out to be someone else.” Harkness opened his eyes again to keep looking at the sky, and the slowly appearing stars. The silence stretched long enough that an appreciable number of them were visible before he spoke again. “So why are you here this time, Dan?” he asked.
“Hell if I know.” Dan paused. He still didn’t know how much he should say. The fact that Harkness had previously admitted that he was looking for time-travelers indicated that he probably shouldn’t say too much. Professor Langley’s warning at their final meeting had made plenty of sense that way. He couldn’t allow himself to be manipulated. On the other hand, Harkness apparently wasn’t looking for /him/, but rather someone else. That might mean he knew something of the process. He could have some answers.
Oh, to hell with it. “But it’s probably something to do with you.”
Harkness jumped upright, and was in Dan’s face more rapidly than he’d thought possible on such a narrow ledge. “How’s that?”
Dan instinctively took a step backwards, causing him to wobble slightly. There was a wind picking up, which really didn’t help with his stability. “I don’t see anybody else around here.” He caught his balance again, helped by Harkness, who held out an arm to steady him. “Why are you up here, anyway? How did you get here?”
Harkness let go of him again and took a step backwards. He gestured to the ladder that had probably been installed to let the maintenance guys touch up the paintwork. “I climbed up. To watch the sunset, mostly.”
“You really expect me to believe that?”
Harkness studied Dan for a few long seconds, and then that seemingly ever-present grin returned. He put his hands in his pockets and shrugged. “If I really wanted to commit suicide, would I come up here? Jumping into the water from road level would kill me just as dead.”
There was something there that Harkness wasn’t telling him, but Dan didn’t get the chance to ask after it, because Harkness continued. “But that would be something, wouldn’t it? Eight to ten seconds of free fall. It would almost be like flying.” He was looking up at the sky again, at the stars visible in the sky in this time of less light pollution. He turned his head to look at Dan again. “Still can’t beat the real thing, though.” Then he went back to his stargazing.
What the hell was he talking about? Flying? Falling? There was still nothing to indicate what Dan was supposed to be doing here, and Harkness was just one cryptic comment after another. It was frustrating. He took a step forward, toward Harkness, and gestured with his hands to emphasize the question. “Who the hell are you, anyway?”
His foot hit the raised edge of a nail and slipped. At the same time, a gust of wind pushed him a little further in the direction he was already wobbling in, enough to unbalance him completely. Dan flailed with his arms, but it was futile. He went over the edge.
“Dan!” Harkness screamed his name and threw out his own arm in the hope of catching him. That only served to unbalance him, too, and he had to drop facedown onto the strut to keep from falling himself. That was the last thing Dan saw before the night sky above him faded.
“I’m also not the one found wandering around in a restricted building two minutes after an IRA attack.” Jack’s eyes and voice were now completely dispassionate.
Dan sat back in his uncomfortable chair. Yes, well, that was the problem, wasn’t it?
He’d been in London with his family for the Olympics when he’d felt the travelling headache come on. So at least it hadn’t been entirely unexpected when he’d blinked and opened his eyes in nineteen-seventy three.
What had been unexpected was the car bomb going off at just about the same instant, just outside the building he was in. He’d been helping people evacuate when security had accosted him. Because he didn’t have the faintest idea what was going on yet, he hadn’t managed to bullshit his way out of it. And as it turned out, the British security services liked unauthorized people hanging around their buildings just about as much as their American counterparts did. Especially if those unauthorized people were foreigners with diplomatic passports the embassy knew nothing about. That maybe hadn’t been the best idea he’d had today.
And apparently he still had something to do here, because he hadn’t traveled out. But he doubted he was meant to be sitting in jail or an interrogation room for God knew how long. So he’d invoked the name of Captain Jack Harkness. Even though they weren’t supposed to have met yet. This was going to be difficult. Of course, he’d known this was going to happen at some point ever since he’d first met Jack.
“So I ask again: Who the hell are you?”
