It was another month before Tosh was satisfied with her progress on the vortex manipulator. She wanted to make sure it would be one hundred percent safe for Elise to wear. It was then a matter of finding her, or calling her. Elise had thrown herself into studying as much as she possibly could when she wasn’t jump training or actively out so she had started to spend a lot of time in the archives. The cutest part of the whole thing was that Tosh and Owen had convinced her that the vortex manipulator project had to be abandoned weeks ago so it would be a surprise. Tosh sent an instant message telling Elise to meet her at her desk asap. It wasn’t long before a rather cheery looking Elise appeared. She borrowed Owens chair as he was away and sat backwards on it.
“How can I help you?”
“I have a present for you.” Tosh beamed.
“Oh? Aaand what might it be?”
Toshiko pulled the device from a box and held it out.
Elise gasped. “I thought you said it didn’t work.”
“We may have fibbed a little bit. Try it on.”
Elise wrapped it around her right wrist where it sat surprisingly comfortably.
“I managed to get it to register you as its owner. Still no time travel ability but it does mean you can change the settings and such. Plus I programmed it with your sleep alarm so you can swap your old watch for it”
“You’re an angel.”
Tosh smiled. “Oh stop it… By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask, why do you always wear your watch on your right wrist? I mean you’re right handed, isn’t it uncomfortable?”
“I just don’t like anything around my left wrist for too long. I got it trapped in a plastic pipe when I was little. I was sat there for about six hours until a fireman cut the thing off. I was a stupid child.”
“Yea. The first three I just sat there and tried to pull it out myself while next doors cat sat on my lap. I had to give up and call my dad after that.”
“How old were you?”
Elise blushed. “Ten. It was a drainage pipe in our back garden and it was the middle of the summer holidays.”
The women fell into a fit of giggles before collecting themselves.
“Do you want to come with and see if it works?”
Tosh nodded and followed Elise to go and fetch Owen. He was standing with a white rat in one hand and an ultrasound scanner in the other.
“Um… Do you need a hand?” Asked Tosh, looking very confused.
Owen sighed and held out the wriggling rodent. “Can you hold Brenda? She’s being a bitch.”
Tosh walked down and took the white rat who calmed down a little. “Brenda?”
“I needed to test the implants so I’ve got three females with them. This is Brenda. Alice is in that tank there and Cecelia is over there. Their weights have been the same but this ones weight has increased so I need to know if she’s pregnant or just fat. Of course she won’t keep still long enough to find out.”
Elise smiled and looked over at the other two very happy looking rats. Owen had a huge habitat for his testing rats to keep them as happy and healthy as possible. He never understood how labs kept their rats as an ill or unhappy rat messed up the results. His rats also lived a lot longer than most lab rats did, keeping costs low. He didn’t admit it often but he liked the rats and could sometimes be found just watching them. People like to forget how intelligent rats are and how interesting their social structures could be.
Owen was pleased to see that Brenda wasn’t pregnant. “Thanks for scaring me you fat cow.” He said, poking the rat on the nose. “I was thinking we could use them on the weevils we catch. At least then we’ll only have to deal with the ones that fall through the rift.”
“That’s not a bad idea.” Tosh said, cuddling the big white rat who was trying to climb down her shirt unsuccessfully.
Elise lent on the railing. “Want to come with us to test my new prezzy?”
“I missed the big reveal?” He pouted, taking Brenda and putting her back in her tank.
“Sorry, we couldn’t wait. So are you joining us or not?”
“Yea. Let me clean up and get these three back in their home and I’ll be with you.”
Gwen had been curious why Jack had been so insistent about staying close to the hub but realised very quickly why when a blue phone box seemed to materialise on the slab that hid a lift down to the hub.
“Is that what I think it is?” She asked.
Jack grinned. “It is.”
“So what are we doing here?”
“We’re going to go and say hello but we have to wait until he gets out otherwise he probably won’t answer the door.”
“This isn’t a good idea.”
