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An Unconventional Family

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Chapter 1

 

“Oi! Whose turn was it to do dishes?” John Noble shouted from the kitchen.

“Jack’s.” Mickey Smith replied distractedly from the couch where he was immersed in some video game that entailed blowing up a bunch of slimy green aliens.

“Well where is he?”

“He left around 6:30. He’s on his way to Vancouver to film that TV pilot remember?” The younger man called back, pausing the game and pulling off his headset as he got up from the couch. “Don’t you have a meeting with the Dean this morning?” he asked, stepping into the kitchen.

“Yeah.” John sighed, shaking his head as he glanced around warily at the mess covering the counters and sink.

“Looks like Jack was entertaining again last night.” Mickey observed, picking up a half empty bottle of wine and putting it back in the fridge.

John scoffed. “When is he not entertaining?”

“True.” Mickey laughed. “Still, you have to admit it’s pretty amazing how every one of his little flings always ends amicably. I mean seriously, the man could charm a fish out of water.”

John chuckled as the phone in his pocket began to trill. “Speaking of…” he said as he eyed the caller id and then held it out to Mickey who just shook his head in amusement. “Hey Jack. Hold on, Mickey’s here so I’m gonna put you on speaker.”

“Hey guys! You would not believe how amazing the first class section is on this airline and you should see the flight attendants.” The pair could practically hear his eyebrows wagging with innuendo and rolled their eyes. “Oh hey listen Doc, sorry about the kitchen. I was sort of entertaining pretty late last night and… well, you know. Anyway, I was gonna clean up this morning but when I woke up I realized I had overslept and had to scramble out the door in order to make my flight. I’ll make you a promise though; when I get back I’ll do kitchen duty for a whole week. Sound good?”

“When are you coming back?” Mickey inquired.

“Four weeks. But don’t worry; I’m sure it will fly by. Just try not to miss me too much.” he chuckled. “I’ll try to bring you guys back some souvenirs from Vancouver and… oh hello, Jack Harkness and you are?”

“Stop it.” John groaned quietly, pressing a hand to his forehead as Mickey stifled a laugh.

“Hey listen guys,” Jack piped up. “I gotta go. Alonso here is about to give me a safety demonstration.” he drawled, not bothering to hide his lustful tone. “I’ll try to call when I land.”

The call disconnected and Mickey shook his head. “He is unbelievable.”

“Yep.” John replied, popping the ‘p’ as he pocketed the phone and turned back to the mess.

“Don’t worry about it boss. I got this.” Mickey assured John as he clapped him on the shoulder. “I’m not heading in for another half hour anyway. All I’m doing today is installing a new carburetor on a BMW. Rory, Zach and Danny are covering the rest so I should be back around noon. Perks of being the head honcho.” he grinned.

“Thanks.” John gave him a tired yet grateful smile. “I don’t have any meetings after class today so I should be back around noon as well. Want me to pick up some takeaway for lunch?”

“Sounds good.” Mickey replied as he began filling the sink with water. “How ‘bout pizza this time?”

John shoved a stack of papers into his messenger bag. “Double pepperoni, extra cheese?”

“You know it.” Mickey grinned, holding out his fist.

John bumped it with his own and then slung the strap of his bag over his shoulder. “Alright, see you later.” he said heading for the door.

“Later!” Mickey called after him.

-oOo-

 


John chuckled to himself as he stepped into the lift. If there was one thing he had learned over the years living with Mickey and Jack there was never dull moment. The trio had first met back in Uni. John and Mickey met first on account that they had been assigned as roommates in the same dorm. John was studying for his doctorates in astrophysics, astronomy and astrobiology while Mickey focused on multiple courses in mechanical engineering for his auto mechanic’s degree. The pair became fast friends due to them having a lot of the same interests and since John also liked to tinker in his spare time, they both enjoyed taking apart and putting back together various automotive components that Mickey would bring home as part of his coursework. Jack turned up a few months into the semester on the arm of a young attractive medical student named Martha that Mickey secretly fancied. Having recently moved to London from America, the charismatic performing arts student had no trouble charming her into showing him around the campus. Although at first there was some slight jealousy on Mickey’s part, upon introductions it became quite clear that Jack in general was just a big flirt. That point was especially driven home the minute he started hitting on both Mickey and John at the same time while Martha was still in the room. Of course when Jack finally realized they were immune to his charms, he immediately switched tactics and settled for camaraderie instead. He also became quite instrumental in getting Mickey and Martha together and still enjoys pointing that out to the two of them to this day.

From that point on, the trio hung out constantly, with Jack occasionally crashing in John and Mickey’s dorm room after a long night of studying. That was unless of course he had a date, which was more often than not. After several years of that same routine it just made practical sense for the three of them to get a place together after they graduated. Pooling their money, they were able to find a decently priced three bedroom flat in central London that met all their needs. The flat was located on the top floor and the lift opened into a private hallway. All of the rooms were quite spacious and aside from the large living area it also had a modest kitchen that opened out into separate dining area. The building itself was owned by a lovely brunette woman in her mid-forties named Sarah Jane and all three men took a liking to her immediately, Jack of course a bit more than the other two but she managed to take his flirtations in stride. Her teenage son Luke did most of the maintenance and whenever you saw him around the building he always had his faithful companion, a beautiful golden retriever named K-9, by his side. John occasionally offered his services in fixing things as well but after an incident involving an exploding toaster they began to politely decline.

At first they didn’t have much in the way of furnishings but as their careers began to take off, the flat began to take on a more ‘lived in’ look.

John took a position at the University teaching physics while also taking time to write on his other various interests of study on the side. Not only were his ideas and theories well publicized in several prestigious journals but there was even talk about a possible Nobel Prize, which he was immensely humbled by. Not that he thought he would win it, but he felt extremely honored for even being considered amongst the most brilliant minds in the world. His classes always filled quickly despite his tendency to babble or randomly go off subject in the middle of a lecture but he still seemed to be adored by both students and faculty alike. Especially those of the female population, which as both Mickey and Jack often pointed out he tended to be oblivious to. He had apparently never quite grasped the concept of how to tell when someone was flirting with him to which Jack had a hard time fathoming considering John recognized it immediately when it came from him. Of course that was probably also why his love life tended to be non-existent. As of late he had only had three real girlfriends. Lynda was sweet but the relationship only lasted a couple of months while they were in Year 13 before she transferred to another school. He met Christina his first year of Uni, but after the first couple of dates he realized she was bad news and ended things immediately. A few months later he met Joan who had been studying to be a nurse. She was nice enough but after a year into the relationship they realized that things weren’t progressing and that while they enjoyed one another’s company they just weren’t meant to be and split amicably. Since then, romance had been pretty far from his mind.

Mickey however had found his soul mate in Martha Jones. Not only were they a perfect match but they complemented each other in a balance between strengths and weaknesses. They both also had great careers. Martha was currently in her second year of interning at Royal Hope hospital and Mickey took his degree to a whole nother level and opened his own shop called Gallifrey Motors. When John had asked how he came up with the name he said he had read it in some sci-fi novel and thought it sounded cool. Mickey had always enjoyed cars at an early age and was fascinated by their workings. He would collect magazines and practically owned every hot wheels ever made. As he got older he became the head of his school’s auto club and after classes would spend his nights and weekends working at a local mechanic shop to absorb every bit of knowledge possible. He had not only honed some amazing skills but had also meticulously saved over the years until he found an affordable space to use as his start up. Over time as the money started coming in he was able to expand to a bigger location and take on some additional help. Soon after, Gallifrey Motors became one of the highest rated auto shops around because it specialized in everything. Basically, if it had a motor, Mickey Smith could fix it.

Jack’s job was the least stable of the three. Not because he couldn’t find work but because his hours were so sporadic. One week he’d be shooting a TV commercial in London and the next he’d be doing a play in New York. No, it definitely wasn’t difficult for Jack to land a role. With his rugged good looks, baby blue eyes and trademark toothpaste commercial grin the industry absolutely adored him. That was also probably due to the fact that Jack pretty much charms everyone he meets. Guys, girls… animals, vegetables, minerals... none were immune. Mickey sometimes joked that it was lucky no one had invented time and space travel yet cause he’d probably shag his way across the universe. Jack of course just responded with a wag of his eyebrows and a statement of “damn right.” Although none of Jack’s relationships ever lasted more than an evening, he was always somehow able to remain on good terms with all of them. Just another unexplainable characteristic of the walking enigma that is Jack Harkness.

John was happy for him though. The pilot Jack was on his way to Vancouver to film could be a huge move for his career. They were adapting some comic book into a TV series. Jack had been ecstatic when he told them about landing the part but to their disappointment, he wasn’t allowed to disclose which comic it was until after the pilot had been shot. In the weeks prior to him leaving, he had a rare bout of anxiety about the role but both Mickey and John had been quick to reassure him that they knew he would be brilliant.

Stepping out of the building and into the bright sunshine John checked the time on his watch and then glanced up at the clear blue sky. As he breathed in the crisp cool morning air, he had a sudden sensation that something was brewing on the horizon. Almost like the calm before a storm. Smiling to himself and shaking his head at the absurd notion he headed for his car.

 

-oOo-

 

Unbeknownst to John, a pair of hazel eyes watched him as he exited the building and climbed into his dark blue car. From her vantage point through the window of the little coffee shop across the street the woman had been observing the three men for the past couple of weeks in order to get their routine down. John and Mickey’s schedules had thankfully been relatively normal but Jack, being an actor’s, tended to be sporadic at best which didn’t leave her with much of a window of opportunity.

She sighed, tucking a strand of blonde hair behind her ear as she glanced down at the note she had begun to write. While she hated the idea of springing something so life changing on Jack without any sort of warning or explanation, she was officially out of options. It was bad enough that she had waited so long to tell him about the baby and now she was going to have to lie to him about the reasons behind her decision to leave their child with him as well but she couldn’t see a way around it. Not when security protocols were involved.

“Okay, so admittedly not mummy’s best plan and definitely not the way I had imagined introducing you to your dad for the first time.” Rose told her daughter quietly as she used her fingers to gently brush back a few sparse strands of hair on the baby’s head. “M’ so sorry Alice. If there were any other way...” she sighed once more, turning back to the unfinished letter.

She knew she should have told him a long time ago after she found out she was pregnant, but she wasn’t ready to share certain aspects of her life with a complete stranger. They had spent one night together. Neither of them were looking for anything serious beyond keeping one another company for the evening and aside from their first and last names, nothing more was shared with one another in the handful of hours they had spent together. The next morning the pair shared a hug and went their separate ways. She never thought she’d see him again. Then a few weeks later, even though they had taken all the necessary precautions during their brief tryst, she still found herself staring down in shock at the positive sign on the pregnancy test. Although Alice had been a completely unexpected surprise, she also knew she wouldn’t trade her for anything in the world.

It wasn’t till after Alice was born that Rose thought about finally reaching out to Jack. Of course that also meant making a decision on whether or not to disclose her occupation with him which would require thorough background checks, one on one interviews with her superiors and other various security measures. She had found over the years that working for UNIT required a certain amount of anonymity due to the nature of the missions she was assigned and she wasn’t quite sure how well Jack would take to her telling him that she worked for a high level government agency who were responsible for taking down some of the world’s most dangerous criminal organizations. Even her parents didn’t know what she did for a living, which was why leaving Alice with them was out of the question. The mission she was about to embark upon would require her to be gone for an indefinite amount of time and there would be no way of explaining that to them without telling them the truth as well. Although she was sure that her father would probably be encouraging, her mother would most definitely not approve. Especially now with her being a single parent with a daughter to raise. Not to mention that by telling them the truth, it could put them in danger as well. No, she couldn’t tell them. Any of them. Better to keep them in the dark than to put them in danger from the types of people she helps put away.

Her phone buzzed, startling her out of her musings.

“Tyler.”

“Rose where are you?” A male voice asked.

“Jus’ had some personal things to take care of this morning Jake.” she said looking down at the bassinette on the chair beside her that held her sleeping daughter.

“Alright, well get a move on. The Intel just came in and we’re deploying in three hours.”

“Copy that. Be there as soon as I can.” she replied before hanging up.

She sighed, glancing down at her daughter once more. Three hours. That meant her window of opportunity had just shrunk even further. She needed to be able to time the delivery just right in order to make sure Alice wouldn’t be left unattended for too long. It was just after 9:00. She had already seen John leave and Mickey came out not too long after while she was on the phone with Jake. She wasn’t sure if Jack had left or not yet since she had yet to see him this morning but if he had, luckily with it being a Tuesday she knew both John and Mickey were usually home around noon so at least maybe they would be able to keep an eye on Alice till Jack got home. She needed to give herself enough time to get in and out without being seen, which usually with her skill set was quite easy. However, she wasn’t usually carrying a baby and a bunch of supplies while out in the field. After a few calculations she figured 20 minutes was about all she could allow herself to get in, drop off Alice and get out again before the guys got home.

Although she hated herself for what she was about to do, she had no doubt that Alice would be safe with these three men. She had done an extensive background check on each of them and there was nothing in their pasts that raised any red flags. Jack of course was still Jack, Mickey was a decent bloke with a good head on his shoulders and his girlfriend was on her way to becoming a doctor, which could come in handy and then there was John. He was a professor at the local university. Single, brilliant, handsome, really great hair... ‘Okay, focus Rose.’ Yes, Alice would be safe with them. Only a handful of people aside from Rose’s parents knew she had a child so by placing her with Jack she would be protected and kept under the radar. She only hoped that he could forgive her for her actions.