The dark sky above him was replaced with the bright light of day and sand kicked up around him as Dan hit the dirt with already quite appreciable speed. He sat up slowly, blinking to try and get the stars out of his eyes with little success. He was in the playground about six blocks from their house. He’d taken Zach here only yesterday –well, yesterday as he remembered it, in any case. It was still empty, thank God, because he really didn’t feel like trying to explain how he’d arrived here to any watching parents. Or kids, for that matter.
He pushed himself up further, still slowly, as he was hurting all over. Six blocks from home. Six blocks from a hot shower, a stiff drink and a decent night’s sleep next to a loving wife. He could do that on foot, sure, as soon as the world stopped spinning quite so much.
He’d made it to the road and about half a block when a car pulled up next to him. The driver’s side door opened and his brother leapt out. “Dan, come on, get in the car.”
Even in Dan’s current state he could hear the agitation in Jack’s voice. And it wasn’t because of his own condition, because Jack only noticed that now, as he got closer. “What the hell happened to you?” he asked immediately.
Dan sank gratefully into the soft cushions of the car seat while Jack walked back around to the driver’s side. “Fell off the top of Golden Gate Bridge.”
Jack paused in the middle of fastening his seatbelt to look at him. “Seriously?” At Dan’s quiet nod, he kept on asking. “Why?”
Dan closed his eyes while Jack started the car. It helped with the throbbing. “I really wish I knew.” He kept his eyes shut and his head back on the headrest, but he also kept talking. This ride wasn’t just for convenience. Inspector Jack Vasser wasn’t riled so easily. “So what do I owe the ride to?”
“Katie called me. She asked me to drop off Zach at Theresa’s from school and then meet her at your place. Someone came asking for you and wouldn’t leave. She closed the door in his face and called me.” Dan opened his eyes at that, only to shut them again against the brightness of the light. Jack continued. “Anyone you should know?”
Dan shrugged, which set all sorts of aches aflame in his shoulders. “Could be. The last two trips were weird. There didn’t seem to be anything I could do.”
“Apart from falling off a bridge.”
The car slowed. They were home. Dan cautiously opened his eyes to see if he could determine who had spooked his wife into calling Jack. Smart thing to do, though, especially after what happened the last time someone Dan had interfered with in the past came calling. Of course, Aidan Bennet hadn’t been as open about his intentions as this person apparently had been. Or it could be another government agent or agency on a witch hunt, but that seemed unlikely. They would have just stormed in regardless of whether Katie wanted to let them in or not.
Jack pulled into a free parking spot and Dan saw the man Katie must have been talking about. Leaning against what was clearly a rental car was 'Captain Jack Harkness'. He was still wearing the same kind of blue coat as he had thirty years ago and, in fact, he didn’t look any different at all. “That’s our man.”
“You sure?” his brother asked, already checking him out for himself with the expert eye of a police officer.
“Pretty sure, yeah.” Dan rubbed his eyes to clear out as much of the pain as possible. “He’s the guy I’ve been tracking.”
Harkness had caught sight of the car too and was approaching now. Jack looked at him, then at Dan. “So how do we play this?” he asked while he unbuckled his seatbelt.
Dan kept his eyes on Harkness as he did the same thing. He didn’t look hostile. But looks could deceive. “I don’t think I’ve done anything to antagonize him, so we take it easy.”
The both of them got out of the car nearly simultaneously, though Jack’s movement was a hell of a lot smoother than Dan’s, still bothered by the fall. Harkness immediately greeted them as they came into view. “Hey, Dan. Long time no see.” Then he extended a hand towards Jack. “And you must be Jack. I’m Captain Jack Harkness, pleased to finally meet you.”
Dan sighed. This was going to be hell to explain. But he was going to have to try. An eye for an eye, and all that. Although that probably wasn’t the best metaphor. “I’m a friend. Or at least I think we're friends. Will be.”