“Are any of my ideas good?” He teased, looking like an excited child.
“Jack. I’ll follow but if he runs off I’m not chasing him.”
The door to the police box opened and a lone man stepped out onto the unusually quiet street.
“Is that…?” Asked Gwen quietly.
“Yes he is. Come on.” Jack swept forward without waiting, making sure he had enough time to put himself between the TARDIS and the Doctor. “Doctor! It’s been a while.” He announced.
The Doctor looked round in surprise. “Jack?! It has.” He was cut off by a bone crushing hug.
“What are you doing here?”
“Just refuelling. How did you..?”
“Would you believe coincidence?”
“Not even for a second. Gweneth?” The Doctor tilted his head in confusion.
“It’s just Gwen. Hello.” She smiled politely.
“That’s… Wow hello. Sorry. You reminded me of someone. There was someone I met last time I was here, said he was from the future. Gave me a hand.”
“I mean a literal hand, in a tank. It was strange.”
“I think it was mine.”
“That would have been a future version of our medic, Owen. The future version… Isn’t around anymore.” Jack interjected, trying to end that conversation before it started.
“How much did he tell you?”
“He said he didn’t have much time and that before I took off I needed to recheck every setting I had so I didn’t end up outside of the TARDIS’ chronological reach.”
“So you really don’t know.”
The Doctor side eyed Jack. “Know what?”
“What about them? I thought that stopped after what happened in London.”
“Torchwood one closed but… Just come inside and meet everyone.”
“Jack, what have you done?”
“I changed things. A lot of things… For you.”
Gwen looked between the two, not sure of how to react.
“Let me show you. Just while you’re refuelling. It’s not the same institute you knew, trust me.”
“I don’t have forever to meet everyone Jack.”
“You can’t meet four more people?”
Elise bounced, landing her first space jump from a standing start. “No dizziness. I think that proves it works. Now we just need to test a time jump.”
Owen and Tosh gave a disapproving look.
“Let me just try once. Just by a minute. That way even if it doesn’t work it won’t do too much harm, yea?”
Owen crossed his arms. “I thought you said you didn’t know how to.”
“I don’t but I can try, please.”
“Fine. One jump. One minute.”
“Right.” She took a few steps away from them and let her mind drift, a tingling in her right hand spreading up her arm. She felt a slight jolt and looked around to see if it had worked. Owen was looking relieved and Tosh immediately wrapped her arms around Elise.
“That was three minutes. You ok?” Owen asked, looking her over.
“I’m fine. No headache, no nausea.” She touched her nose. “No bleeding. What happened from your side?”
“You just disappeared then reappeared.” Tosh said into her shoulder.
“Then it worked.” She smiled brightly. Once Tosh stepped back she looked at the vortex manipulator that was glowing lightly. She opened the cover and saw a bright blue hologram swirling above it, hundreds of symbols moving around each other before settling into neat lines. They turned slowly before converging into the centre, morphing into the familiar time symbol. The hologram faded and the small screen showed two words. “Calibration complete.”
Ianto looked up from his book as the door to the tourist information centre opened, relaxing as Jack entered.
“Ianto, this is the Doctor. Doctor, this is Ianto Jones. He keeps everything running.”
The Doctor was looking around sceptically before pausing. “Have we met? You look familiar.”
“I don’t think so, no.”
Jack opened the hidden door. “Are the others still here?”
“As far as I know yes. What’s going on?”
“The Doctor is visiting and I want to introduce everybody.”
“Are you sure? I mean… After the meeting… “
“It’ll be fine. Elise was just emotional.”
“If you’re sure.” Ianto watched them leave before turning to Gwen. “Has he lost his mind?”
“Apparently.” Shrugged Gwen in reply.
“We should keep an eye on them.”
“You just want to see her slap him.”
“I neither agree nor disagree, but we should follow if we don’t want to miss anything.”