The mission she would be leaving on shortly was one of the highest security threats they’d faced and she’d known when her superiors assigned it to her that it could be extremely dangerous. Their objective was to locate and take into protective custody a scientist by the name of Richard Lazarus who had developed some sort of high level research that could supposedly not only change the world but change what it meant to be human. If the technology were to fall into the wrong hands the consequences would be disastrous and it was a very specific pair of hands that UNIT was dead set on keeping away from said technology. An evil mastermind that only went by the name Davros. As one of the worst criminals in history, Davros headed up The Skaro cartel which was a shadow organization that was very good at keeping off the radar and covering their tracks. His crimes stretched from money laundering, to international espionage and multiple counts of murder. They had been inactive for a while, apparently binding their time, and as soon as Lazarus made the announcement regarding his discovery they immediately resurfaced. Once Lazarus realized they were after his research, he had quickly fallen off the grid and now it was up to Rose and her team to find him and place him into protective custody before Davros can get his hands on the research.

She stared down at her daughter, her eyes tracing paths over her beautiful face in order to memorize every single detail as she attempted to keep the tears at bay. “I love you Alice.” Rose murmured, reaching out to lightly stroke her cheek. “Mummy loves you so much and I promise I’ll be back for you as soon as I can.”

With a shuddering breath she turned her attention back to the letter once more and with a heavy heart, she began to write.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 2

 

“What?” John asked in disbelief as he stared down at the frilly pink bassinet that was blocking the door of their flat, his mouth agape.

“It’s a baby.”

“What?”

“It’s a baby.” Mickey repeated, drawing out the words.

John rolled his eyes and turned to glare at his roommate. “I know it’s a baby. Where did it come from?”

“How should I know? I got here at the same time you did, remember? We walked in together.”

The pair slowly turned their attention back to the child, hoping that maybe it might have magically disappeared while they were talking but no such luck.

“Hold on,” Mickey cocked his head and leaned forward. “I think there’s a note.” Reaching down, he carefully plucked a piece of paper from the bassinet, unfolded it and began to read. After a few seconds he groaned and threw his head back as he passed the note to John.

He accepted it warily, having felt his stomach drop at Mickey’s reaction and began to read it himself. “Oh Jack.” John sighed in a cross between frustration and disappointment as he skimmed through the letter. “I knew this would happen eventually.” he said aloud. “I kept telling him never say ‘never ever’.” He sighed again as he reached the end. “The signature just says Rose. Who is she?”

“No clue.” Mickey shook his head. “It’s not like I keep track of every person he’s ever gone out with. I mean, by now there’s probably been enough to fill a directory.”

“Yeah, you’re right. It would most likely be easier to name the people he hasn’t dated.”

“I can think of two.”

The men shared a laugh before turning their attention once more to the matter at hand.

“So what do you suggest we do?” Mickey finally asked.

John ran a hand through his hair, ruffling it lightly. “I don’t know.”

“Okay well, we need to do something. We can’t just leave her in the hall.” Mickey pointed out.

“Right.” John agreed with a quick nod. “When did Jack say he was coming back again?”

“Four weeks.”

There was a small shuffling noise from the bassinet and then suddenly the baby let out a loud wail.

“Okay, let’s just get her inside and we’ll figure something out.” John said passing Mickey the pizza box he had been holding before reaching down to pick up the bassinet.

Mickey quickly moved to unlock the door and let him inside, setting the pizza box on the small table beside the door before stepping back into the hall to collect the others items that had been left. He grabbed a changing bag and swung it over his shoulder and then stooped down to pick up a large box of supplies. As he came back into the flat he kicked the door shut behind him and headed towards the kitchen where John had taken the baby out of the bassinet in an attempt to stop her from crying.

“I thought it would help if I picked her up.” John supplied. “But it’s not working.”

“Maybe she’s hungry.” Mickey suggested, setting the box on the counter.

John suddenly scrunched up his nose and held the baby out in front of him. “Actually I think she needs a change.”

“Well, luckily whoever this Rose woman is she at least left us with a decent amount of supplies.” Mickey replied as he began digging through the box. “We’ve got nappies, wet wipes, bath stuff, baby powder, formula, some bottles, a pacifier and even a few changes of clothes.” he paused. “Oh wait there’s another note.”

“What’s it say?”

Mickey quickly scanned the paper then shook his head. “Never mind, it’s just a list with some suggestions for additional supplies.”

John snorted softly. “Well for someone who said she couldn’t handle things, Rose seems to be pretty efficient.” He glanced back down at the baby in his arms. “We should probably change her.”

“Yeah, you probably should.” Mickey agreed.

John looked incredulous. “Me?”

“Well yeah, you’re the one holding her. What’s that thing Jack says about possession being nine tenths of the law?”

“Oh, no you don’t. You are not using that excuse on me again.”

“Okay fine.” Mickey held his fist out over his open palm. “Rock, paper, scissors then.”

“We are not doing rock, paper, scissors!” John shouted as the crying suddenly began to increase in volume.

Both men started at a knock at the door and glanced at one another in slight trepidation.

“Now what?” John asked in a frustrated tone.

Mickey shrugged. “Maybe Rose changed her mind.” he suggested hopefully as he headed for the living room. The knocking began again just as he reached the door and after a quick look through the peephole, he opened it. “Hey Sarah Jane.” Mickey greeted. “Jack didn’t forget to drop off the rent check did he?”

The brunette chuckled softly. “No, he remembered this time. I just came by to drop this off.” She gestured to a small crib that was propped up against the wall. “It was just delivered downstairs for you so I thought I would bring it up.” The baby’s cries were growing louder and Mickey winced turning his head towards the sound. After a few seconds he glanced back at Sarah Jane who was studying him with a look of amusement and curiosity. “Sounds like I’m just in time too.”

“You could say that.” Mickey gestured for her to come in and then dragged the crib in behind her. “John’s in the kitchen.”

Sarah Jane followed the sound of crying, stepping into the kitchen with Mickey following close behind to see John holding a baby with one arm as he dug through a box on the counter with his free hand.

“What a beautiful baby.” Sarah Jane gushed, startling him out of his rummaging. “Is she yours?”

“Oh, hello Sarah!” John smiled warmly, the grin slowly fading as her question began to register. He glanced down at the baby in his arms and then quickly shook his head. “Oh no. No, no, no, no, no, no. Definitely not.”

“Jack’s actually.” Mickey piped up from behind her. “We’re just um, keeping an eye on her while he’s out.” He added as he and John shared a wary look.

Sarah Jane’s eyebrows rose and she nodded in silent understanding. “Ah I see. Well I can’t say I’m surprised.” She tentatively reached towards the baby and then paused. “Can I hold her?”

“Sure.” John readily agreed carefully passing the infant into her waiting arms.

As Sarah Jane rocked the baby gently, her cries began to taper off. “Such a good girl.” she cooed. “What’s her name?”

John’s eyes widened and he glanced over Sarah Jane’s head at Mickey who was hurriedly looking over Rose’s letter. “Alice.” he mouthed.

“Alice.” John said slowly and Mickey gave him a thumbs up as conformation. “Yes, Alice.” he repeated with more confidence.

“Alice,” Sarah Jane smiled affectionately down at the little tear-stained face. “What a beautiful name. A beautiful name for a beautiful girl.” She shifted Alice into a sitting position and patted her bum with a thoughtful look. “It seems like she could use a change though.”

John and Mickey glanced at one another uncomfortably.

“Let me guess,” she began, surveying the two of them. “Neither of you have ever changed a nappy before am I right?”

John rubbed the back of his neck. “Weell, not as such no…”

“Never really had the occasion…” Mickey stammered.

One look at Sarah Jane’s expression quickly cut off any further rambling and they both muttered a quick “No.”

“I’d say these guys are in a little over their heads, wouldn’t you Alice?” she said pulling a small changing cloth from the box and laying it on the counter before setting the baby on top of it. “Okay boys; let me show you how it’s done.”

She gestured for them to stand on either side of her and after divesting Alice of her pink onesie, she then proceeded to show them how to remove the soiled nappy. At the first sight of the mess both men immediately groaned and began making gagging noises as they covered their mouths and noses with their hands. Alice burst into a fit of giggles as she took in their reaction, kicking her little legs in glee while Sarah Jane just rolled her eyes and tossed the soiled nappy into the bin. Once the gagging sounds had lessened, she then moved on to showing them how to use the wet wipes to properly clean Alice up. Although they still seemed relatively grossed out by the prospect, both men at least appeared to be more focused on her directions now. Finally, after a short lesson on how to apply baby powder they were ready for a new nappy.

“And that’s it.” Sarah Jane announced, lifting Alice back into her arms once she was dressed.

“Simple really.” John murmured and Mickey gave him an incredulous look.

Sarah Jane shook her head in amusement and smiled. “Well, I’d better be going. I’ve still got to make a run to Tesco’s before Luke gets home.” she said, passing Alice back to John. “And of course I’m just a lift ride away if you guys have any questions.” she reminded them as they walked her to the door.

“Thanks again Sarah Jane.” Mikey said, leaning down to give her a hug.

“Yes, thank you so much.” John chimed in. “We really appreciate the help.” He moved to give her a hug as well, pulling her against his side with his free arm.

“It’s no problem.” She reached over and took the baby’s hand between her forefinger and thumb, shaking it gently. “Good luck Alice.” she whispered, tossing John a wink before turning and walking out the door.

Mickey closed and locked it behind her and both men shared a partially relieved sigh before heading back to the kitchen.

“Well that’s one crisis averted.” Mickey commented as they entered the room and John nodded in agreement. “So what now?”

John blew out a breath. “I dunno. She’s definitely gonna need a bath and we should probably feed her soon.”

“Yeah,” Mickey paused. “Although, maybe we should feed her first before we give her a bath. You know, in case she ends up having to go again after she eats.”

“Good point.” John said patting Alice’s bum lightly and then grimacing.

“What?” Mickey asked, furrowing his brow.

“We’re gonna need another nappy.”

 

-oOo-

 

John was carefully reading over the directions on a can of formula when Mickey re-entered the kitchen. 

“I called Martha.”

“Oh that’s good.” John nodded, opening one of the bottom cabinets and pulling out a small pot. “She should know a lot about babies since she’s training to be a doctor and all.” He turned on the tap in the sink and filled the pot about a quarter of the way full. “I called my sister.”

Mickey snorted. “Oh Donna’s gonna love you for that.”

“What?” John asked, feigning nonchalance as he moved the small pot of water over to the stove and turned the burner on its lowest setting. “She adores babies.”

“Yeah, well let’s just hope she adores them enough that she’ll be willing to help us with this one.” He paused watching John crouch over the counter, peering through his black rimmed frames with his tongue pressed against the back of his top front teeth in concentration as he began measuring out the powdered formula and pouring it into one of the clear plastic bottles. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”

“I read the instructions.” John replied defensively as he added water and then screwed the top onto the bottle, shaking it vigorously before setting it into the pot. “I do have three doctorates you know.”

Mickey rolled his eyes good-naturedly. “Yes, I am aware.”

The two men leaned back against the counter, taking a few moments to enjoy the prevailing silence as they stared at the pot, waiting for the bottle to warm.

“Oh, I almost forgot.” Mickey suddenly spoke up. “When Sarah Jane came by earlier she brought up a crib. Said someone had it delivered for us.”

John hummed pensively. “The mysterious Rose strikes again.”

“Looks like. Anyway, I figured we could probably set it up in Jack’s room since he’s not currently using it.”

“That works for me.”

John unfolded his arms and moved back over to the stove to check on the bottle. Once he had confirmed the temperature was just right he removed it from the pot and shut off the burner, then dried the bottom of the bottle off on a hand towel.

“Okay Alice, dinner time.”

He set the bottle on the counter so he could pick her up and once she was cradled in his arm he grabbed it and brought the nipple to her mouth, grinning as she accepted it instantly. He looked over at Mickey, beaming proudly at his accomplishment and the younger man couldn’t help but return his enthusiasm with a smile of his own. They lapsed into silence once more, the quiet in the room only punctuated by the soft sucking and gurgling sounds Alice made as she ate and when the bottle was almost empty, John pulled it away and set it back on the counter.

“I think you’re supposed to burp her now.” Mickey commented as he watched the other man wipe away a few stray drops of formula from Alice’s chin.

“Oh, right.” John nodded, turning her to face him and lifting her up to where her chin was resting atop his left shoulder. He began patting her lower back gently while intermittently rubbing slow circles. After about a minute of no reaction to his ministrations, he furrowed his brows. “Nothing’s happening.”

“Maybe you’re doing it wrong.” Mickey suggested.

John responded with a look of irritation. “Hey, if you think you can do any better. By all means…”

As he moved to hand her off to the other man, Alice made a loud retching sound and Mickey had to quickly turn away from the sight to avoid getting sick himself.

“Brilliant.” John muttered.

 

 

-oOo-

 

“Hey you!”

Martha spun around to see Donna stepping out of the lift. “Hey. What are you doing here?”

“I got a frantic call from John asking me to come over as soon as possible.”

Martha frowned. “Yeah I got a similar one from Mickey.”

“Did he say what it was about?”

“No, just that it was urgent.”

Donna shook her head, tossing her long red hair over her shoulder as she shoved her keys and mobile into her handbag. “God I hope my brother didn’t blow something up again.”