Harkness’ introduction got him nothing but stares from Jack and Dan, only broken when Dan had to shift his grip on the car roof for better balance. He was still a little shaky on his feet. That drew Harkness’ attention and he was at Dan’s side in two long strides. He was running his hands along Dan’s arms before he’d had a chance to move. “That looks bad, Dan. What happened?”
“Don’t you move any further.” Jack had drawn his gun, and it was aimed unerringly at Harkness.
Dan moved back as rapidly as he could, further out of the line of fire. Harkness had frozen on command, though his eyes remained on Dan, not Jack. “I couldn’t feel anything broken, but you might want to get that looked at by a real doctor, Dan.”
Jack wasn’t deterred by Harkness’ lack of consideration for him. “Raise your hands, slowly, and step away from the car.”
Harkness obeyed. Dan, in the meantime, was rapidly losing his grip on the situation. The way Harkness was acting now wasn’t all that different from the way he’d acted back then, if a little more familiar. It was almost as if he’d known Dan for a long time, and Jack as well, from hearsay if nothing else. That last was probably what had set Jack off, and it was suspicious, but hardly reason to be getting out the guns. “Whoa, let’s back up here,” he said holding out one hand in what he hoped was a placating gesture. “What’s going on?”
“He’s armed, Danny,” his brother warned him.
So he was. With his arms in the air, the coat Harkness was wearing fell open, revealing the holster on his belt. It wasn’t empty. Dan was wondering when Jack had spotted that when he noticed the rest of the clothing Harkness was wearing.
It all looked very old-fashioned, as if out of WWII movies. That fit with the coat, come to think of it. The only things that were definitely modern were the man’s boots. Evan had been right. You could always tell by the shoes. But how did that fit with Harkness’ age, which had seemed to be late thirties in nineteen seventy five and looked like late thirties now? Well, time-traveler, obviously. But from when?
Dan repeated his question from just before he’d lost his balance and fell. “Who the hell are you?”
Harkness frowned at him, briefly confused. Slowly, his eyes widened and his eyebrows travelled upwards as realization dawned. Then his grin returned, and he started laughing. “Oops. I seem to have arrived a little early. Sorry, Dan.”
He stopped laughing and turned to Jack, stepping further away from the car so he’d be clearly visible from the other side. He addressed Jack. “Inspector, I’m going to take out my gun, and I’m going to give it to Dan here.” He slowly moved his left hand down and across his body toward his holster.
“Slower,” Jack cautioned him.
“Okay.” Harkness slowed down his movements even further. “I didn’t come here to shoot anyone.” His hand reached the holster, undid the clasp and fished out an old-fashioned revolver with two fingers until it was far enough out of the holster that he could grasp the cylinder. He held it out to Dan, grip first. “There you go.”
Dan took it, opened it to see it hadn’t been loaded and then let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. He saw Jack’s shoulders drop half an inch as well. He didn’t lower his gun, however. “Okay. Now answer his question.” Jack inclined his head toward Dan.
“I’m a friend.” Harkness said. He gestured at Dan. “You could say I used to be in the same line of work as Dan here. I promised him some answers a while back.”
Jack shot a glance at Dan, looking for confirmation. Dan couldn’t give it, however, because he remembered neither asking any other questions nor getting such a promise. So he shook his head.
“Dan, get your phone out. I’d like to have some friends around here, too.” Jack turned back to Harkness. “Try again. We don’t believe you this time, I arrest you for harassment and for carrying a concealed weapon.”
Harkness held his hands out, a gesture of helplessness. “You want me to make something up?” He dropped his arms to his sides. “I think I timed this badly. I don’t think Dan knows about my promise of answers because he hasn’t asked the questions yet.”
“You what?” Dan felt the need to get involved in this conversation again.
“Look,” Harkness said, adding force to his argument by looking around the street. “Do you really want to discuss this out here, like this?”
Dan looked at Jack. “He has a point.”
“Maybe, but are you sure you want to let him into your house?”
“I don’t see any other option right now.”
Jack nodded, then lowered his gun. “Good. So we move.”
