My Favorite Wife

Chapter 8

As James closed the door, it suddenly hit him–he had absolutely no idea what he was doing. His extemporaneous decision to pose as Erickson had been fueled purely by the borderline hysteria he was experiencing. Ever since he found out Rose had spent three years alone with another man, he had obsessed over every small detail his mind could conjure. What did he look like? What did they do every day for three years? Did he get too familiar with Rose? Was Jack more handsome than him? What did Rose think of this Jack? On and on his mind went, to the point he was certain he had developed an ulcer overnight.

He turned to the ridiculously handsome American, his mind a complete blank. Jack glanced down at his watch and then up at James.

"So Doc, how long do you think this thing will take? I have this lunch date over at Boeshane Tavern and I really don't wanna have to cancel on her."

James perked up at that. A date? A date means interested in someone. A date means no interest in Rose.

"Shouldn't take long at all. Can't have you upsetting your girlfriend, now can we?" he said, eager to confirm his hope.

Jack chuckled. "Not that kinda date. I'm actually meeting my stepsister, Gwen. But I'd rather face ten angry girlfriends than Gwen's wrath."

James felt his stomach drop at Jack's negative reply. He did his best to shake it off and focus on the task at hand. He sat down in one of the suede chairs and motioned Jack to the one cattycorner from him. James picked up the pad and pen that was resting on the small table next to his chair. He had no use for it but he decided to commit to playing the part. He still didn't know why Jack would be seeing Erickson, so he decided to ask in the most discreet way possible.

"So Mr. Harkness, do you understand why you're here?"

Jack sniffed in annoyance. "Understand? Yeah. Agree with? No."

James inwardly grumbled. Apparently, this is going to take some more effort.

"And why is that?" he asked, putting on a serious face.

Please just say something that gives me a hint...

"Well, for starters, Torchwood is my company. Well...the majority is mine. When I found it, it was fractured almost beyond repair, but I took it and made it into what it is now. Then, I invested countless time and money in Adam when no one else believed in him. And how does he repay me? He convinces the board to send me to some shrink, trying to get me declared incompetent so he can force me out," Jack replied, a touch of steel evident on his voice but his eyes trying to hide his hurt.

"So that's why I don't agree with being here. Plus I think all this psychobabble is a load 'a crap...no offense, Doc."

For brief moment, James pitied the man. It was clear Jack felt betrayed by his company's actions.

Hey...focus! He was on an island. Three years. Alone. With Rose.

Suddenly realizing Jack had stopped talking, he shook his mind free of his its wanderings.

"What? Oh...none taken," he said as he remembered Jack's words. He knew he was running out of time and needed to step up his inquiry. Sally wouldn't be able to hold off Erickson for too long. Clearing his throat, he decided to broach the subject he had been both obsessing over and dreading.

"So, tell me about your time on the island."

Jack leaned back in his seat and shrugged. "Honestly, there's not much to tell. Three years of nothing but sand and water," he paused and then smiling, said, "If it wasn't for Rosie, I think I woulda gone crazy."

James felt his grip on the pen tighten involuntarily. The tone in the disturbingly handsome man's voice when he spoke of Rose, stirred a fierce ire within James. It was too familiar, too…everything. He forced himself to continue this line of inquiry.

"So this Rose…how would you describe your relationship with her?"

Jack locked his hands behind his head and tilted back in contemplation.

"My Rosie…well, she's somethin' special. No doubt about it. We got to know each other really well over those three years."

YOUR ROSIE? She's not YOUR Rosie! She's mine! She's always been mine and always will be! And stop calling her "Rosie"… James silently ranted.

He started fiercely doodling random shapes and figures on the pad in his hand, knowing that if he didn't keep the pen occupied, he would lunge forward and stab the man. He took a steadying breath and pressed on.

"Go on," James gritted out.

"Well, she's sweet…funny…sharp as a tack. She's actually the one who came up with the whole rescue beacon idea. Worked her tail off building it, too. And the cherry on top? She's a total knockout…I mean—wow! Three years of seeing that beauty on the beach…," he whistled, "That's one image I'll never get tired of replaying in my head."

At Jack's last statement, there was a loud snap. James suddenly realized that he had broken his pen in half. Cobalt ink began to spread over his palm. He quickly stood, flopping the pad onto the seat, and cupping the broken pen and ink.

"Ya ok, Doc?" Jack asked, curiously regarding the odd man before him.

"Yeah…fine. Just the…uh…pen seems to have stopped working. I'm just going t-to go…um, clean up," James fumbled out, knowing full well that he sounded like a complete idiot. He hurriedly left the room. Closing the door behind him, he looked up and saw Sally off to the side, speaking with Erickson.

"…so there I am, I'm sitting in this…uh…this waiting room and watching telly, and on every channel I see my father. Except it's not my father, it's the butcher from down the street and he keeps shouting at me but I can't hear him."

James' eyebrows furrowed together hearing Sally's bizarre rambling. What in the world…?

Erickson stroked his chin and nodded. "I see this quite often. Subconsciously, you're—"

"Sally?" James called out, halting the man's preposterous analysis.

Sally whipped her around towards James, clearly relieved to have the conversation end.

"Yes, Doctor?"

"I need you to help me with that thing we talked about," he said, motioning with his head towards his office.

Sally lightly rolled her eyes at James' flimsy pretext. There were too many "things" going on and not enough explanations. She turned her attention back to Dr. Erickson.

"If you'll excuse me?"