Martha chuckled softly, raising her hand to press the buzzer when the door opened abruptly to reveal John with his hair completely disheveled, tie askew and a large stain across the upper portion of his shirt. “Help.” he croaked, his eyes pleading.

The sudden sound of a baby crying made John groan and drop his head in defeat before turning away and heading back into the flat. The two women slowly turned their gazes on one another, sharing a bewildered look and then followed him inside.

“What is going on?” Donna asked as Mickey stepped out of the kitchen holding a wailing infant and John moved to stand beside him.

Martha paused mid-step and pointed with both hands. “Whose baby is that?”

“Jack’s.” The two men replied simultaneously, the irritation evident in their voices.

Martha arched a brow, folding her arms across her chest. “And he’s where?”

“In Vancouver filming a TV pilot for the next four weeks.” Mickey said, handing Alice over to John who began to rock her gently in an attempt to calm her.

“So he just left and dumped his daughter off on the two of you?” Donna squawked, her outburst causing Alice to break out into tears once more. “Oh come here sweetheart,” she cooed softly as she moved to take the crying baby from John’s arms. “I’m sorry I yelled. It’s not your fault your daddy decided to be irresponsible.”

“Donna.” John said warningly.

“What?”

“Jack doesn’t exactly know about her.” Mickey spoke up in their friend’s defense.

“Wait, what do you mean he doesn’t know about her?” Martha cut in.

Pulling a folded slip of paper from his pocket, Mickey handed it over to Martha. Donna stepped up behind her, rocking the baby as they both began to read.

After a moment, Donna shook her head sympathetically. “Poor girl. I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be to be a single mother.”

Martha nodded in agreement. “At least she tried to do what she thought was right for the baby.” She glanced up from the letter. “Have you guys tried calling him?”

John gave Martha a look like she had just dribbled all over the front of her shirt.

“Alright,” she held up her hands placatingly. “I was just asking.”

“We left him a message on his voicemail.” Mickey interjected. “Hopefully he’ll check it when he gets in.”

“So this was why you called us all frantic?” Donna asked, finally pulling her attention away from the baby in her arms and looking up at the pair of them.

“Well yeah,” John rubbed the back of his neck and gestured towards Alice. “We need help. We have no idea what we’re doing.”

“And you think we’re just supposed to know how to take care of a baby?” Martha inquired in disbelief.

“Um,” Mickey shared a look with John and they both shifted uncomfortably under the women’s gaze. “Well, we just thought... I mean, you’re training to be a doctor and all and...” he trailed off, glancing helplessly over at John.

“And you?” Donna raised a brow at her brother, waiting on his response.

John stared at the floor and began tugging on his left ear. “I just thought that… cause you’re you know, a woman… and you like babies…” he met her eyes carefully.

“That doesn’t make us experts you Dumbo.” she informed him.

“And yes, I’m training to be a doctor,” Martha interjected. “But I’m not specialized in pediatrics. I haven’t even done a rotation for that yet so I only know the basics.” A loud buzzing sound filled the room and she sighed, reaching into her pocket for her pager. “It’s the hospital.” she announced staring down at the number. “I’ve gotta go.”

“I better get going too.” Donna chimed in, handing Alice back to John. “I’ve gotta pick up Granddad from work.”

“So what are we supposed to do?” John whined as he and Mickey followed them to the door.

“Just…” Martha glanced between the two of them. “Do the best you can.” she said, stepping forward to give Mickey a kiss and then slipped out the door.

“Don’t worry space man,” Donna squeezed her brother’s shoulder. “I’m sure there’s some latent fatherly skills in there somewhere.” As she took in their kicked puppy expressions she found herself taking pity on them and groaned inwardly. “Alright, I’ll tell you what. I will agree to help babysit every once and a while.” She held up her hand to keep them from interrupting. “But only on days when you are absolutely unable to rearrange your work schedules.”

“Really?” John asked, a look of relief passing over his features.

“Yes. But just remember you’ll owe me.”

John arched a brow. “Owe you what exactly?”

“I dunno yet.” Donna shrugged, stepping into the hall and digging through her handbag for her keys. “But I’m sure I’ll think of something good.” She gave the men a mischievous smile and pulled the door closed on their dumbfounded expressions.

 

-oOo-

 

“Okay, so we’ve got some soap, some baby shampoo, some bubble bath and some lotion.” Mickey rattled off as John filled the basin with warm water. “Which of these do you think we should use?”

Passing Alice over to Mickey, John picked up the shampoo, bubble bath and lotion and began to examine the description for each one. After a few moments of going back and forth between the three he shrugged and then squirted a bit of each underneath the running stream of water, using his hand to stir it up a bit and then shut off the tap.

Mickey raised his eyebrows in amusement and looked down at Alice who was giggling and waving her arms. “Okay then.” He finished removing her onesie and nappy and then gently lowered her into the basin.

Using a couple of soft flannels, they began to bathe her, taking care not to get any of the soapy water in her eyes. Alice for her part was thoroughly enjoying herself, continually giggling and kicking her feet throughout and by the time they finished both men’s shirts were soaking wet.

As John lifted her out of the basin and wrapped her in a towel, Mickey grabbed one as well and began to dry himself off. “I’m gonna go get the crib set up. You good?”

“Yeah,” John lightly ran the towel over Alice’s head. “I think we can manage.”

Mickey nodded and left the room while John finished drying her off. Laying her down on the towel, he put on a new nappy, smiling to himself at how quickly he had mastered the task and then dressed her in a pair of jim jams. “All done.” he said, lifting her into his arms and heading for Jack’s room.

Mickey was just finishing up when they came in. “I tried Jack again. Still no answer.”

John sighed. “We’ll just try again tomorrow.” He slowly lowered Alice into the crib and gently brushed back a few strands of hair on her head. “Goodnight Alice.”

Mickey wished her goodnight as well and then flicked off the light.

Trudging out into the living room, they collapsed side by side onto the sofa, heads thrown back and eyes closed.

“I could use a cuppa.” Mickey broke the silence. “Want one?”

“Please.” John said, scrubbing his hands over his face.

Mickey nodded and stood up heading for the kitchen.

“We got anything to eat?” John called after him.

“There’s the pizza we got for lunch we never got around to. Quick warm up in the oven and it should be good.”

“Sold.” John replied, forcing himself to get up as well.

They prepared their dinner in relative silence and once it was ready they headed back to the living room to eat while watching a few episodes of The Office. Neither of them was sure when they had nodded off or how long they had actually been asleep but when Alice’s shrill cry filled the air, both men leapt off the sofa and into a fight or flight stance. As awareness slowly came back to them they were able to marginally relax before they realized one of them was going to have to attend to her.

Mickey held out his fist over his open palm.

John sighed and shook his head, then mirrored the action. “One, two, three.”

An hour later John was lying face down on the sofa, Mickey had crashed in the large recliner and Alice was sleeping soundly in her little basinet between them.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

 

Alice woke promptly at seven the next morning, her cries pulling both men from their fitful slumbers into a zombie like state as they began preparations for the day. It had been agreed upon that Mickey would take the day off since John couldn’t cancel his class and then once he got home that afternoon the two of them would sit down and work out a proper schedule for the next four weeks until Jack returned.

While John prepared the formula, Mickey took on the first nappy change of the morning. Having watched and helped with the process a few times the day before, he was finding the actual task was a bit easier and a lot less scary than he had thought it would be, even managing to keep his gagging to a minimum.

After Alice had been fed and dressed, Mickey took her into the living room to play while John retreated to his own room to get ready for work. Climbing into the shower, he allowed the welcoming warmth of the water to awaken him further and sooth the aching muscles in his neck and back brought on by the restless night of sleep on the couch. He granted himself about five minutes of relaxation, trying to keep his thoughts to a minimum and just focusing on the sensation of the water sluicing over him before finally reaching for the shampoo. Once he was clean and feeling more refreshed, he shut off the tap and quickly dried himself off, then headed back into his room to get dressed.

Mickey was sitting on the floor with Alice surrounded by a small pile of Hot Wheels cars when John came back into the living room.

“I didn’t really have anything that could be considered a baby toy.” Mickey said by way of explanation. “She seemed to like these though and she’s made it pretty clear that one’s her favorite.” He pointed to the little blue mini cooper that Alice was chewing on and John couldn’t help but smile. Mickey cleared his throat. “I uh, I tried calling Jack again while you were in the shower and it’s still going to voicemail. So either his cell phone coverage doesn’t reach Vancouver for some reason or his priorities changed ‘cause he met someone.”

“Or possibly several someones.” John muttered. He glanced down at Alice who was still happily chewing on the car that was clasped in her tiny little fist. “I’m going to talk to the dean this morning.” He zipped up his messenger bag and slipped the strap over his shoulder. “See if I can’t work something out with my schedule.”

“I’ll go over my appointment calendar for the month again and see what I can work out as well and we’ll compare notes when you get home.”  

John nodded and turned, then paused to look back at the two of them. “You sure you’re gonna be okay here on your own.”

“Yeah, we’ll be fine.” Mickey assured him, pulling Alice onto his lap. “Plus Sarah Jane’s downstairs if something comes up.” He made a shooing gesture with his hands. “Go. Impart your knowledge and wisdom onto young minds. We’ll see you after your class.” He tilted his head towards Alice. “Say bye, bye to Uncle John.” Lifting her arm, he began moving it up and down in a waving motion. “Bye, bye.”

John snorted softly, smiled and shook his head. “Alright, I’ll see you guys later.”

They continued to wave until John pulled the door closed behind him and then Mickey turned his attention back to Alice.

“So kiddo, looks like it’s just you and me for a little while. What do you think we should do? We could do the dishes or take a nap, or…” he drew the word out. “We could watch the wrestling program I recorded last night. What do you think?”

“Ba, ba, ba!” Alice cried happily, waving the little car around and kicking her feet.

“Ah, a girl after my own heart.” Mickey grinned, moving them both up onto the couch and settling her in his lap once more as he reached for the remote. “Wrestling it is.”

 

-oOo-

 

When he had arrived at the university that morning, time had seemed to slow to a crawl and John found himself spacing out more than once during his lecture as his mind kept wandering back to how Mickey and Alice might be doing back at the flat. It became so much so that even his students had picked up on his distracted behavior, a few of them even stopping by his desk to ask if he was alright after class. The journey home however was much quicker than normal. He didn’t want to admit that he might have been speeding a little bit, but he had a sort of anxiousness in his gut that he just couldn’t seem to shake. Now he bounced lightly on his toes in anticipation as he watched the numbers on the lift panel climb until finally with a small ding, it opened onto their floor.

“Mickey?” he called as he entered the flat.

“We’re in here.”

“Oh, hello Sarah.” John greeted as he stepped into the kitchen.

“Hey there. I just stopped by to check and see how you guys were doing.”

John nodded, his eyes drifting over to Mickey who was cradling Alice in his arms. At the site of her adorable little face John felt a wave of relief pass over him, allowing all of the pent up tension he’d been feeling all morning to melt away. Mickey seemed to have picked up on his anxiety and wordlessly walked over and transferred her into his arms and he couldn’t contain the grin that spread over his face as she smiled up at him. After a few moments he looked up to see Mickey watching him with slight amusement while Sarah Jane attempted to hide a smile and he felt his ears redden in response.

“I spoke with the dean today.” he said in an attempt to divert their thoughts. “He agreed to allow me to bring Alice to one class a week. I figure Wednesdays would probably be good since I don’t have office hours afterwards. Oh, and I also talked to Donna. She said she has Fridays off so she could take Alice then.”

“Okay,” Mickey looked thoughtful. “Well I think I can probably swing Thursdays since I usually have the full crew in on that day.”

“And I could help out on Mondays if you want.” Sarah Jane chimed in.

“Thank you Sarah.” John replied gratefully. “That would be brilliant.”

“That just leaves Tuesdays.” Mickey concluded. “I can do mornings while you’re in class if you can do afternoons.”

“Perfect.”

“So… we have a schedule?” Mickey ventured.

John nodded. “We have a schedule.”

“Wow, that was easy.” Mickey mused. “Anything else you want to tackle while we’re on a roll?”

“Weell, there’s probably still a few things we’ll need to pick up to help with transport and whatnot. And you did mention we were lacking in toys this morning.”

“So shopping then?”

“Looks like.”

“Great, I’ll make a list.” Mickey moved to grab his phone from the counter.

“Nah, don’t need one.” John said, finally pulling his attention from Alice’s face. “I’ve got a pretty good idea of what we need. Should only take us an hour or two tops.”

Mickey held up his hands in concession. “Okay boss, whatever you say. Oh wait, what about Alice? We don’t have a car seat and I’m not sure it’s safe let alone legal to drive around with a baby in your lap.”

“Why don’t I stay with Alice while you guys go shopping?” Sarah Jane spoke up, taking the baby from John. “She and I can have some girl time while the two of you go get what you need.”

“Are you sure you don’t mind?” John asked.

“Not at all.” She smiled down at Alice who began giggling as she rocked her. “Luke won’t be home till this evening so I have the afternoon free.”

“Have I mentioned you’re the best?” Mickey said, draping an arm over her shoulders.

Sarah Jane laughed. “Yes, but I love hearing it anyway.”

“Our Sarah Jane.” John shook his head fondly.

Grinning, she walked them to the door and they each pressed a kiss to her cheek and then one to Alice’s forehead.

“See you in a couple of hours.” John said as they stepped into the lift.