The three of them went into the house, Dan first and Jack bringing up the rear. Katie greeted them by embracing Dan as he came through the door. “Dan, thank God, you’re home.” Then she caught sight of the man she’d probably locked out and a still armed Jack. “What’s going on?” she asked, and, after releasing Dan and seeing his condition, added: “What happened to you?”
Dan sighed. “It’s a long story. And I don’t know all the elements of it. Yet.”
“My fault,” Harkness said contritely. “I’m sorry if I scared you, Mrs. Vasser.”
Katie returned his bright smile with one of her own, the overlarge in-front-of-the-camera one. “You haven’t stopped doing that yet, Captain.”
Harkness’ smile became, if anything, even larger. “Touché,” he said. Then he became more serious again. He looked first at the kitchen table and then at Dan, a questioning look on his face. When Dan nodded, he seated himself at the table, placing his hands flat on the surface, away from his body. He took a deep breath. “And now we get the interrogation.”
“No, we don’t,” Katie interrupted, taking charge. “Dan, you need to clean up. Get to it.” With those words she ordered him upstairs. That taken care of, she turned toward Jack. “Is Zach safe?”
Dan just caught Jack’s confirmation as he went upstairs and then missed the rest of his wife’s words, which didn’t seem to be directed at anyone. He took off his sweater and shirt and ducked his head under a very cold shower for a few seconds. Katie could say what she wanted about him needing to clean up, he couldn’t leave them alone for too long, and he wanted some answers from Harkness, too. The freezing water did nothing for his headache except make it worse, and a glance in the mirror told him he didn’t look any better. Still, at least it did wake him up a little.
When he came back into the kitchen, Harkness was in the middle of defending himself from a barrage of questions from Jack, who seemed to still be in full-on cop mode. It all came down to an explanation of how he’d met Dan in 1975, and branched into how Harkness had known about the incident in the Luna Café way back then in the first place, what with him normally working in Britain. And, as it turned out from the documents on the table, travelling on a British diplomatic passport.
“I have contacts about this sort of thing through the work I do,” he admitted. “But I came here out of personal interest,” he emphasized, and from the weariness in Harkness’ voice, he’d been doing that for a while now.
“That’s not really all that comforting,” Dan interrupted. Most people who had taken a ‘personal interest’ in Dan and his family lately had been trying to either kill or profit off him in some way.
Harkness laughed. “I’m not too good at that kind of comforting, I’m afraid.” He winked at Katie, then turned serious again. He looked Dan in the eye. “Does the name Elliot Langley mean anything?”
Dan thought he’d managed to keep a straight face and Jack’s game face was almost as good, but Katie drew in a quick breath. Apparently that was enough. Harkness nodded. “I like him, too. I worked with him for a few years. He’s nowhere close to really knowing anything, though.”
Dan sighed and rubbed his temples. All this wasn’t helping his aching back or head. Jack, meanwhile, picked up the interrogation again. “And you are?”
Harkness still had his eyes on Dan, but he answered Jack anyway. “I know a little. But not enough to do anything by myself.” He frowned. “Are you okay, Dan? Sure you don’t need to go anywhere?”
“And why would I be friends with…” Jack pulled out Dan’s passport from the file in front of him, took one look at the white card in its leather holder and stopped mid-sentence. Instead, he held up the card and asked, “Where did you get this?”
Dan couldn’t stop himself from smirking. “Would you believe 1986?”
Dan swore to himself. That was why his headache was getting worse. He had been aching all over still, which was why he hadn’t noticed. And he couldn’t very well just disappear right in front of Harkness’ eyes.
Jack and Katie’s attention had shifted from Harkness to him, too. He nodded, trying to keep the motion as small as possible, but of course he wouldn’t be able to hide it entirely. Damn. He had to get out. He grabbed his jacket and went out the door.
He walked right into a gunfight.
He ducked for cover behind a couple of metal crates, where Livia –support, that was nice -- had already taken shelter. He greeted her with a ‘hey’ but it couldn’t be heard over the cacophony of gunfire. She took one look at him and frowned.