Owen had to admit he was a little relieved that Elise had some kind of protection if she needed to time jump but the whole thing still put him on edge. She seemed happy at least. He sat down at his desk and lent back in his chair, hitting the space-bar on his keyboard to wake his computer back up.
“And this…” Jacks voice announced from the doorway. “Is Dr Owen Harper.”
Owen looked up, not expecting anyone to be visiting. If he was he would have kept his lab coat on. “You remembered the doctor part for once.”
“Owen, this is the Doctor.”
Owen sat up straight at the name, silent in disbelief.
“You look better than the last, first, other, time we met.” The Doctor smiled, trying to work out his mixed timeline. “But I suppose that hasn’t happened yet for you.”
Jack smiled as if this was all completely normal. “How are the rats?”
“Fat and not pregnant. I sent a message to the breeder and he said that one was always greedy so it isn’t a side effect.” Owen said, still looking between Jack and the Doctor.
“How long until the implants are ready for general use on the weevils at least.”
“For the weevils they’re ready now, for human use I’d still leave it a few weeks to be sure. All in lab tests say they’re 100% safe but human bodies are the bane of lab tests.”
“Good to hear. Where’s Tosh?”
“She’ll be here in a sec. The vortex manipulator test was a success.”
The Doctor immediately shot a worried look to Jack who rolled his eyes. “Relax, it’s not for actually time travelling, just for protection from the radiation of the time vortex.”
“Why would you need that?” The Doctor asked, still very unsure.
“You’ll see. Just relax before both of your hearts give out.”
“Tosh.” Jack called over, spotting the tech expert. “Doctor, this is Toshiko Sato. Our technology expert.”
“Wait, I’ve definitely met you before. With the space pig.” The Doctor smiled, his worries outwardly forgotten.
“O-oh yes. I remember that. Owen was originally meant to be there but… Well…” She paused, not able to remember if Owen had told Jack why he’d been uncontactable that day.
“You’re looking well.”
Jack seemed happy with the interaction, relaxing his shoulders a little. “Owen said the vortex manipulator project was successful.”
“Yes. We just tested it and it worked perfectly. Elise didn’t even get dizzy.”
“Speaking of… Where is she?”
“She was just grabbing a book so she could study it here. She shouldn’t be long but… Are you sure? You know how she feels about… Um…”
“It’ll be fine. She has some self control.”
“Yes, but she’s not going to be happy.”
Tosh and Owen shared a worried look as she sat at her desk.
The Doctor looked around the large room as he heard a screech. Myfanwy landed in the centre, sticking her beak under one of the chairs to grab a paper ball that had rolled underneath it. Ianto rushed over. “No! Drop it.” He ordered, holding his hand out as if he was talking to a dog. The pteranodon tilted her head with the paper ball clamped in the end of her beak making a small caw like noise.
“Myfanwy, drop, now. You always choke on paper. Paper is not food. Does it smell like barbecue sauce?”
The dinosaur dropped the paper ball into his hand and huffed before flying back up to her nest in a strop.
“Myfanwy?” Asked the Doctor, smiling as the creature flew up.
“She’s an unofficial hub pet. Her nest is up there, what do you think?” Jack asked softly.
“You tamed a pteranodon.”
“Semi tamed. She still brings back sheep sometimes.”
“I told you I’d changed this place.”
“I’m still not fully convinced but it’s better. A lot better.”
Elise held the old journal to her chest as she walked back towards her desk. In the corner of her eye she saw something move in the shadows, at least she thought she did. She couldn’t be sure as the archives were the kind of place that seemed to change day by day. She didn’t know how Ianto managed to keep track of everything. The shadows could wait, she had studying to do. The journal had belonged to one of the men responsible for building many of the heavy mechanical parts of the hub and had started the process of integrating alien technology into it. It contained full diagrams and illustrations for each part. It was fascinating.
She was pleased with how her day was going and her mind wandered to what she was going to make for dinner before a new voice pulled her thoughts into sharp contrast. The speech sounded friendly but definitely unfamiliar. She tried to stay unseen as she made her way over to her desk and placed down the journal carefully.