 

-oOo-

 

 

The baby section in Henrik’s was relatively deserted for the afternoon, providing the men a little more ease with which to shop. While Mickey carefully perused various displays, John took a more hands on approach, picking up each item he deemed interesting and giving it a more thorough examination.

“What about one of these?” he asked holding up a baby thermometer. “Oh and we could definitely use some baby monitors and a high chair.” he continued on before Mickey could answer. “We should probably also get a pushchair and one of those little carrier things I’ve seen people wear. You know, the ones you put the baby into with the straps that go across.” He gestured to his chest.

Mickey stared at him incredulously for a moment and then shook his head. “Okay, see this is why I said we should have made a list. Cause you just fired off a whole mess of stuff in like five seconds and I missed half of it.”

“I told you, we don’t need a list.” John replied, picking up a set of baby proof cabinet locks. “I am perfectly capable of keeping a small mental inventory of all the items we need and checking them off as we go.”

Mickey rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to retort when they were approached by one of the sales clerks, a friendly looking older woman with silver hair.

“Is there anything I can help you gentlemen find?”

“Oh, no thank you.” John gave her a broad smile. “I think we’re okay.”

Mickey snorted. “Yeah, he made his own mental list and everything.”

John turned to scowl at his roommate who offered him a huge grin in return.

The woman chuckled softly. “You two seem like a lovely couple. Is this your first?”

“No.” John blurted. “I mean yes. I mean, no as in we’re not together. We’re just friends.”

“Just friends.” Mickey agreed. “I could never date him anyway.” He put his hand beside his mouth whispering conspiratorially. “He has a habit of being a bit of a know it all and yammering on too much at times.”

“Oi!” John cried out defensively. “Like you’re any better?”

“Hey, I’m a catch. Just ask Martha.”

The sales clerk’s eyes sparkled with mirth and she ducked her head to hide her smile as the pair bantered back and forth. After a few moments they realized they were making a spectacle of themselves which effectively cut off their good-natured jesting and they immediately returned their attention to the woman.

“We’re actually shopping for our other friend’s baby.” Mickey said, a bit sheepishly on behalf of their behavior. “Just sort of helping out while he’s away.”

She nodded, the smile still tugging at her lips. “Okay, well if you guys decide you need any help I’ll be over at the counter.”

They both thanked her and when she walked away John gave Mickey a shove. “Go look at some clothing.” he told the other man who walked away laughing.

They continued shopping on their own for a few minutes, deciding to save the bigger equipment for last and turned their focus onto additional clothing and toys. John had picked out a set of jim-jams that he thought would be perfect for Alice. The t-shirt was pink with all nine planets as the background and the words ‘We Are All Made of Stars’ emblazoned across it in gold lettering and the matching pants were black and covered in little gold stars.

“What do you think?” Mickey asked, coming up beside him and holding up another t-shirt. “I mean, I found it in the ‘boys’ section but…”

“I think Alice will love it.” John cut in with a reassuring smile.

Mickey smiled back, nodding to himself in agreement as he looked back at the design and then draped the shirt over his arm. “Okay I’m gonna go check out the toy section real quick.” he said before scampering away.

John shook his head, chuckling softly and returned to skimming through the clothes rack.

“Can I help you with anything?”

Startled, he turned to see a young brunette woman smiling coyly up at him. Offering the sales clerk a smile of his own, he shook his head. “No thanks. Just browsing a bit.”

“Oh. For your baby?” she asked, her gaze drifting down to his bare left hand.

“No, a friend of mine’s actually. Just sort of helping him out a bit by picking up a few things.”

The woman dragged her eyes back to his and her smile widened. “Sounds like he’s very lucky to have a friend like you.”

‘Yes he is.’ John thought to himself even as he responded with a nonchalant shrug.

“You know,” she began and took a step closer, immediately setting off the warning bells in his head. “I’m really good with babies and my shift ends in about fifteen minutes. I could help you pick out a few things and then maybe we could go somewhere and… talk.” she purred and he suddenly became aware of her hand running lightly up and down his arm.

“Um actually,” John stammered as he pulled away from her and began tugging on his left ear. “I think my partner and I have everything under control as far as picking out what we need.”

Her smile fell immediately. “Your partner?”

“Yeah.” He looked around, finding Mickey at a toy display across the room and began waving him over somewhat frantically. The woman followed his line of sight, her face mirroring the look of confusion on Mickey’s as he made his way towards them.

“So, you two are… together?” The woman gestured between the pair as soon as Mickey had reached his side.

“Oh yes. For about ten years now. Isn’t that right love?” John asked, his eyes pleading with the younger man to play along.

Mickey gave him a look as if to say ‘oh so now you want to be a couple’ but then quickly slipped into his role. “Sure is pumpkin.” he replied, planting a kiss on John’s cheek.

Mickey couldn’t help the slight smirk playing upon his lips as he thought about what John was gonna owe him for this. Then again, the look on his face right now was almost payment enough.

“Anyway.” John cleared his throat. “We appreciate your help, but we’ve pretty much got everything we need. Right dear?”

“Of course honey.” Mickey put his arm around John’s shoulders and squeezed.

As they turned their attention back to the woman, Mickey was grinning like an idiot while John’s smile looked more forced and she stared at the two in bewilderment for a moment before excusing herself to assist another customer.

“You should really leave the acting to Jack.” Mickey said once the sales clerk was out of ear shot. “You’re terrible at it.”

“Oh shut up.” John retorted, giving him another shove. “Let’s just get the rest of the stuff and go home.”

 

-oOo-

 

“We’re back!” John called out as they stepped through the front door.

Sarah Jane entered a moment later and pressed her finger to her lips. “I just put her down for a nap. Good Lord, did you two buy out the entire store?” she asked taking in the numerous bags and accessories they had carried in.

John scoffed. “I’ll have you know that these are all necessities.” he said, passing her several of the bags which she then set on the table.

“Mostly.” Mickey amended. At John’s questioning look he elaborated. “Was The Lion King play mat really a necessity?”

“Absolutely. The Lion King is a brilliant movie and that play mat is designed to teach her about animals, help develop her motor skills and it also plays music which not only benefits the brain but helps to boost language skills. Plus,” he paused, his lower lip jutting out. “I thought she’d like it.”

“Well, I guess it’s better than that Buzz Lightyear Rocket shaped crib you were eyeing.” Mickey conceded.

“Oi! Who had to talk who out of the Batmobile shaped walker?”

“That was a practical suggestion.”

“She’s not walking yet.”

“Yet. That’s what it’s for.” Mickey began ticking off points on his fingers. “It teaches her to walk, it also helps her motor skills and oh yeah, it would have been awesome cause it was a friggin’ Batmobile.”

“You know,” Sarah Jane commented, trying to hide the amusement in her voice as she pulled a pair of little pink converse shoes out of one of the bags. “Most babies don’t usually start taking their first steps until 9 months or later.”

John gave Mickey a gesture as if to say ‘see’ and he retaliated by sticking out his tongue and waiving him off.

Sarah Jane shook her head, marveling at how much more well behaved Alice was compared to those two (or three when you counted Jack) at times. “Did you guys remember the car seat?” she asked in an attempt to change the subject after surveying all the equipment and not seeing one.

“Yep.” John replied popping the ‘p’. “Two actually. One for each car. That way we don’t have to go switching it out every other day. Installed them before we came up.”

“Now all we need to do is set up the high chair, the baby bouncer, and assemble the pushchair.” Mickey concluded.

“Speaking of, we should probably assemble the pushchair first.” John suggested. “That way it’s ready for tomorrow.”

“Good idea.” Mickey agreed, moving over to grab the box.

As the pair sat down and began going over the instructions, Sarah Jane opened another bag to find a red Cars t-shirt with an image of Lightning Mcqueen grinning up at her from the front of it along with a stuffed version of the character and underneath that was a pair of jim-jams covered in stars and planets. She glanced over at the two men, a fond warmth spreading through her as she watched them. Their hearts were already lost to that little girl in the other room whether they fully realized it or not. She just hoped for their sake that they’d be able to work everything out once Jack returned because the more attached they became to Alice, the worse it would hurt if they were to lose that connection.

 

-oOo-

 

Throughout the next two weeks, the schedule they’d set up seemed to be working quite well.  Mainly because Alice seemed to charm everyone that met her, which wasn’t really a surprise considering who her father was. John’s students absolutely loved her. She was never fussy and she never cried. She just sat in her little pushchair listening to him talk like the rest of the class and once the lecture was over all of the female students (and a few of the male ones) would crowd around his desk to just ooh and aww over her. He had only brought her to two classes so far but she already had everyone completely smitten.

Mickey’s crew at the auto shop were even bigger pushovers when it came to Alice. Zach and Danny already had kids of their own and Rory’s wife Amy was currently pregnant with their first so all it took was one of her giggly smiles to woo them and they were wrapped around her tiny little finger. Mickey even found a baby sized jumpsuit that he would dress her in on the days she spent up at the auto shop and he would take her around showing her all the various tools and parts they used while also explaining what they were for. Since John was already teaching her all about physics and astronomy he figured it was only fair that she got to learn a bit about mechanical engineering as well.

As far as the more personal aspects of their lives went, John’s of course were way more flexible since he basically didn’t have a personal life. Mickey on the other hand was finding things a bit more difficult. With Martha’s work schedule and now the addition of Alice to Mickey’s, the couple hardly saw one another and the sparse date nights they did have were mainly spent at guys’ flat. On those nights, John would bundle Alice up in her warmest jim-jams and the little purple coat they had bought her and take her up to the roof to look at the stars so that Mickey and Martha could have a little privacy. Mickey was always extremely grateful to John for allowing them those moments but he also felt slightly guilty as it was basically forcing them out of the flat just so he could get a bit of alone time. John of course assured him that he didn’t see it that way and that he and Alice thoroughly enjoyed the time they got to spend stargazing. Alice of course, was still too young to actually be able to view anything through the telescope he kept up there so he would instead put down a blanket and lay them down on their backs so that he could point out the various constellations and star clusters to her. While John had always felt a sense of pride in teaching, hoping to broaden minds and send others out into the world to spread their own brilliance, there was just something about the way Alice looked up at him with those big blue eyes as he imparted his knowledge onto her that filled him with a wave of accomplishment he had never felt before.

Things had been pretty steady for those first two weeks so on the following Saturday Mickey accepted an invitation from a mutual friend of theirs from Uni who was having a party, saying that he felt they both deserved a night out. John was skeptical at first but Mickey; with the help of Martha and Donna, who had agreed to keep Alice overnight, finally managed to convince him it would be good for them to take a break. Although they went with every intention of attempting to relax for an evening and both of them tried to enjoy themselves, they had only managed to make it about forty-five minutes into the party before making their excuses and heading home. The exhaustion from the past two weeks had taken its toll and when they stepped into the flat they wanted nothing more than to fall into their beds and enjoy a full, uninterrupted night of sleep. After saying a quick goodnight to one another they went straight for their rooms, intending to do just that but it seemed their subconscious had other ideas.

The flat was quiet. Almost too quiet, John thought to himself as he stared at the ceiling of his room willing sleep to come. Unfortunately, he just couldn’t seem to turn his mind off. He wondered how Donna was faring with Alice. Maybe he should call her and check. Just to be sure they were okay. No. He threw his head back against the pillow and scrubbed his hands over his face. He was being ridiculous. Alice was perfectly safe in Donna’s care and he had nothing to worry about. He continued to stare at the ceiling as his ears catalogued every little sound until finally he couldn’t take the silence anymore. Climbing out of bed, he headed for the living room in hopes that maybe a bit of television might help put him to sleep.  

Across the hall, Mickey hadn’t been faring much better. He just couldn’t seem to get comfortable no matter what he tried as though all his senses were still on alert even though he knew they needn’t be. After tossing and turning for a few more minutes, he kicked off the covers deciding what he needed was a good cuppa tea to calm himself and rolled out of bed. As he stepped into the hall he heard the sound of faint voices and followed them to the living room.

“What are you doing up?” Mickey asked, taking in the sight of his equally awake roommate sprawled out on the couch.

“Couldn’t sleep.” John replied as he flipped through channels on the TV. “You?”

“Same.” Mickey came over and plopped down beside him. “I keep expecting to hear her cry.”

“Yeah, me too.”

The pair lapsed into silence, the television droning on though neither of them were really paying attention to what was on the screen.

“It feels weird doesn’t it?” John said after a couple of minutes. “Almost like it’s too quiet. I mean, I know it was good we got to get out for a little while tonight and take a bit of a breather, yet I don’t feel the least bit relaxed right now. Why is that?”

The silence hung in the air between them once more, both of them knowing the real reason behind their insomnia without having to voice it but he couldn’t help glancing over at Mickey anyway who gave him a knowing look.

“Yeah.” John said turning his attention back to the TV.

“Yeah.” Mickey agreed.

 

-oOo-

 

 

Rose sat on the side of the bed staring forlornly at the picture in her hand. As she lightly traced her daughter’s features with her finger, she felt tears prickling at the back of her eyes and she let out a shuddering breath.

“You alright?”

Reigning in her emotions, Rose glanced up to see Jake standing in the doorway. “M’ always alright.” she replied with a tight smile as she tucked the photo back into her wallet.

“You did what you had to do to protect her Rose. That doesn’t make you a bad mother.”