When there was a lull in the noise, instead of a greeting, she asked, “What the hell happened to you?”
“People keep asking me that,” Dan replied, and had to pause to fight off a hysterical giggle; the situation felt so ridiculous. He just managed to suppress it. “And it’s a long story, probably for another time.” He chanced a glance around the edge of the crate, which was immediately punished with another gunshot. He winced at the way it echoed in his still aching head, but then forced himself to look around properly. They were in a large warehouse. Whoever was shooting had cover behind other crates scattered throughout. The bullet ricocheted away somewhere in the distance. He jerked back under cover. “Any idea when we are?”
He only caught Livia’s headshake and not her actual answer, because there was another series of shots, occasioned by a man in a long blue coat cutting across some open ground to join him and Livia.
It was Harkness. He grinned at Dan in greeting. “Hey, Dan. Welcome to 1986. Here to help me this time?” He quickly checked over the top of the crate, then ducked back down. He gave Livia a blast of charm that seemed wholly inappropriate for the circumstances. “Captain Jack Harkness, pleased to meet you. And you are?”
“Not interested,” Livia shut him down. “What’s going on?”
Harkness raised his eyebrows at Livia’s dismissal, but then simply started to reload his revolver, carefully inserting each round into its chamber. “Long story short, I lost something. I wanted to retrieve it, some people had other ideas. Good thing I brought backup.” He pointed in the direction where he’d come from, and from where there was still occasional gunfire. Then he bounced up again to look over the crate, and another shot rang. “Of course, we still need to get out of here.”
That was supremely non-informative. “I need the longer version,” Dan said when it was quiet again.
“A while back I lost something that doesn’t belong here yet. I’ve been trying to get it back. I’d arranged to buy it from the people who found it, but they reneged on the deal. So I stole it and ran. Which brings us here.” Harkness risked another shot to stand up and look around. None was fired. “I think they’re trying to surround us.” He pointed, away from the crate. “There’s a door there, but our car is that way,” his hand waved in the direction of the gunfire, “and about a block away. We have to get moving before they can get people outside.”
Livia pulled Dan in close. “Are you sure he’s the one we’re supposed to help?” she whispered in his ear. It was quite clear she didn’t think he was.
Dan shook his head. ‘Sure’ was too big a word for the current situation. Then again: “I’ve been tracking him,” he replied. True enough, even if the way he was doing it was unlike any he’d encountered before.
Livia regarded Harkness coolly. Eventually, she came to a decision, and nodded. “I’ll get the car.”
“Thanks.” Harkness gave Livia the keys and described the car. Then he opened a clasp on his wristband, and talked into it. “Matt, we’re going out the door behind you. Cover us while we move.”
Dan looked first at the wristband, then at Livia and saw that her expression was filled with as much curiosity as he felt. But gunfire had broken loose again, presumably from Matt, and Jack had stepped out into the open and was shouting for the both of them to run to another crate closer to the exit. They did.
From their new location, they had a clear run for the door, and Livia took it immediately. Dan couldn’t blame her for wanting to be out of the crossfire.
Harkness was reloading his revolver again. He must have emptied it on his run for the new cover. He saw Dan watching him reload and grinned at him. “Not what this was designed for. I’m going to run out of ammunition soon.”
Dan looked at Harkness’ wristband again. “I didn’t think they had radios that small in the eighties.”
Harkness’ grin didn’t fade. “Time travel, Dan. It happens to other people too, sometimes.” Now the smile did drop. “Though it’s been a long time.”
“You’ve traveled?” Dan asked, so thrilled to have the man confirm his suspicions, and so easily, even, that he momentarily forgot about the current situation. “Do you know how this is happening? What’s going on with me?”
Harkness regarded him evenly, sighed, and shook his head. “I’m sorry, Dan. My situation's a bit different to yours, and I don’t even know what’s going on with me. I’d like answers too.”
Outside, a car horn sounded. Harkness took another deep breath. “Okay, time to go.” He spoke into his wristband again. “Matt, our ride’s here.” He stood, partially abandoning the shelter of the crates to fire a few shots as cover.
