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Fic: Calm before the Storm

Title: Calm before the Storm
Summary: It is night when he returns
Fandom: Torchwood/Doctor Who
Characters: Jack
Spoilers: Set after Children of Earth and before End of Time pt. 2
Rating: None
Word count: 756
Notes: Well, it's not much, just a little finger exercise to see if I can still produce reasonably okay-ish fic. Unbetaed, so I'm glad for any kind of comment or concrit. Written for the tw_wotd_fic challenge 'surreptitious'... I should really jumpstart that community, I know...
Fic Masterlist: Here.




It is night when he returns, finding the city nearly empty but for a few stragglers too drunk to notice the figure in a greatcoat who is hurrying from shadow to shadow. The man seems afraid of any kind of light, as if it could render him visible, waking the city itself to look at him with accusing eyes. But the man in the coat is an expert at staying in the shadows, he's had so many centuries of training.
The figure stops in a badly lit alley, stares across the Plass at the fountain, a needle of bright silver reaching up into the black velvet of the sky. The city dreams on, unaware of the pain her sight causes this traveller. She breathes on peacefully, the soft noises of the waves lap against the quay and the faraway sound of a police siren moves through the silence of the city's veins not loud enough to make her even blink.

It's for the best, Jack knows, because as long as the city dreams, his presence here won't disrupt any timelines, timelines and fortunes not even dreamed of between the cold sea breeze and the stench of the dustbins yet.
He carefully steps around the circle of light the streetlamps throw onto the ground, his eyes fixed on the fountain, glittering with promises and memories alike. He breathes in deeply, and moves forward with the determination of crossing a battlefield.
Down there, he knows, it's Christmas 2005, a sickly Christmas tree (still alive, Owen had claimed, watering the few roots crammed into a pot), decorated with odd things from the archive (he made sure they were all safe, then added a tiny stapler, smirking) lighting up the area in front of the fountain's base.
Jack smiles at the memory, and of countless other times the pagan winter festival had brought his team a sense of peace for a little while. But his smile falters when he realises that he's forgotten what he'd given his team tonight, only remembering the garishly bright paper he'd used to wrap them up made Tosh giggle. The shock and the sense of loss makes his steps falter, a tail of his coat catching in the light of a streetlamp, the hairs on his neck standing up as the city cracks open a lazy eye to look at him. It's dangerous to be here, he knows, he remembers Ianto frowning at the CCTV images of the Plass that night, he remembers him only averting his eyes when Jack had gripped his tie to steal a kiss and a gift hidden in his suit pocket. Jack smiles again, his hand resting over the stopwatch in his waistcoat now.

This time he's more careful as he slips through the shadows, raising a shaking until it comes to rest on the cold metal of the fountain. If he concentrates, he can feel the heartbeat of the Hub, resonating through the ground and up into his fingers. The cold water of the fountain runs over his hand (they didn't turn it off that night, he remembers, Tosh liked the reflections of the water dancing over the Plass), wetting his sleeve as it follows gravity, but Jack doesn't mind. He loses himself in the moment, trying to remember the smell of the place he'd called home such a long time ago, the sound of his friends' laughter, all dead now, dead for such a long time.

The present is catching up with him too soon, a quiet but insistent buzz of his Vortex Manipulator calling him back to the battle that is to come, the end of time itself, as the Doctor called it (personally, Jack thinks Time Lords tend to be overdramatic).
None of them might survive, not even him. That's a comforting thought, nowadays. But he'll fight to the death, of course he will. He always does if his friends ask for it. If not for the future (he knows nothing of it, except that it will probably mean more painful memories) or the present, then for this, a lazy evening for Torchwood 3, down below his feet. One of the few fragments of his past that has kept him sane for so many years. The sun will come up soon, and the city will wake with families strolling down the quay, with children's laughter, the cry of seagulls and Torchwood braving another day to keep all that safe.

The figure vanishes as quietly as it came, and the city keeps on dreaming of the future.

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