“Then why do I feel like one? S’ been almost three weeks Jake. I’ve never been away from her for more than a couple of days at the most and I knew going into this mission that there was no set timetable but I accepted it anyway. I left her Jake! I jus’ left her! What does that say about me? And Jack… I jus’ sprung this on him with no warning whatsoever and that’s not the way I wanted their first meeting to go.” She paused, taking several deep breaths as she stared down at her hands. “I love this job. I always have. I love helpin’ people and savin’ the world but I also love my daughter. And I know she wasn’t planned and I never thought I’d be a single mum but I wouldn’t trade it now for anythin’ in the world. And for a while there I thought I could do both. I really did. But I can’t. I can’t do the job and try to raise her at the same time. I can’t constantly be puttin’ her in danger or goin’ off and leavin’ her with someone else for long periods of time or havin’ her have to worry about whether or not M’ gonna come home every time I go out on a mission.” She ran a hand through her hair in frustration.

“Look Rose,” Jake began softly. “I can’t tell you what to do. You have to do what’s best for you. But just… just don’t make any decisions right now. Okay? Let’s just focus on the mission. Besides, I have a feeling you’ll be home sooner than you think.”

“Yeah right.” Rose sighed resignedly. “So M’ assuming you came in here ‘cause you have news?”

“That I do. Lazarus has resurfaced. His plane landed at Heathrow airport around 7:30 this morning.” Jake smiled warmly. “We’re going back to London.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

 

“That’s all for today. Everyone remember to read chapters sixteen and seventeen. There’ll be a quiz on the material Friday.” John told his class as he dismissed them for the day.

He turned to the white board and cleared it with a few swipes of the eraser in his hand, then set it down to retrieve his messenger bag from where it was draped over the back of his chair and began stuffing his books and materials inside.

“Doctor John Noble?”

Looking up, he was met with the sight of a disheveled and anxious looking man in his mid-forties hovering awkwardly in front of his desk.

“That’s me.” John’s brows furrowed. “Can I help you with something?”

“My name is Professor Richard Lazarus.”

“Oh,” John gave him a welcoming smile. “Are you joining the staff here?”

“No, no. I came here specifically to see you.” Lazarus’s eyes darted around the room nervously as he ran a hand through his short shaggy blonde hair. “I’ve been reading up on you Doctor Noble. Your research and theories have not only been well-publicized but you’re also highly respected within the scientific community which is why I think you’re just the one to help me. You see I specialize in genome therapy and I found something during my research...” He glanced back over his shoulder at the few straggling students who were still packing up their things and then leaned in to whisper conspiratorially. “Something that could change the world and turn everything we’ve ever known to be true about evolution on its head. I daresay this discovery could even change the very essence of what it means to be human.”

“I see.” John said slowly his brows arching. “But I’m not exactly sure how I fit in to this scenario. I mean, my expertise is in astronomy. Wouldn’t it be better for you to speak to someone within your own field that might be better equipped to help you?” 

Lazarus shook his head. “I can’t trust any of them. But you, I think I can trust you. Like I said, I’ve been reading up on you but it’s not your expertise I’m looking for. People listen to you. They respect you. And with your standing and influence in the scientific community you could open the proper doors for my theories to be heard, rather than being continually dismissed and branded as the ravings of some sort of mad scientist. You see, this breakthrough could not only make history but it could also shape the future. But there are others out there who want my research as well Doctor Noble. Dangerous people who; rather than helping to advance humanity, would use said knowledge for nefarious means and are even willing to kill for it. If it were to fall into the wrong hands…”

The sound of a text book being shut echoed loudly throughout the silent room causing Lazarus to yelp as he practically jumped out of his skin. John instinctively reached out to calm him but the man took a step back and held up his hand.

“I should go. It’s not safe for me to be in one place for too long. When the time is right, I’ll contact you again.”

Without waiting for a response Lazarus turned and bolted out the door, leaving John staring bewilderedly after him. Shaking his head at the man’s strange behavior, John returned to packing up his things and then headed for his office, determined not to give the seemingly unbalanced professor any further thought. After all, it wasn’t the first time he’d met an eccentric academic. Unfortunately, the stress and pressures of the job; depending on the field of study, occasionally led to burn out and sometimes even the inevitable breaking point. He just hoped the professor could find the help he needed before it was too late.

 

-oOo-

 

 

The sleek black car had been following Lazarus ever since he left the university. He congratulated himself on his astute perception, the years spent on his particular brand of research having helped him develop a healthy case of paranoia that had allowed him to spot the fact he was being pursued almost immediately. He glanced into the rearview mirror once more. They were definitely still there, only one car back now.

Knowing he was running out of time, he pulled up to a FedEx store and hurried inside. He watched from behind the glass doors as the black car continued along moving slowly down the street and then pulled his phone from his pocket as well as a small USB drive. After a quick internet search, he had the address he needed and went to the counter to arrange a delivery.  

 

 

-oOo-

 

 

“Getting her ready for college already?” Mickey teased as he entered the room holding a mug of tea in each hand.

John looked up from the astronomy book he had been reading aloud. “She likes it.” he informed the younger man, accepting one of the mugs and then added smugly. “It’s all in the voice.”

Mickey sat down on the edge of the bed across from them, smiling at the sight of Alice sitting in John’s lap, dressed in her space jim-jams and chewing on her stuffed Lightning McQueen as she watched him point out various pictures of constellations in the book.

“Yeah, okay I’ll admit you have a pretty decent lecturer’s voice.” Mickey paused, hiding a smirk behind his mug. “When you’re not rambling that is.”

John lifted his head again and arched a brow causing Mickey to snort in response as he pulled out his phone. He pressed the home button to light up the screen then after a few seconds shook his head and returned it to his pocket.

“Still no luck?”

Mickey shook his head once more. “Nope. Just his voicemail as usual.”

“Maybe we should call Gwen.” John suggested. “She is his agent after all; shouldn’t she know how to get in touch with him?”

“Yeah maybe.” Mickey replied thoughtfully. “I think her number’s on the fridge.” As he returned his attention to the other pair in the room he found himself smiling again. “I think you finally tired her out.” he said nodding towards Alice.

John glanced down to see Alice’s eyes drooping as she rested her head against his chest, her toy now forgotten. “I guess that’s all for tonight then.” he told her, closing the book and setting it down. He cradled her in his arms and stood up slowly, placing her stuffed car on the bureau and then lowered her gently into the crib. As Mickey moved to turn off the light, John flipped a little switch on the mobile he had bought her earlier that week. It was a replica of the solar system with all nine planets hanging in a circle and a little clear dome on the top that projected a soft lit batch of stars onto the ceiling.

As the mobile began to turn and the stars appeared, Alice gave a sleepy smile.

“She really loves that thing.” Mickey commented.

“Yeah, she does.” John smiled in agreement. “Just like she loves that little stuffed car.” He gestured to the toy on the bureau and Mickey couldn’t help but grin as well.

They spent just a few more moments watching her as she drifted off and then tiptoed out of the room.

“So what do you feel like doing tonight?” John asked as he pulled the door behind them, leaving it open a few inches, and then turned to follow Mickey out into the living room.

“We could order a pizza and watch a movie.”

“That sounds brilliant actually.” John gave a contented sigh as he propped his feet up on the small coffee table and took a sip from his mug.

Mickey set his own tea down and pulled out his phone to make the call when the sound of a key rattling in the lock made them both freeze in place.

As the door swung open, they both slowly turned to see Jack standing in the doorway with his luggage, grinning broadly.

“Hey guys! Did you miss me?” He glanced between them, taking in their gob smacked expressions and his smile faltered. “What?”

 

 

-oOo-

 

 

“A daughter.” Jack reflected as he finished Rose’s letter. “I have a daughter.”

“Yep.” John replied, popping the ‘p’.

“Wow. That’s just…” Jack trailed off, shaking his head in disbelief.

“Yeah.” Mickey agreed.

Jack looked back down at the paper in his hands and sighed. “I really wish Rose would have told me sooner. She shouldn’t have had to go through all that alone.”

“So you remember her then?” John asked.

“Oh definitely. Gorgeous, hazel eyes, beautiful smile.” He gave John a wink.

“I was thinking more along the lines of an address or phone number just so we could at least let her know that Alice is being taken care of. I mean, even though she decided to give her up I’m sure she probably still worries.”

“Ah.” Jack pursed his lips. “No, unfortunately we didn’t get much past names I’m afraid. We met at a bar about a year and a half ago, had a pleasant evening together and then went our separate ways. I honestly never thought I’d see her again and since we took all the appropriate precautions to say this is all a bit of a shock would be an understatement.”

“Well with your record someone was bound to beat those odds.” Mickey quipped.

Jack grinned and wagged his brows, earning eye rolls from the other two as they lapsed into silence. After a few moments Jack sat up and turned to John.

“Can I see her?”

“She’s asleep.”

“I’ll be quiet.” Jack promised. “I just want to see her.”

John glanced over at Mickey who shrugged. “If he wakes her up, it’s on his head.”

“Alright, come on then.” John said, standing up. “She’s in your room anyway.”

Jack looked slightly affronted by that revelation while John and Mickey shared a pleased grin, then beckoned him down the hallway. As they stepped into the darkened room, John turned to Jack and put his finger on his lips and Jack nodded in response before tiptoeing over to the crib. He wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. After hearing he had a daughter he was shocked of course, that was for sure but now as he leaned over the crib and took in Alice’s sleeping form it was as if he had just suddenly found the missing piece to the puzzle inside his heart.

“She looks just like Rose.” he murmured in awe.

John stepped up beside him. “She has your eyes though.”

“And your charm.” Mickey whispered; joining them as they all looked down at the sleeping infant.

Jack choked back what sounded like a cross between a chuckle and a sob and reached out to stroke Alice’s hair but stopped abruptly and drew back.

“It’s okay to touch her.” John reassured him.

“I know, I just…” he shook his head. “She just looks so peaceful; I don’t want to wake her.”

“Tell you what.” Mickey said. “She’s up at seven every morning so you can greet her properly then while you’re giving her her first nappy change of the day.”

Jack pulled a face. “Um, thank you…?”

Holding back his laughter so as not to wake Alice, John gestured to the door and the other two men followed him out, heading back into the living room.

Jack was still in a slight state of disbelief as he sank down onto the couch.

“You know, we tried calling you.” John informed his pensive roommate as he and Mickey sat down beside him.

“Multiple times.” Mickey added.

“Yeah sorry about that.” Jack pulled his phone from his pocket and held it up. “Dropped it in a pitcher of margaritas the second night we were there. I have to get a new one.”

Mickey grabbed the device from his hand, took a whiff and made a face. As he moved to give it back, he noticed the plastic looked melted on one side. “What the hell did you do to it?”

“I may have tried to dry it with a hair dryer and got too close.”

Mickey rolled his eyes and handed it back to him.

“Not that we’re not happy you’re back,” John piped up. “’Cause we are.”

“Definitely are.” Mickey concurred.

“Quite right.” John nodded. “But I thought you said you were gonna be gone for four weeks.”

“Well that was the plan, but our lead actor broke his arm during a stunt so they had to shut down production for the next six weeks. Luckily though, Gwen’s friend Russell is directing a rendition of Anything Goes so she was able to get me a part in that to fill the time. Which is good right?” he looked between his two roommates. “I mean, now that I’m back I can relieve you guys and start actually getting to know my daughter.” He rubbed his hands together vigorously. “So where do I start? Is there like a schedule or something?”

John and Mickey couldn’t help being thrown by his exuberance and exchanged a look of surprise.

“Weell, I can’t speak for Mickey,” John began. “But I don’t mind continuing to help out if you want.”

“Yeah, I have no problem with that.” Mickey chimed in. “I’m fine with continuing to help as well.”

“I mean, it’s probably best to keep her on a normal schedule since we’ve been doing this for three weeks now.” John pointed out.

“Oh definitely.” Mickey agreed. “You don’t want to go around changing everything abruptly and confusing her. I think she’d be pretty upset if she didn’t get to go up to the shop and see the crew and look at the cars at least once a week. She really enjoys that.”

“And she’d probably be completely heartbroken if she couldn’t go stargazing anymore. And I know my students would be disappointed if I stopped bringing her to class on Wednesdays.” John added.

Jack watched with amusement as the pair went back and forth in that manner for a few more moments and then held his hand up.

“Okay, okay, well I definitely wouldn’t want to upset ‘Alice’ by keeping her from doing all the stuff she enjoys and I’d really appreciate the extra help since I’ll also be doing the play, so why don’t I take a look at the schedule you guys have drawn up and see what we can work out.”

John and Mickey glanced at one another and nodded, small relieved grins lighting up their faces and Jack couldn’t help but notice that his friends seemed to have grown a bit in the three weeks of his absence. It was clear that the pair had already developed a deep affection for his daughter which in turn ignited the same type of feeling in him towards them. As scary and uncertain as being thrust headfirst into fatherhood may seem right now, he knew that with the support of his best friends he would succeed and maybe, just maybe, he too would grow along the way.

 

 

-oOo-

 

 

Jack spent the night on the couch and when Alice woke up the next morning he immediately took charge, changing her like a pro to the stupefied expressions of his roommates.

“Since when do you know how to change a nappy?” John asked.

“Gwen has a daughter remember.” he replied as he dressed Alice in a denim blue skirt and her red Cars t-shirt. “I’ve watched her change her baby dozens of times.”

John gave Mickey an astonished look who just shrugged in response and then headed off to his room to get ready for work. After watching Jack interact with Alice for a few more minutes John reluctantly headed off to his own room to get ready as well.