Another man, presumably Matt, came running from cover a few rows further along. Just when he’d reached the lane between the next row of crates and the one Harkness and Dan were in, a ricochet caught him in the leg and he went down. More shots were fired in his direction, and at least one more hit.
“Matt!” Harkness screamed. He ran over, oblivious of the shots still echoing around the space, to pick the man up and bodily carry him to their shelter. There he checked the man over, quickly and seemingly quite thoroughly. “Stay with us, Matt,” he told the other man. “We’ll get you out of here.” He swore under his breath, then turned to Dan. “The bullet in his leg could be close to a major artery. He has to get to hospital. Can you get him out?”
Dan felt his still sore back muscles protesting at the mere thought, but he nodded anyway. All part of the job. Harkness acknowledged the nod, then helped Dan get his shoulder under Matt’s arm. He took a small leather holder from an inside pocket and shoved it into Dan’s. “Take this, too.”
“What I came here for.” He picked up Matt’s weapon – some form of semiautomatic, from Dan’s very limited experience – and checked it over expertly. “I’ll stay behind and cover you. Don’t wait for me, I can take care of myself. Go.” At that last word, Harkness abandoned the cover of the crate and raced in the direction Matt had been shot from, shooting at whatever targets presented themselves.
Dan carried Matt out as fast as he could, to the car where Livia sounded the horn again just as he came out. She helped him put Matt in the car, and he just managed to tell her that he needed to get to a hospital, and not to wait for Harkness. Not that she couldn’t have figured that out herself, of course. Then he blinked, and found himself at home again.
Jack stared at him for a few seconds. Then he handed the card over. “Where did you get this?” he asked again.
Dan picked it up and gave it back, almost successfully holding back the smirk this time. “1986. From you.”
Jack got up and left the interrogation room. He came back a few minutes later and sat down again. “There are no more recordings running and we are not being watched. Who the hell are you and what’s going on?”
Ah. And now they’d gotten to the hard part. Dan closed his eyes to think about what to say. He really should have expected this part of the conversation, too. Now he understood how Jack had felt way back when. He opened his eyes again. Start with the basics “I’m a time-traveler. I don’t know who’s doing it or how, but I get sent back in time to help people.” He spread his hands, trying to indicate a line, a time period. That wouldn’t clarify much. Visual metaphors just didn’t work for this stuff. “Mostly I follow them through a period in their lives, make sure things happen the way they’re supposed to. I keep running into you.” He nodded at Jack. “You offered to help, once.”
Jack frowned, then leaned forward and pointed at himself. “You’re tracking me?”
Dan shook his head. He’d tracked Jack before, sure, but tracking usually happened in chronological order. Which this definitely wasn’t. Then again, why else would he be here? “No. Yes. I don’t know. I think I was supposed to do something in the building your people arrested me in.” He sat back and shrugged. “Hell, maybe I was supposed to be arrested. It’s complicated.”
Jack considered that explanation, or what passed for it, for some time. Then he laughed, briefly. “Time travel usually is.”
From the state of things at his house, Dan estimated he’d been gone for several hours. It had gotten dark. Inside, Jack sat at the kitchen table, slumped over his hands and fast asleep. His gun, as well as Harkness’ revolver, were on the table in front of him where they would have been easily reachable, had he still been sitting upright. Katie was nowhere in sight; upstairs in bed, most likely. Harkness was no longer seated at the table. Instead, he had been handcuffed to the oven. He was also awake.
“I’m doing a great job of disturbing your family life, aren’t I?” he asked in a soft tone, quietly enough to not disturb Jack. “I really am sorry.” The regret looked genuine.
Dan leaned on the kitchen counter, considered his options, and then asked, “How’s Matt?”
Harkness’ head shot up to look Dan in the eye. He studied Dan for a few seconds, and some shade of his good humor started to appear again. “He’s fine. Your colleague got him to the hospital. He’s got two kids, probably in college by now. I lost contact about twelve years ago.” Harkness looked away, staring into a blank distance. “I don’t think I ever said thank you.”