“Elise.” Jack said, making her jump.
She turned. “Yea? Is there something I can do?”
“Elise, this is the Doctor. Doctor, this is Elise Carter. Our time traveller.”
Elise looked at the unassuming looking man and felt a mix of nerves and rage. “Jack, can I have a quick word.”
The Doctor was still staring at her as if he saw something no one else did.
“Back in a sec.” Jack smiled and headed up to his office, Elise close behind.
She waiting until the door was fully closed and rubbed her temples.
Jack lent on his desk. “Is there a problem? How do you like your new accessory?”
“It’s great, I can jump without getting sick, it’s comfortable, looks badass. In other news, what the hell? After everything you bring him in here?”
“Yes. I did. I own the place I can invite whoever I wish.”
“Jack, I’m not arguing that. Why are you trying to impress someone who just abandoned you?”
“I don’t expect you to be friends, or even understand, just be civil.”
“You’re right, I don’t understand. And just telling him about my time travel thing?”
“I trust him.”
“That’s your biggest problem. How do you think Ianto’s feeling right now? Bringing the guy you’d move heaven and earth for here.”
“I’m not comparing them.”
“No, but it hurts to see you pining over the guy. I know you don’t see that sort of thing but it doesn’t stop it being true. Please don’t do this.”
“He’ll be gone before the end of the day, just play nice until then. And if anyone understands what’s going on with this time jumping thing it’s him. Just talk, that’s all I ask.”
Elise sighed and rubbed her hands over her face. “Ok. Ok. Just, take Ianto on a date or something after, please?”
“I will. Go on, you first.”
Tosh had been talking about their computer system enthusiastically to the doctor as she heard Jack’s office door open. She smiled and waved Elise over.
A very uncomfortable looking Elise walked over and took Tosh’s hand in hers for comfort, offering the other to the Doctor to shake.
“I’m Elise. Nice to meet you.” She said, trying her best to be as civil as possible.
He shook her hand. “So, time traveller?”
“Yes, sort of. Around twenty four hours either way, max.”
“I’m not completely sure but it has a lot to do with this.” She let go of Toshiko’s hand and held out her left hand to show the scar. “There’s thousands of microscopic symbols under the skin and it all comes from that I think. I’m learning to control it.”
“No no no, I mean what kind of technology is it attached to?”
He stared into her eyes and whispered to himself. “That’s not possible. You shouldn’t even be functioning. When Rose absorbed the time vortex it started killing her in minutes, this isn’t right… You’re not even part of time anymore.”
“You’re not possible. You shouldn’t exist. You’re a walking paradox.”
“Can you elaborate a little?”
The Doctor ran his hand through his hair, trying desperately to think of a way to explain. “You’re like schrodinger’s cat. You’re both part of this time and not at the same time. You’re always in the time vortex but you’re not. It’s like you’re out of alignment with reality, everywhere and nowhere.”
“Like the fairies?”
“Inter-dimensional beings that don’t follow linear time.”
“Yes and no. Theoretically you’re existing as if you’re constantly in the rift but in a controlled spot. You have access to everything but that means it also has access to you but only if you’re close enough. A human shouldn’t be able to do that. No being should be able to do that. But you’re here and you’re human and most importantly you’re not dead. You are a part of the rift and the rift is part of you.” He took her scarred hand and looked at the vortex manipulator then turned to Tosh. “You modified this?”
She nodded, trying to keep up.
“You did a good job.” He turned back to Elise. “Elise, never take this off. This is stabilising your place in reality. Don’t even try to go beyond that twenty four hour limit and never try and travel through the rift. You could lose yourself and I don’t even know what that could do. I can’t stop you travelling, really wish I could, just try to keep it to a minimum. And Jack, you have to protect her. If she got into the wrong hands not even I would be able to fix the damage. I’m guessing the only reason reality hasn’t torn itself apart is that rift manipulator you have keeping everything stable. If Torchwood had been like it was then…” The horror dawned on his face. “I believe you. Jack, I’m going to need to be able to trust you with this because there’s nothing I can do at this point.”