Jack had been content to keep the schedule as it was with the exceptions that he would relieve Sarah Jane on Mondays, John and Mickey on Tuesdays and Donna on Fridays. He explained to them that since he was the father he felt it was his responsibility to put in the most time but he also appreciated that they were still willing to back him up so that he could also make his weekly rehearsals.

When the guys returned Jack was sitting on the couch with Alice cradled in one arm as he fed her from the bottle John had warmed earlier that morning.

John cleared his throat. “We’re about to head out.”

Jack glanced up at the pair and gave them a bright smile before turning his attention back to Alice. “Okay, we’ll see you later.”

“Just a reminder,” John spoke up again. “The formula is in the cabinet above the coffee maker and the extra bottles are in the one next to the sink.”

“There’s also an extra box of nappies in the hall closet should you need them.” Mickey added. “And she usually likes to take her nap between twelve and one.”

“Oh and if you decide to give her a bath…”

“Guys,” Jack cut in. “I’ve got this. John’s already made me a ten-page list to follow with every emergency number that exists so stop worrying okay. Just go to work.” He glanced up to see the pair staring at him worriedly.

“Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” John asked.

“Cause I can stay home if you want.” Mickey said. “It’s Friday so we don’t have much on the schedule today.”

“We’ll be fine.” Jack assured them once more, looking down at Alice. “Won’t we sweetheart? We have a whole day planned.”

“Oh?” John inquired, trying to sound casual.

“Absolutely. Alice and I are gonna go pick out a new phone, then we’re going to go by the theatre to see Russell and get my script and then we’re gonna go to the park? Isn’t that right?” he cooed. “Yes it is.”

John took a breath. “Okay, well at least call us as soon as you have your new phone so that we know we can reach you and you also have Sarah Jane, Martha and Donna’s numbers as well if anything comes up.”

“You got it Doc.” Jack replied with a salute.

“Oh don’t salute.” John groaned, rolling his eyes and heading for the door.

Mickey shook his head in amusement as he followed after him. “We’ll see you two later.” He called, shutting the door behind him.

“Bye!” Jack looked back down at Alice. “I think Uncle John and Uncle Mickey are just nervous about leaving us all by ourselves because they’re afraid daddy can’t handle things on his own. But we’re gonna prove them wrong aren’t we? Yes, we are.” He smiled as Alice began to giggle and reached up to pat his face. “Okay,” He pressed a kiss to her tiny hand. “First things first, before we leave I need to make a quick call.”

He carefully stood up and headed for the kitchen; keeping Alice cradled in one arm as he set her bottle on the counter and reached into his pocket for the folded piece of paper he had ripped from the directory. Luckily for him there had only been one listing for a Rose Tyler in all of London. Jack reached for the house phone and took a deep breath, wondering why he was suddenly so nervous as he dialed the number on the page and was immediately met with a recording announcing it had been disconnected. Slightly disconcerted he tried a different tactic, locating the main number for the building her flat was in only to be informed by the property manager that Rose and her baby had moved out a little over a month ago. Disappointed that his lead hadn’t panned out, Jack hung up the phone and decided to put off any further investigating until he had some actual free time to do so and instead returned to getting Alice ready for their day out.

Fifteen minutes later, with the changing bag slung over his shoulder and Alice strapped safely into her carrier against his chest, he locked up the flat and turned just as the lift chimed and opened to reveal a smiling Sarah Jane.

“Hey Jack! Good to see you.” She reached out and gently took hold of the baby’s hand. “And hello there Alice, how are you today?”

“Why Sarah Jane, did you by any chance come up here to check up on me?” he asked with a flirtatious wink.

“Of course not.” A quick glance up at Jack’s face and she conceded. “Okay, I might have promised John and Mickey I’d stop by just to make sure you two were doing okay, but I also came by because this package was just delivered downstairs for John.” She handed him a small padded envelope.

“Oh uh, well we were actually just heading out so…” He glanced back at the locked door and then back down at the package before just stuffing it inside the changing bag. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he gets it.” he assured her upon seeing her arched brow.

Sarah Jane smiled and nodded. “Okay, well I won’t keep you then.” she said turning back towards the lift.

“Sarah Jane,” She paused in pressing the button to look back at him. “I just wanted to say thank you for all your help with Alice while I was away. I really appreciate it.”

Sarah Jane gave him another soft smile. “It’s been my pleasure. Now come on,” she nodded to the lift as the doors opened. “You can tell me what you’ve been up to for the last three weeks on the ride down.”

 

-oOo-

 

“Russell! It’s so nice to see you again.” Jack said as he reached out to shake the older man’s hand.

“Jack my boy; I’m really happy we got this opportunity to work together again.” Russell released Jack’s hand, grinning broadly as he bent down level with the baby strapped to his chest. “And who is this precious little angel?” he asked.

“This is my daughter Alice.”

Russell looked up in surprise and delight. “Well congratulations I had no idea.”

“Thank you.” Jack chuckled. “I’m still getting used to the whole fatherhood thing myself but I’m also actually really enjoying it. I hope it’s okay if I bring her to rehearsals a couple of times a week. My roommates are helping out but they both work as well so…”

“It’s no problem at all.” Russell cut in. “We have several other cast members that have to bring their kids in on occasion when they can’t find a sitter. There’s even a little area set up backstage with a changing table and playpen.”

“Excuse me Russell?”

Both men turned to see a tall, dark haired gentleman in a suit approaching them, his baby blue eyes lingering on Jack for a moment before turning his attention to the director.

“I’m so sorry; I hope I’m not interrupting.”

“Of course not.” Russell clasped the younger man on the shoulder and then turned to Jack. “Jack Harkness, I’d like you to meet Ianto Jones; the best assistant a director could have. You name it he does it. I’ve actually just promoted him to stage manager for this production.”

Ianto blushed lightly, ducking his head as he reached out to take Jack’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you Mr. Harkness.”

“And it’s an absolute pleasure to meet you Mr. Jones.” Jack replied trying to squeeze every ounce of innuendo into his response as he gave the younger man his best toothpaste commercial grin, which only served to make him blush even more. “And this is my daughter Alice.” he said releasing his hand and looking down at the baby.

Ianto reached out to lightly shake her hand as well. “Hello Alice. It’s very nice to meet you too.”

Alice giggled happily and began waving her arms which made all three men laugh. 

“Oh,” Ianto suddenly spoke up again, remembering why he had come over in the first place. “I’ve got your script here.” He handed Jack an envelope. “Russell had told me you’d be coming by to pick it up.”

“Yes, thank you.” Jack took a moment to slide the envelope into the front pocket of the changing bag. “Alice here has already promised to help me learn all my lines.” he said, earning another chuckle from the two men.

“She really is absolutely adorable and so well behaved.” Russell commented.

Ianto nodded in agreement. “And she has your beautiful blue eyes.” His own eyes widened at his inadvertent remark but before Jack could respond a shrill ringing began to fill the room.

Ianto pulled his phone from his pocket and glanced at the screen then gave them an apologetic yet slightly relieved look. “If you’ll both excuse me; I need to take this.”

Jack watched him walk away then turned back to Russell who was smirking at him knowingly.

“He’s single you know.” Russell remarked casually. “And free this evening.”

Jack gasped in mock horror, placing his hands over Alice’s ears. “Are you encouraging fraternization with a man who’s technically my superior for this production?” He tilted his head, grinning widely as he wagged his eyebrows. “I highly approve. But I’m afraid I already promised this little one a trip to the park.” He uncovered Alice’s ears and pressed a kiss to the top of her head.

Russell chuckled. “Well I won’t keep you then, we’ll see you and your friends tomorrow night for the pre-cast party.”

“Absolutely.” Jack glanced over at Ianto once more who was still talking on the phone and smiled. “Wouldn’t miss it.”

 

-oOo-

 

Jack had taken to fatherhood like a duck to water. John wouldn’t say he was jealous. He was absolutely not jealous. He was just…protective. Okay, maybe a little overprotective. After all it had just been him and Mickey watching over Alice for those three weeks Jack was away. They were the ones that fed her, changed her nappies and rocked her to sleep every night. But nevertheless, Jack had managed to surprise them by handling all those same responsibilities with an ease that neither one of them had had in the beginning. But again, he wasn’t jealous.

Saturday afternoon the weather was pleasant enough that the trio had decided to go for a picnic. Alice had been dressed in the new outfit Jack had bought her. A pair of denim shorts, a purple t-shirt with an animated version of Princess Leia holding a blue lightsaber on it and the words The Force is Strong with This One written beneath her and to finish off the look, a pair of pink plastic sunglasses.

As he helped Mickey spread out a blanket beneath the shade of a large tree, John glanced up to see a man in dark clothing and a pair of black sunglasses watching them from a few yards away. He could have sworn he had seen the same man outside their building before they left for the park but as he went to mention it to Mickey the man turned around and walked away. Chalking it up to coincidence he returned his focus to Alice and his friends and began to unpack the picnic basket. It soon became apparent that they weren’t the only ones that had decided to get out of the house to enjoy the beautiful weather because the park had started to fill up with other families having picnics as well as a few joggers and several groups that were either playing footie or tossing a Frisbee back and forth.

Once they had finished their lunch and fed Alice, they headed over to the playground area. The guys all took turns taking Alice down the small slide and gently pushing her on the baby swing as she giggled in delight and within minutes, much to John’s displeasure, her innate adorableness coupled with Jack’s charisma and charm had caused them to draw a small crowd of women and shortly after they were all sitting back beneath the tree chatting.

Jack of course was in his natural element, his flirtation levels having reached new heights with the addition of Alice’s presence where as Mickey had the luxury of being able to politely rebuff the women’s’ advances by informing them he had a girlfriend. John however wasn’t as lucky. Not only had the younger man given him a pointed look that said he would definitely not be bailing him out this time, but because Jack was constantly trying to set him up, any chance of him lying and saying he had a girlfriend as well would have been quickly refuted which left John little in the way of defending himself from the three women that had practically attached themselves to him.

“So what do you do for a living?” The petite young blonde holding onto his right arm asked.

“Oh, um…” he began but was quickly cut off by Jack.

“The Doc here is a genius. He’s actually been published in several well-known journals.”

“A doctor?” The brunette holding his left arm gushed. “What kind of medicine do you practice?”

“Uh, no sorry. Not that kind of doctor. I actually have degrees in astrophysics, astronomy and astrobiology and I teach at the university.”

“Ooh a professor.” purred another woman with curly red hair as she placed her hand on his knee. “I bet you could teach me some things.”

The blonde beside him giggled, tightening her grip and pressing her chest against his arm. “Do you have private office hours professor?”

John chuckled uncomfortably as he tried to casually extract himself from their hold which only seemed to further their resolve in invading every inch of his personal space.

“So what kind of women do you usually date?” asked the blonde.

“I teach yoga.” The brunette piped up. “So I’m very flexible.” she smiled suggestively.

“Oh I do a lot of yoga too. My agency recommended it to help keep me in shape.” The blonde tugged his arm to get his attention. “I’m actually a model. In fact, just last week I was in Spain for a photoshoot.” She shot the brunette a smug grin.

“Wow, those jobs just sound so fulfilling.” The redhead said, her voice dripping with condescension. “I’m about to get my doctorate in archeology.” she informed them as John tried not to roll his eyes. “I may even be taking a position at the University myself soon.” She lightly squeezed his knee and gave him a salacious wink. “We could even be colleagues.”

The blonde sniffed haughtily and tossed her hair over her shoulder as she pressed herself closer to John. “I’ve been booked to do a swimsuit calendar next month.”

In response, the brunette tightened her grip, pasting on a smile when he turned his head to look at her and batted her lashes up at him. “You know; I was watching you earlier and you were just so amazing with her.” She gestured towards Alice. “Do you want kids of your own?” she asked, pressing her chest against the arm she was holding. “Cause I’d love to have a houseful.”

His already uncomfortable expression quickly transformed into that of a deer in the headlights and he practically leapt to his feet, knocking the women backwards. “I’m really sorry.” He said, taking in their bewildered looks as he began rubbing the back of his neck. “But I just remembered we have this function tonight so we should really get going.” He turned to his roommates for confirmation, his eyes daring them to argue.

“Yeah,” Mickey agreed. “It is getting pretty late and we should probably head home so we have time to get ready.”

After a few seconds Jack reluctantly conceded as well, handing Alice to John so he could get up.

“Great. You guys grab all the rest of our stuff and I’ll just go get Alice settled in the car.” John said quickly, once again leaving no room for argument. He gave a brief nod to the three women and then took off in a brisk walk before they even had a chance to call after him.

Jack and Mickey heard the women huff, looking quite put out as they watched him leave and after sharing an amused look, the pair shook their heads and began packing up the remnants of the picnic.  

 

-oOo-

 

 

“I don’t understand you.” Jack said as they entered their flat. “You could have had your pick of any of those women that were hanging all over you.”

John rolled his eyes. “No offense to your brand of ‘dating’ but I’m looking for something a little more real and a lot more special.”

“That doesn’t mean you can’t go out and have some fun every once and a while.” Jack countered, looking to Mickey who had his hands up as if to say ‘leave me out of this.’

“None of those women were anywhere near my idea of fun and while I may not do as well as you in the ‘romance’ department I’ll know what I want when I find it. Now can we stop arguing about this? The party’s at seven and Donna said she’d be here around six thirty to watch Alice.”

Jack held up his hands in acquiesce then bent down to take Alice out of her pushchair and set her down on her play mat.