“You can thank me by giving me some answers. That’s why you came, right?”
Harkness raised his eyebrows and turned to look at Dan again. He worked his shoulders, apparently to loosen muscles, and then sat up straighter. “Sure. Ask away.”
“Why is this happening to me? Who’s doing it?”
Harkness looked at his hands, held together by the cuffs. “I don’t know who's doing this. There might not even be a who. As for why… I asked a friend, and he had some theories.”
He stared at his hands for a little longer, then closed his eyes and sighed. He opened his eyes again and laughed. “This isn’t going to make much sense.” Another brief silence. “It’s a little bit like sending a mechanic back to ancient Rome to explain the combustion engine to the Romans. Even if the civilization’s not all that much different, there’s a few key concepts missing, and the one who has to do the explaining doesn’t know all of them. But I’ll try.”
He took a deep breath. “Okay. Time can go down a wrong path. Yes?” At Dan’s nod, he went on. “So there has to be something to see to it that it doesn’t. A defense mechanism, if you will. With me so far?”
“Here’s where it gets complicated. There used to be a group of people – whatever you want to call them – that did this. They could time travel, and they generally saw to it that no paradoxes or nasty stuff like that happened. Time stayed in its path.”
Dan nodded. He thought he had it. “People like me and Livia.”
Harkness shook his head. “No. Like I said, there used to be.” His cuffs clinked, as if he’d tried to gesture but had been unable to. “Those people were destroyed. There’s almost nothing to keep Time in check anymore.”
Dan frowned. “So how were they destroyed?”
“I don’t think I can answer that in a way that makes sense.” Harkness swallowed and closed his eyes. “There was a war. Nobody on this planet would have noticed.” He looked at Dan again. “And ‘when’ isn’t a useful question either. It happened yesterday, or last year, or a hundred years ago. It always did.” He twisted his arms and hands so that two fingers pointed up at Dan. “And that’s where you come in.”
He opened his hands as far apart as they would go. “Without outside help to keep time stable, nature’s had to find her own way. And it seems to be doing it by taking random people and letting them do a Time Lord’s job.”
“Time Lord.” Dan made it a statement, and he was unable to keep the sarcasm creeping into his voice. It sounded like such a high and mighty term.
“Term for the people previously keeping Time straight.” Harkness shook his head. “It’s not really relevant. They’re almost all gone.”
He continued. “You’re working on a much smaller scale. Just the Bay Area, in your case – or wherever you happen to be. And only across a few decades. The consequences stretch further than that, of course, but you’re the butterfly in New York – well, San Francisco. On the same scale, a Time Lord would be a volcano eruption or a meteor strike.”
Dan rubbed his eyes. Just when he thought his headache was subsiding. “This doesn’t make any sense.”
“Sorry.” Harkness genuinely sounded sympathetic. He considered again. “Maybe this one works better. Biology metaphor: Time is DNA. You can repair small bits of damage; one mismatched base-pair, maybe two. A Time Lord could stitch together entire strands that have broken up.”
Dan shook his head. “Biology was never my strong point, either. But I guess that’s a start.” He could always look it up, he supposed. Or maybe ask Zach to do it. His son seemed to have more of a head for this kind of stuff than he did.
Harkness shrugged apologetically. “It’s the best I can do, Dan. I’d love to give you more answers, but that’s all I’ve got.”
“So why did you come here?”
Harkness snorted a laugh. “Fate? Because I knew I had to?” he asked. They weren’t quite rhetorical questions, though. And his voice lost a lot of its humor when he added the final reason. “Or maybe just because sometimes I’d like to help out a friend, even with what little I have to offer. I have few enough chances for that.” He coughed. “Our timelines are more intertwined than the average bowl of spaghetti, Dan. And mine is one of those strands you can’t stitch back together. I don’t think we can change each other’s timelines without enormous consequences.”