Jack smiled softly. “Admitting you have no idea?”
“Yes. I am. I can’t go back and change this because there’s nowhere to go back to. There’s no start point.”
Elise paused and thought to herself. “Can we talk about Jack’s immortality now?”
The Doctor’s eyes widened.
Ianto offered his bag of popcorn to Gwen who gladly took some. No one took their eyes off of Jack.
“What?” Said Elise, confused about the reaction.
Jack sighed. “He didn’t know.”
“I’m cleaning out the cells for the foreseeable future aren’t I?”
“I’m not that petty… Maybe.”
The Doctor shook his head. “What do you mean immortality?”
“I can’t die… Or more I can’t stay dead.”
“Can we not talk about this out here?”
Elise took Toshiko’s left hand and Owens right. “We’re going to go and grab lunch. Right Gwen? Ianto?”
Internally Ianto was disappointed but he understood and nodded. Gwen was happy to be out of there as it had gotten very uncomfortable. As soon as the rest of the team were out of sight Jack began.
“When Rose brought me back from the dead the first time. It stuck. I’ve been here for a long time. I don’t age anymore, rarely get sick and every time I’ve died I get dragged back… It’s like she overdid it. I don’t blame her for it. It wasn’t like she was fully in control but it’s been so long now.”
The Doctor lent back against a desk in shock. “I’m so sorry… I didn’t know.”
“How would you?”
“I can see why you wanted to talk. You're a fixed point in space and time now. You can ask how to fix it but I don’t have an answer for you.”
“I didn’t expect you to. The rift spiked when the TARDIS locked on to this time and place so I thought you might be able to help Elise. She thinks she has to be angry on my behalf.” He looked off into space with a slight smile.
“I don’t blame her.”
“She reminds me a little of Rose. All heart and temper. It’s how she ended up the way she is.”
“You should come with me, just for a little while.”
Jack laughed softly. “If you’d asked me six months ago I would have left without question but I’m needed here for now. Anyway, I don’t plan on going anywhere. Give it fifty years and maybe I’ll say yes.”
Elise stared down into her drink.
“Don’t worry about it. I’m sure Jack isn’t angry.” Gwen soothed, leaning on the table. “Well, not that angry.”
Elise sunk lower in her chair. “Why can’t I just keep my mouth shut?”
“You can’t help it if he didn’t tell you.” Said Ianto trying not to be jealous but failing miserably.
“I should have guessed. I mean it’s Jack, he never tells anyone anything important unless he has to.”
“Cheer up. We’ve got houses to look at later.” Tosh smiled.
Gwen turned. “Houses? You’re moving?”
“Since the break in I can’t sleep there.”
“I started out like that but it settled after a while. Maybe you just need to give it some time.”
“I don’t think I’d survive that long without sleep. Plus with Elise staying permanently we really need a larger place.”
“Look at you officially moving in together.”
“It’s not as if we haven’t been already.”
“Still. Now it’s a place you both get to choose… There’s a thought.”
“Is Owen going too?”
Owen looked up from his sandwich at the sound of his name. “I like to have my own space, even if I don’t sleep there.”
“Makes sense. I don’t know how you three handle a relationship like you do.”
“How do you get past the whole jealousy and paranoia?”
“By actually talking to each other?”
Elise swirled her drink lazily. “Not everyone can. Some people are just wired to only be part of a pair. Others aren’t. It’s all about compatibility. It’s not as if those thoughts and feelings go away, believe me, but they’re easier to deal with when you find the right person or people.”
Jack waved as the Doctor closed the TARDIS door behind himself. It felt good to say goodbye on his own terms for once.
“Did we miss him leaving?” Asked Ianto, handing Jack a bag containing his lunch.
“He’ll be back. He always comes back eventually.”