“So are we supposed to get dressed up for this?” Mickey asked, quickly changing the subject. “I mean it’s just a cast party right?”

Jack grinned as he booped Alice on the nose with her stuffed car. “Yeah, it’s nothing fancy. Casual attire’s fine.”

“I thought cast parties were always held after the final performance.” John said as he carried the picnic basket into the kitchen.

“They usually are, but Russell likes to do a pre-cast party as well. It’s sort of his own tradition. Not sure why. I think he just likes throwing parties.” Alice giggled as he booped her on the nose once more.

“Alright, well I’m gonna jump in the shower then.” Mickey said, heading for his room. “See ya in a few.”

Jack nodded, returning his attention to his daughter while John finished unpacking the basket in the kitchen and then loaded the Tupperware into the dishwasher. By the time they finished putting the stuff from the picnic away, showering, getting dressed and spending some quality time with Alice, Donna had arrived.

“What is this?” Jack heard her ask as he headed for the living room with Alice now in her jim-jams.

“It’s a list.” John replied slowly as if it was supposed to be obvious.

“It’s twelve flippin’ pages!”

“Hah! Mine was only ten.” At the look on Donna’s face Jack closed his mouth abruptly and took a step back to stand beside Mickey who was trying not to laugh.

“Now you listen up spaceman,” Donna began, turning her glare back on her brother and poking him in the chest. “Just because I haven’t seen Alice in a week doesn’t mean I’ve suddenly forgotten how to take care of her. So if you rattle off one more instruction on something I already know how to do you’ll be limping off to this party got it!”

John’s eyes bulged as she jabbed him with her finger once more and he nodded in agreement, his Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat as he swallowed roughly.

“Good. Now get your scrawny behinds out of here so Alice and I can enjoy our evening.” She ordered.

The trio didn’t need to be told twice and quickly gathered their things before heading for the door. They each pressed a kiss to Alice’s head, promising Donna to be back by ten before stepping into the lift.

“Man, I really thought she was gonna smack you this time.” Mickey said once the doors had closed.

John blew out a breath, lightly tugging on his ear. “I honestly don’t know why she was so upset. I was just trying to make sure she was well-informed and properly prepared for any eventuality. Is that so terrible?”

“Twelve pages.” Jack mouthed and Mickey snorted softly.

The lift chimed again and opened onto the ground floor.

There was a slight chill to the air as they exited the building and headed for Jack’s car. As Mickey reached out to grasp the handle to the passenger side door he glanced up to see a man in dark clothing and sunglasses watching them from across the street. He studied him for a moment, something about the way the man was staring at them was causing the hairs on his neck to stand on end.

“You coming?”

The sound of John’s voice managed to drag his attention away from the strange man and he turned back to his friend who was staring at him, brow arched to punctuate his questioning look.

“Uh, yeah. Sorry.” He chanced a quick glance back to where the man had been standing but he was no longer there. Shrugging to himself he climbed into the car.

 

-oOo-

 

“Get those cameras out of here!” Rose shouted, prompting two UNIT soldiers to escort the rogue members of the paparazzi away from the scene. Pressing her fingers to her temple in irritation, she turned back to Jake. “How long ago did they find him?”

“Two hours.” Jake replied as he led her over to the sheet covered form on the pavement. “It’s pretty grizzly.” he warned as Rose stooped down and grasped the corner of the sheet.

“Yeah, well Davros and his crew aren’t exactly known for their humanity.” she said, lifting the material away from the corpse’s face and grimacing as her stomach rolled. “Are we sure S’ him?”

Jake nodded. “DNA results confirmed it.”

“What about the research?”

“Well he didn’t have it on him that’s for sure and judging by the state Lazarus is in I’m pretty sure Davros wasn’t able to get him to give it up either.”

Rose sighed, dropping the sheet. “Okay, let’s go back over our records and see if we might have missed somethin’. A safety deposit box, a property off the books, anythin’.”

“Actually,” Jake said slowly as she got to her feet. “We do have a lead. But you’re not gonna like it.”

“Why? What is it?”

“We have an eye witness who saw him at St. Luke’s University the morning he got back. The kid’s a student there. He said Lazarus came in to his classroom to talk to his professor after his lecture and he was acting really strange and paranoid.”  

“I don’t understand why he would go to the school. Who was the professor he went to see?”

Jake hesitated. “Doctor John Noble.”

Rose’s eyes widened in shock and terror filled her voice as she gasped out.

“Alice!”

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

 

It was only about a fifteen-minute drive to Russell’s house and the party was already in full swing when the trio arrived. The majority of the cast and crew had turned out for the occasion, beer bottles or plastic cups in hand as they mingled about and chatted animatedly with one another. There was a sleek sound system in the corner of the living area playing an array of upbeat tracks and several large tables were set along the far wall, displaying a lavish buffet.

As Jack excused himself to make his way over to a young man in a suit who was standing beside the punch bowl, Russell set about giving John and Mickey a quick tour of the place and introducing them around. Although the other members of the cast and crew were extremely warm and welcoming, just like the last party they had attended, the pair found themselves unable to relax and appreciate the upbeat atmosphere as their thoughts were once again focused elsewhere. Even Jack, whose normal penchant for flirting with everyone in the room at parties, had seemed unusually subdued and was continually pulling out his phone every few minutes to check it.

After about an hour of mingling and small talk they collectively decided to call it a night. Their incessant worrying about how Donna and Alice might be faring back at their flat had pretty much outweighed any real possibility of them enjoying themselves. It was funny how what they used to consider a normal and pleasant evening out had suddenly become almost boring in comparison to how their lives had been over the last month. The man Jack had been talking to had seemed really disappointed to see him go but Russell had a look of understanding in his eyes as he bid them all goodnight and gave Jack pat on the back as he told him he’d see him for rehearsal on Monday.

As they made their way into their building, there was an unspoken sense of relief between them now that they were home but John also couldn’t seem to shake the uncomfortable prickling sensation he felt on the back of his neck. He had the distinct impression that they were being watched again but when he glanced around warily he didn’t see anyone else in the vicinity which only managed to increase the uneasiness he was already feeling to a higher level.

“Is it weird that we’re all home at 8:30 on a Saturday night?” Jack asked suddenly as they stepped into the lift.

Mickey shrugged. “Not really.”

“Hey, who was that guy we saw you talking to most of the evening?” John piped up, needing to distract himself from the rising apprehension.

“Oh uh, that was Ianto. He’s Russell’s assistant as well as our stage manager. He also occasionally does make-up, costume design and he makes one hell of a cup of coffee.” Jack smiled fondly. “He’s quite extraordinary actually.”

Mickey folded his arms across his chest, an amused smile playing on his lips. “Is he now?”

“So,” John drawled. “If he’s so extraordinary, how come you didn’t introduce us then?”

“Yeah, are you ashamed of us or something?” Mickey teased while trying to sound affronted.

“What? No.” Jack sputtered, belying his normal confident demeanor. “Of course not.”

John leaned in to study his face. “Wait, are you blushing?”

“Oh ho, he is!” Mickey exclaimed. “Look at that, his face has gone all red.”

“I think someone really likes this Ianto guy and is trying to make a good impression but is afraid we might embarrass him.”

“Oh just shut up the both of you.” Jack groused good-naturedly. “We’re just starting to get to know each other. Besides, have I ever complained when you guys didn’t introduce me to someone you were interested in?”

“Yes.” They replied simultaneously.

As the lift chimed and opened onto their floor a sudden sense of foreboding seemed to fill the air and their laughter died immediately. The first thing they noticed as they stepped out into the hall was that the door to their flat was slightly ajar and it was completely dark inside.

They froze in place, sharing a look of trepidation before slowly returning their attention to the partially opened door, none of them quite capable of grasping a coherent thought. After a few moments realization of the situation began to set in and John snapped himself out of his brief paralysis, immediately pushing past the other two men and bursting through the door without a care for his own well-being as he screamed out for Alice and Donna. Within seconds Mickey was right behind him, followed by Jack who flicked on the lights as he charged inside.

The flat was an absolute mess. The furniture had been overturned and the couch cushions had been ripped apart. Lamps had been knocked over and John’s messenger bag and the contents were strewn all over the floor. In the kitchen the cabinets and drawers had been emptied, several dishes lying broken on the linoleum. The fridge had also been left wide open, the soft white light illuminating a small puddle at its base caused by the slow dripping of one of Alice’s bottles of formula that was lying on its side on the top shelf. Their bedrooms hadn’t fared much better. Clothes had been pulled from the closets and scattered all over their rooms, pillows were shredded, sheets yanked off the beds and drawers opened and thoroughly rummaged through. It was clear that whoever had ransacked the flat was looking for something specific, but the reasoning behind it wasn’t at the forefront of any of their minds at the moment as they continued calling out for Alice and Donna and finding no sign of either one of them.

They met back up in the living room after a complete search of the flat. John’s eyes were darting around the room, a crazed look adorning his features as he frantically ran his hands through his hair, making it stand on end. Jack was holding his head in his hands and staring off into space and Mickey had one hand over his mouth, the other resting on his stomach, clearly deep in shock.

A sudden ringing had them all pressing a hand to their hearts in alarm and then John made a mad dash towards the kitchen, leaping over the upturned couch in his haste to get to the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hello Doctor Noble.” The voice on the other end rasped.

John gripped the phone tightly. “Who is this?”

“Someone who has taken quite an interest in you recently.” The man paused. “Although, I must apologize for the state of your flat. My men like to be very… thorough.”

“Where are they?!” John shouted, drawing Jack and Mickey into the kitchen. “Where are Donna and Alice?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about Doctor.”

“Now you listen to me whoever you are.” John lowered his voice, trying to keep his anger in check. “I am being very calm right now; do you understand? Very calm. So you tell me right now what you’ve done with my sister and the baby.”

“I assure you Doctor Noble I haven’t done anything with them.”

“Then where are they?!”

“I don’t know, nor are their whereabouts any of my concern right now. I have no interest in involving any of your or your friends’ loved ones in this matter. At least not yet.”

“What does that mean?” John growled.

“It means as long as you give me what I want, no one has to get hurt.”

“And what is it you want?”

“The package containing the thumb drive with Professor Lazarus’s research. I know you have it. It took some time but the good professor was eventually persuaded to tell me everything.”

John’s brows furrowed. “I don’t know anything about a thumb drive.”

“Oh come now Doctor, don’t lie to me. It’s beneath you.”

“I’m not lying. I spoke with the man for about two minutes when he came into my classroom and then he left. I haven’t heard from him since and he certainly never gave me anything while he was there.”

Jack and Mickey exchanged a puzzled look and quietly moved closer, standing on either side of John so they could hear the other end of the conversation.

“You are beginning to try my patience Doctor. I want the thumb drive or else I’ll have to resort to more drastic measures.”

“And I’m telling you I don’t have it!” John shouted back. “Lazarus lied to you.”

The man on the other end of the line chuckled sadistically. “Oh no Doctor, I can assure you he wasn’t lying. My methods of extracting information are very… shall we say, motivational. So unless you would like to experience those methods for yourself firsthand, you will bring me that thumb drive. I will call you again in two days to arrange a time and a place for us to meet. Any attempt to contact the police would be unwise. I have eyes everywhere so I’ll know if you try to cross me and then everyone that you and your friends care about will suffer the consequences of your transgressions, including your precious little Alice.” The man’s next bout of laughter sent chills down their spines and a few seconds later the call disconnected.

Gritting his teeth, John slammed the phone down and Jack and Mickey winced in response.

“Guys?” called a frightened voice and they all looked up to see Sarah Jane standing in the doorway to the kitchen with Alice in her arms. “What happened here?” she asked, taking in the disarray.

John choked out a breath of relief and rushed forward, taking Alice into his arms and clutching her to him tightly. They were soon flanked by Jack and Mickey who in turn wrapped their arms around them both in a firm embrace. The group stood quietly for several moments, allowing the relief of having Alice home safely to wash over each of them and provide a brief reprieve from the evening’s disturbing turn of events before John finally broke the silence.

“Where’s Donna?” he asked, meeting Sarah Jane’s concerned gaze as she stood back, silently watching them.

“Your mother’s car broke down and she had to go pick her up. She called me about ten minutes after you guys left so I came by and got Alice and took her downstairs to my flat. I would have called your cell, but she said you’d be back around ten so I figured rather than interrupting your evening I’d just bring Alice back up a few minutes before you came home. I had just finished feeding and changing her when I realized I forgot the extra nappies so we came up to get them and saw this.” She gestured to the mess. “I was about to turn around and go call the police when I heard you yelling. What happened here?”

John had been staring down at Alice as Sarah Jane spoke trying to calm his racing heart as he replayed the caller’s threats in his head. It had been sheer luck that his mother’s car just happened to break down causing Donna to have to leave Alice with Sarah Jane for the evening. He inwardly shuddered; not even wanting to imagine what could have happened if his sister and the baby had been there when those people showed up. He thanked every deity he could think of that they were both currently safe and sound but unfortunately, if the man on the phone’s threats were to be believed, the danger to them was far from over. He could tell she was worried and looking for answers and although he knew she just wanted to help, involving Sarah Jane in the situation would only put a target on her back as well and he refused to put another one of his friends in jeopardy.

He could tell his roommates were on board with that same sentiment as they exchanged a meaningful look before he turned his attention back to Sarah Jane. “Well, as far as we can tell it just looks like your run of the mill break-in.”

“Yeah,” Jack piped up. “You know I’d heard on the news that there’s been a string of them around this area recently.”