Jack sighed and sat back to regard Dan, his expression all but unreadable. But Dan had a bit of experience reading Jack’s expressions by now, and he thought he could see some conflict playing across the man’s face. Eventually, he seemed to come to a conclusion. He got up again and left the room.
When he came back, he unlocked Dan’s cuffs and helped him up out of the chair.
“You can go,” he said. Then he held up the card that had precipitated the line of questioning that seemed to be leading to Dan’s release. “But I’m going to have to keep this.”
“I can live with that.” Everything in its proper place.
Harkness' last words, but most of all his behavior now, convinced Dan that he really was friendly, if not exactly harmless. And really, how much longer could they keep him prisoner here like this? They’d have to let him go at some point; the police would just laugh in their faces if they called now. Besides, Harkness had diplomatic papers. Arresting him would accomplish almost exactly the same thing as just letting him go. It would only take a bit longer. It would also raise too many questions from Jack’s colleagues that Dan wasn’t prepared to answer.
“I’ll wake up my brother to get you out of those cuffs,” he said, after the long silence during which he had come to his conclusion about Harkness’ relative harmlessness.
Harkness’ grin returned in full force. “These things? Don’t bother.” He winked, and then with a few quick twists and a loud-ish cracking, he was free. Jack stirred, but kept on sleeping. Harkness handed the cuffs to Dan with a sober expression. “I’ve gotten out of much worse.”
There was a story there, too, but one look at the man told Dan he shouldn’t ask. Not now.
Harkness was collecting his documentation and his gun from the kitchen table when Dan remembered about the little leather folder in his pocket. He took it out and gave it to Harkness. “This is yours, isn’t it?”
Harkness shot it one glance, then gave it back. “Keep it. I’m sure you could use it.”
Dan opened it, and saw nothing but a rectangle of white card. “What is it?”
“Very far future technology.” Harkness held out a hand. “Let me demonstrate.” Harkness took the card again. Then he showed it to Dan, and suddenly it looked like an exact copy of the British diplomatic passport he had just put in his pocket. He closed it, opened it, and now it was a California driver’s license from 1984. “The non-scientific term for it is ‘psychic paper’. You think about what you want it to show, and most other people see it.” He smiled at Dan, his white teeth brilliant even in the low light conditions. “Instant forged papers, always with the right dates on them.”
Dan felt himself copying Harkness’ smile. He nodded. “That could be useful.” Then he frowned. “So why don’t you need it?”
Harkness was on his way to the door, still holding the card. Dan followed. “I’ve got it already.” He turned and pointed at Dan. “You showed up and gave it to me. You also told me when I’d lost it.”
Dan had to think about that one. But he got it quickly enough. “So that’s how you knew where to be to get it.”
“Exactly. Like I said. Spaghetti.” Harkness was in the doorway now. “So I guess this is goodbye for now, Dan.” He handed the ‘psychic paper’ back. “One more warning with that thing. Be careful what you’re thinking about when you give it to someone. It could give away things from your subconscious.”
Jack threw him a final salute and was gone. Dan looked at the card, swallowed at what he saw there, and then quickly folded it shut. He really hadn’t needed to see that image. There were definitely still some depths to be explored in Jack’s psyche. That didn’t mean Dan wanted to do it.
Jack escorted him outside. “I’d like to say it was nice to meet you, Dan,” he said.
“But this was more confusing than anything,” Dan finished for him. “I know. Trust me, I know.” He almost walked away then, but at the last minute remembered he still hadn’t gotten an answer to his first question. “So really, why don’t you ever change at all?”
Jack seemed to consider how seriously he should answer that. In the end, he shook his head. “I wish I knew.”
That didn’t sound like the confident Jack Dan had first met in 2008; he’d seemed to know pretty well who he was and why. If only Dan’d thought to ask then. Hindsight was always 20/20. Still. He smiled. “I have a feeling you’ll find out.”
He walked away, turned a corner, and found himself back in the bustle of modern day London. Life was good.