The Doctor yanked open the door to the pub. “After you,” she said to Yaz, making a sweeping gesture.
“You’re such a gentleman,” Yaz replied, causing the Doctor to pause for a moment before remembering who she was now.
“Really? Never heard that before, even when I was a man.”
She followed Yaz into the pub. As they walked over to the bar, she looked around, taking in the busy and excited atmosphere as the customers geared up for pub quiz. Strange reports about the quizmaster had caught the Doctor’s attention, and they’d come to investigate.
“It’s said to be Cardiff’s finest pub – what do you think?”
“All right, I suppose,” said Yaz. “Don’t have much to compare it to.”
The Doctor frowned. “They don’t have pubs in Sheffield?”
“Course they do. I don’t drink alcohol, so I don’t usually go to them.” Yaz turned to the bar and ordered an apple juice. “What do you want to drink? Doctor?”
What she really felt like was a Gallifrey lemon and cherry on the rocks. Instead, she asked for the same as Yaz.
Once they’d got their drinks, they sat down at the last free table in the whole pub and sipped their juice. They discussed how they thought Ryan and Graham were getting on. The Doctor had left them on a leisure planet to talk about the past 24 hours, particularly what had happened with Ryan’s dad. They’d gone through a lot.
The Doctor was halfway through her drink when she began sniffing the air around them. There was a distinct scent, one she’d smelt before.
“What is it?” Yaz frowned. “What are you smelling?”
“Human pheromones, from the 51st century if I’m not mistaken. I wonder if that’s what we’re after… Wait!” The Doctor’s eyes lit up in realisation. “I know who it is! Did you see someone in a World War II coat when we came in?”
The Doctor jumped up and scanned around the room. “I know he’s here; I can sense him. Where are you, Captain– Oh!” She spotted him at the other end of the pub. “Come on, Yaz.”
Drinks in hand, Yaz followed the Doctor. They navigated a path through masses of customers in varying states of intoxication and coordination. Yaz had to apologise more than once.
“Jack! Good to see you!” the Doctor announced as they reached him. She wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug.
Jack didn’t return the hug. “I love it when a pretty blonde throws herself at me as much as the next guy. But you’re acting like you know me and I’m sure I’d remember you.” His voice was the same as ever: loud, American, and grating. She’d missed it.
“Doctor, do you know this man?” Yaz asked, keeping her guard up.
“Doctor?” Jack exclaimed. He stared at the Doctor with wide eyes.
She retracted. “New face, sorry, should’ve introduced myself first. Hi.”
Jack stared for a moment, then flashed her a smile. “Hi. Nice of you to drop by.” His smile dropped. “I assume this isn’t a social visit.”
“Sorry.” The Doctor made an apologetic face and scratched her ear. “We’re investigating some strange reports involving this pub.”
“What a coincidence. So am I.”
They grinned at each other.
“You’re still here then,” she said. “In Cardiff. On Earth in the 21st century.”
“What are you doing with yourself now Torchwood’s gone?”
“We still exist.”
“Oh.” The Doctor should’ve known that. She scrunched up her face, annoyed at herself. “I really could’ve used your help in getting rid of a Dalek today.”
“Funny,” said Jack. “There’s been hundreds of times over the years when I could’ve done with your help, Doctor.”
She ignored the guilt rising inside her. “I tried calling UNIT but couldn’t get through.”
“UNIT can’t get funding from the British government anymore,” said Jack, shaking his head. “You should’ve called me instead.”
The Doctor glanced down at the table as she admitted he was right. “Yeah. I should have.”
Yaz cleared her throat, breaking up the awkward conversation. “Doctor, do you want to introduce us?”
Jack fixed his blue eyes on her and held out his hand. “Captain Jack Harkness. Hello there.” His teeth gleamed as he smiled.
“Nice to meet you,” she said, shaking his hand. She and the Doctor sat down.
The Doctor put one arm around Jack’s shoulders and another around Yaz’s. “Jack, this is Yasmin Khan, police officer turned time-traveller.”
“Huh,” said Jack. “A good friend of mine used to be a police officer.”
“Yaz, this is Jack, a time-travelling – um – conman turned defender of Earth.”
“I prefer the term Time Agent.”
“Noted,” said the Doctor, winking at Yaz.
Jack raised an eyebrow. “Is she in love with you too?” He indicated Yaz.
“I don’t think so,” said the Doctor.
“Excuse me?” said Yaz.
The Doctor scowled. “Why do people assume that every girl who travels the universe by my side is in love with me?”
Jack put his hand on Yaz’s shoulder. “I’ve been there, done that. Still not over it but I’ll live. Can I get you ladies a drink?”
“No thanks.” Yaz held up her glass, which was half full.
“We’ve got apple juice!” said the Doctor. “It’s delicious; you should try some.”
Smirking, Jack stole the Doctor’s glass and drank from it. “Whoops. Let me get you another drink.”
The Doctor stared after him as he went and approached the bar.
“Is he always like that?” Yaz asked, shuffling closer to the Doctor.
“So obnoxious. Sorry, I mean flirtatious.”
“Very much so. Don’t worry, he won’t hit on you if he knows you’re not interested.”
“And they say chivalry is dead,” Yaz muttered.
The Doctor held up a finger; she had a piece of trivia for every occasion. “Interestingly, chivalry in the Middle Ages–”
Jack returned, holding two glasses of water. He handed one to the Doctor, who took it with a smile.
“How long has it been for you?” she asked him. “Since we last met?”
Jack cocked his head, thinking. “About a decade. The Medusa Cascade incident. How many years has it been for you?”
The Doctor drank a third of her water in one go. “Hundreds. Millions. Who’s counting?” She attempted a carefree laugh that sounded anything but. “How old are you now?”
Jack gave her a sad smile. “If we’re counting the time I was buried under Cardiff, I round down to 2,000.”
“What?” said Yaz.
“I remember when I turned 2,000,” the Doctor said. “One of my best birthdays ever.”
“What?” Yaz repeated. She frowned at Jack. “Are you like her?”
“In a way.” Jack’s voice was quieter, sober. His earlier brashness had turned off like a switch.
“He can’t die,” the Doctor explained. “Well, he can, but he gets up again.”
“Extremely annoying habit, that.” Jack sculled his drink, then pulled a face when he seemed to realise it was water.
“Oh, tell me about it,” the Doctor agreed. She imagined regeneration was similar to what he experienced on a more regular basis.
“Um,” said Yaz, looking at the centre of the room, where the quizmaster was setting up. She pointed. “I think that answers that question.”
The Doctor didn’t even need to whip out her sonic and scan the quizmaster. From this angle, and without having consumed alcohol like everyone else, it was obvious to the three of them that the quizmaster was far from human.
“What is that?” Yaz asked, staring at it with curiosity in her eyes. “It looks like something you’d find in the ocean.”
“Haven’t seen one in Cardiff for a while,” Jack said. “Guess it was about time. It’s a Blowfish.”
The alien heard him, and with a sneer in their direction, dropped its microphone and sprinted out of the building.
“I don’t like his attitude,” said the Doctor.
The pub erupted with confusion, and Yaz winced as a glass fell off the table beside them and smashed on the floor. The smell of beer filled their nostrils.
In the midst of it all, Jack and the Doctor glanced at each other and nodded. Together, they said one word: “Run.” Just like old times.