Sarah Jane arched a brow. “Really? I hadn’t heard that.” She glanced between the three of them as they attempted to put on an air of nonchalance but were failing miserably. “So have you called the police then?”

“Yeah. Yep.” John nodded. “That’s who I was on the phone with when you came in.”

“You sounded like you were yelling at someone when I came in.”

“Ah, weelll, I wouldn’t say yelling exactly. I mean, maybe a little. More like talking really, really loudly.”

“Mmm hmm.” Sarah Jane folded her arms across her chest. “And why exactly were you yelling,” she paused, holding up a hand and shook her head. “No, sorry, ‘talking really, really loudly’ to the police?”

“Oh,” John let out a breath through pursed. “Um...”

“He was just a little upset because when we called to report the break in they said that it would probably be tomorrow morning before they could send somebody out to investigate.” Mickey quickly interjected. “And you know, not being able to really clean up or touch anything and all before they can examine it, it’s a bit frustrating.”

Sarah Jane nodded slowly but it was clear she wasn’t buying it.

Yawning loudly, Mickey placed a hand on Sarah Jane’s shoulder and began to gently guide her out of the kitchen as Jack and John followed behind them. “You know, it’s getting kind of late and we’re all tired and a little bit on edge so why don’t I escort you back downstairs and we can talk some more after we get things squared away.” He glanced back holding John’s gaze for a moment, who nodded in agreement.

Sarah Jane looked as though she wanted to protest but seeing the weary looks on their faces and Alice’s drooping eyes as she rested her head against John’s chest she finally conceded, wishing them all a goodnight and then allowed Mickey to lead her out the door.

 

-oOo-

 

“How is she?” John asked as Mickey stepped back into the flat and locked the door behind him.

“She’s alright, just worried. She still wants to know what’s going on. I promised her everything was fine and that we’d try to fill her in when we had more information. I also told her to stay inside for the rest of the night and to call if she needed us.” John nodded as Mickey turned to Jack. “Did you show him the picture you found?”

Jack slipped a folded piece of newspaper out of his pocket and handed it to John. “It was tacked to the wall beside the door.”

Looking down at the newspaper clipping, John shuddered. Written in large, bold, blood red letters across it were the words ‘WE WANT THE RESEARCH OR YOU’RE NEXT’. The article itself showed an image of a body lying on the ground beneath a white sheet and the headline read: ‘Well-Known Professor Found Slain in Alley. Killer Still at Large’. As John skimmed through the story his stomach began to churn from the description of the way the body had been found.

“So what exactly is it these guys think you have?” Mickey asked.

John tossed the article onto the table and ran a hand through his hair, ruffling it lightly. “I don’t know. The man on the phone kept saying something about a package containing a thumb drive but I never received anything.”

“Wait a minute.” Jack spoke up. “I just remembered something.” He leapt out of the recliner and quietly padded down the hall so as not to wake Alice. He returned a few seconds later holding the changing bag. “I completely forgot that Sarah Jane had brought something up for you yesterday. Alice and I were already on the way out to go run our errands so I just stuck it in here and forgot about it.” He unzipped the front pocket of the bag and reached inside to retrieve the small yellow padded envelope and passed it over to John.

At their encouraging expressions, John tore open the top of the envelope and turned it upside down over the table watching as a small black USB drive slid out of the packaging and clattered onto the hard surface. The trio stared at it silently for a few moments before Mickey spoke up.

“What do you reckon is on it that they want so badly?”

John blew out a breath and shook his head. “I dunno. I only met Professor Lazarus once. He came into my classroom a few days ago after my lecture and asked for my help in opening some doors in the scientific community. He was acting nervous and paranoid and told me he was working on something that could supposedly change what it means to be human. Then he practically ran out of the room when one of my students shut a book. I just thought he was another one of those eccentric types.”

“Changing what it is to be human? What does that even mean?” Jack asked, confused.

“It means he was probably a nutter.” Mickey replied.

The longer John stared at the device the further his curiosity was piqued. “Weell,” he glanced over at Mickey, arching a brow. “We could always find out.”

Mickey looked incredulous. “Hold up. You’re not actually suggesting we look at what’s on there are you? I mean, I know we were speculating and all but wouldn’t we just be digging ourselves in deeper by knowing more about these people than we’re supposed to?”

“Look around you.” John gestured to the mess that still surrounded them. “You’ve seen and heard what these people are capable of. That man threatened our families and friends. Lazarus died because these people are willing to kill for this information. Can you in good consciousness tell me that you’re fine with just handing it over to them without knowing exactly what it is or how dangerous it could be to the rest of the world?”

“He’s got a point.” Jack said.

Mickey sighed in resignation. “Fine, I’ll get my laptop since yours is obviously of no use.”

John glanced over at the table where his sat; a large crack in the middle of the casing caused by someone stomping on it, and frowned. “Yeah, and it wasn’t even a year old.” he whined looking over at Jack who nodded sympathetically.

Mickey returned a few seconds later, laptop in hand and set it on the table in front of John. He quickly typed in his password and then retreated back to the couch.

John picked up the USB drive, hesitating for a moment as he glanced back over at his friends who nodded their assent and then plugged the device into the computer. After a few moments the little icon appeared on the screen and he immediately clicked on it, bringing up a window containing hundreds of files. He took a deep breath and opened the first one. “Well, it’s not encrypted at least.” he announced as he began to read. Each file appeared to be a journal entry, some of them dating back over ten years. He quickly skimmed through the first couple of pages which mainly focused on a young Lazarus’s musings and hopes for the future and John couldn’t help feel a pang of regret and sympathy for the man whose life had been cut so short. Nutter or not, he didn’t deserve the fate that had befallen him. Shaking off the disturbing images he had read in the article John closed the file and scrolled down, looking for the most recent entries when his eyes caught sight of a file labeled ‘Project Hebe’. Clicking on it he began to read and felt his stomach drop.   

“Okay, that is not a good face.” Jack told Mickey.

Mickey met Jack’s eyes for a moment and then apprehensively turned his attention back to John. “So what is it then? What’s it say?”

John took a breath and turned to face them. “Lazarus told me he specialized in genome therapy and although I’m not well-versed in the subject matter, from what I can tell here it looks like he was trying to come up with a way to reverse the aging process in humans.”

“If I could turn back time.” Jack sang, poking out his tongue and pretending to brush back his imaginary long hair.

“Right.” John continued, ignoring his friend’s attempt at levity. “Anyway, the project’s name was Hebe, named after the goddess of youth. In it, he describes in detail the ingredients for a serum that could theoretically reverse the aging process simply by rewriting a person’s DNA.”

Mickey shook his head. “Making people young again. That could definitely make someone a mint. No wonder these people want the research.”

“I don’t think that’s all they want it for.” John replied morbidly as he turned his head back to the screen and continued to read. “It seems that while he was working on configuring the serum for this so called de-aging process he also accidentally stumbled upon something else. It says here that after a series of extensive tests he found that by using a specific concoction of stem cell therapy, genome therapy and genetic splicing he was able to reverse cellular decay and re-animate dying tissue in several, what he only refers to as ‘willing anonymous subjects’…” he paused, the implications of that statement hanging in the air.  

“Wait,” Jack interjected. “Are you saying he was experimenting with resurrection?”

“It’s worse than that. What he’s talking about here not only goes against the very laws of nature but could also have dire consequences of epic proportions. There is a natural progression to life, a universal order. What these ‘test subjects’ of his would have suffered…” He closed his eyes and shuddered at the thought. “I mean, aside from psychosis and genetic mutation, there are also a myriad of other issues that could arise from these types of experiments.”

At the bewildered looks on his friends’ faces, John attempted to clarify.

“Look at it like this, there’s a part of your brain called the amygdala which is basically responsible for memories, emotions, and even the most basic survival instincts. Those functions are then kept in check by the limbic system and the frontal lobe, which allow you to use cognitive reasoning rather than just acting on those base emotions. Based on the findings in this research, some of the side effects to this ‘resurrection’ process would include causing that connection to be severed which would then allow the amygdala to take over and thus causing the subject to react on pure base emotion alone with no rational reasoning whatsoever. You would basically be stripped of all human emotions. And aside from those neurological issues there’s also notes here on the appearance of hyperorality, which is a condition characterized by insertion of inappropriate objects in the mouth, as well as distractibility and dementia which could induce rage, causing the subject to become extremely violent with homicidal tendencies.”

“So, zombies.” Mickey deadpanned. “He went looking for the fountain of youth and instead came up with a way to create zombies.” Throwing his hands up in frustration, he slumped back into his seat. “Do people learn nothing from television and movies?”

“Oh come on,” Jack plastered on a dubious grin, shaking his head. “I’m sure he wasn’t deliberately trying to create zombies.” He looked back at John, his smile faltering as he took in his grim expression. “Wait, was he deliberately trying to create zombies?”

“Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe not intentionally. Judging by his notes it’s clear he was obsessed with immortality that’s for sure. But resurrection…” John paused in thought. “Kind of ironic really considering his last name was Lazarus. All I know is that when he came to me he was adamant about this research not getting into the wrong hands so maybe down the line somewhere he realized how dangerous it was. Especially if these people were to get access to it.”

Mickey folded his arms across his chest as he met John’s gaze. “So what do we do now?”

“Why don’t we just go to the police?” Jack asked.

John shook his head. “You heard what he said on the phone. They’re watching us. If we even tried to go to the authorities they’d go after Donna, Martha, Alice…” He had barely gotten her name out as his chest tightened. No. He would not let that happen.

“Okay, well we can’t let these guys get their hands on this research.” Mickey cut in. “I for one do not want to be party to unleashing the zombie apocalypse on the world.”

Jack suddenly sat up in his chair, startling Mickey in the process. “Oh my god, Rhys!”

“What?” John asked, furrowing his brows.

“Gwen’s husband Rhys. He’s a DS.” he said, taking in their questioning expressions. “You guys met him last year at my birthday party remember? Tall, stocky guy with sandy brown hair. He’s the one who punched Owen for being obnoxious.”

“Ah yes.” John acknowledged, a small smirk forming on his lips.

Owen was Jack’s physician. He treated quite a few TV celebrities, which was how he and Jack had originally met. John had only spoken to the man twice but he always came off as a bit standoffish with just an air of superiority about him. There was of course no denying that the man was a brilliant physician but he was also a complete arse. In fact, for the most part Jack seemed to be the only one who could tolerate him as anyone else who ever met him eventually got to a point where they just wanted to punch him in the face, especially after he’d had a few drinks which tended to heighten the more negative aspects of his personality. It was a small satisfaction to see Rhys finally do what so many others had to restrain themselves from doing every time the man opened his mouth. They didn’t see Owen much after that.

“Oh, I remember that guy now.” Mickey said. “He’s got one hell of a right hook. We ended up talking UFC the rest of the night.”

“Yeah, that was him.” Jack confirmed. “Anyway, so Gwen’s supposed to drop by rehearsals on Monday. I can have her discreetly pass on a message to him and these guys would be none the wiser.” He raised his eyebrows as he glanced back and forth between his friends. “Well, what do you think?”

“I think.” John began slowly, a broad smile spreading across his face. “That is a brilliant plan.”

Mickey nodded in agreement. “Yeah, and If we can get this information to the authorities without tipping these guys off then maybe they’ll be able to find them and put them away before anyone else gets hurt.”

“Good. It’s settled then.” Jack grinned, clapping his hands together and rubbing them vigorously. “You know; this is kind of cool actually. It’s almost like going undercover.” At John’s and Mickey’s incredulous expressions he quickly sobered. “I mean, okay maybe not cool cause it is an extremely dangerous situation and we’re dealing with some really bad people but…” he paused. John was shaking his head at him as Mickey facepalmed. “Ooo-kay,” he sat back in his chair. “Shutting up now.”

“For the last time,” Mickey gestured around them. “Real life.” He then pointed at the TV. “Fiction.”

“Says the guy who was just talking about zombies.” Jack shot back.

Mickey glanced over at John for help but he just shrugged and gave him a look that said he had a point. He turned back to Jack who was smiling smugly and rolled his eyes before slumping back onto the couch.

 

-oOo-

 

Jack was restless. It was Monday afternoon and although he only had about thirty minutes of rehearsal time left he couldn’t concentrate. Every few seconds he found himself glancing down at his watch. Gwen had texted him that she would be dropping by before he left but that was over an hour ago and he hadn’t heard from her since. He returned his attention to the two people on stage and tried to focus on the scene playing out in front of him so he wouldn’t miss his queue.

“Psst, Jack.” A voice called from behind him and he turned to see Ianto poking his head out from behind the curtain.

Giving him his trademark grin, Jack sauntered over to the younger man. “Well hello there Mr. Jones, how may I be of assistance?” he drawled, wagging his eyebrows.

“Um,” Ianto blushed, pausing for a moment to collect himself and reverting to a more professional demeanor. “There’s a woman here to see you.”

Jack tipped his head back, his eyes following suit. “Finally.” he breathed in an overdramatic fashion as he moved to follow Ianto backstage. Pushing aside the curtain he took a breath in an attempt to calm his nerves and reign in the anxiety he’d been feeling for the last hour. “Gwen, where the hell have you been?” he said, failing to keep the frustration out of his voice. “I have something extremely urgent to discuss with you and...” He paused mid-step, his mouth dropping open at the sight of the woman in front of him.

“Rose?” he breathed out.

“Hello Jack.”