He shook his head in understanding. "Certainly, Miss Sparrow. I'm actually very late for my next appointment. Call my secretary this afternoon and we can schedule several sessions for you. We certainly have a lot to talk about."

Sally gritted her teeth in a forced smile. "Yes, well…thank you, Doctor."

With a brief nod, Erickson turned and walked into his office. Sally marched over to James and angrily pinched his arm.

"Ow! What was that for?" James yelped.

"You owe me…BIG TIME!"

Rose had a rather fitful night's sleep. Her argument with James continued to play over and over in her mind. And when she would manage to steal a few moments of rest, her dreams were plagued with James and seeing hurt and anger in his face. When morning finally came, she looked drawn and forlorn. It wasn't long before Donna awoke and, on seeing Rose's demeanor, began to interrogate her. Rose managed to hold off discussing last night's events, promising to tell her everything but that she just needed a little time to herself to process. While Rose stayed curled up in bed, Donna went to wake the twins and get them ready for their class trip to the aquarium. As the girls hurriedly ran downstairs, Donna couldn't help but notice that there was no trace of James or Reinette in the house. Given this and Rose's disturbed mood, Donna couldn't help but feel worried.

The girls quickly finished their breakfast and Donna promptly dropped them off at school, anxious to make her way back to Rose and get answers about what exactly happened. When she got back, she found Rose showered and dressed for the day, curled up on the couch and reading. On hearing Donna's arrival, she looked up at her and softly smiled. She appeared somewhat more at ease, but it was obvious she was still troubled. Donna walked over and took a seat beside her.

"So…feel like talking now?"

Rose sighed and quietly closed her book. Forcing a smile, she looked at her and said, "Let's go get a coffee."

An hour and a half later, Donna had been appraised of every event from the three years prior to what had happened last night. Needless to say, she didn't take certain parts of the story very well—specifically the ones that came to her prat of a brother.

"He. Said. WHAT?!" Donna growled over her now cold cappuccino.

"SHH…not so loud," Rose admonished. "I know he didn't mean it. He's not cruel like that...doesn't change the fact that it hurt. It wasn't like I was keepin' it from 'im. We just hadn't had a chance to talk about everything—what with the snogging and then him bringing Reinette home. Wasn't like we could have it out."

She leaned on the table and put her head between her hands, sighing in frustration. "Why can't anything just ever be simple? I mean, three years! Three years and I finally get back and now he's freaking out over something he doesn't even really know about!"

Donna took a sip of her drink and grimaced as she tasted its temperature. "Y'know he's always been and always will be jealous when it comes to you…and you're the exact same way with him. Don't get me wrong—he was way outta line! And trust me, I'm gonna give him what for, believe you me!"

Rose groaned, crossed her arms on the table, and plopped her head down, her blonde hair scattering about her.

"Y'know he's just gonna obsess over this," came Rose's muddled voice.

"Why don't you just call up this 'Jack' bloke and the three of you have it out?" Donna suggested.

Rose lifted up her head and met Donna's questioning gaze.

"Can't. Don't know his number. I don't even know where he's staying."

Donna's head faintly jerked back in surprise. "How do you not know? You spent all that time together and you have no idea where he could be?"

Rose shrugged. "I might have an idea or two. I know he's got a stepsister, Gwen, and I figure he'd stay with her. But, I don't know. Three years is a long time…things change, people move. And as soon as we docked, I hugged him goodbye and bolted for home." She dramatically flopped her head down again.

Donna nodded in understanding, but then a sudden thought struck her, and she snorted.

"Too bad you can't hire somebody," she said with a teasing smile.

Rose slowly lifted her head and stared at her. Donna could see the wheels turning in her mind, and her smile faltered. As a smile started to spread over Rose's face, Donna began to shake her head.

"No…Rose, I was just joking! I know what you're thinking and don't do it!"

"Think about it, Red. I can have 'im meet James, and that'll calm 'im down. That way, when I tell 'im about the island, he won't be freaking out about Jack, because he'll have already met 'im and see that there's nothing to be jealous about. It'll take care of everything!"

Donna began to rub her head. She could already see the chaos this plan would cause. Rose was just so desperate that she wasn't thinking straight.

"Rose—it's insane. It's gonna backfire. Somehow, he'll find out eventually, and then it's all gonna go up in flames."

Rose was too caught up in her ludicrous plan to listen to Donna. She began looking around the café for possible candidates.

"I just gotta find someone James would never expect. Someone like…"

And then she found the perfect choice—a blonde man, somewhere around his mid to late twenties, average height, who was currently and repeatedly burning his fingers on the steam wand.

"…him," Rose said, pointing at her selection.

Donna's eyes followed where Rose indicated. Her eyebrows rose—Rose's choice appeared the complete opposite of the "Jack" she had described earlier. Not that there was anything necessarily wrong with the man before her; he just seemed to be a little bit of a…well, a sad sack.

Donna felt the need to implore again.

"Rose. This is so not a good idea. God," she growled, "why can't you two just talk things out? You both are so dense sometimes; I just wanna knock your heads together!"

Rose was still studying the man behind the counter.

"What are you gonna do? Walk up to 'im and say 'Excuse me. I was marooned on an island with this bloke for three years, and I need you to meet my jealous/paranoid husband and pretend to be him—you game?'"

"Yep," Rose replied, standing up and walking over to the man in two strides, standing beside the counter and biding her time.

After a moment, the man caught sight of her. "Can I help you?"

Rose's eyes flitted to his nametag. "Yes…Elton. I was wondering—are you free for about an hour?" she asked, flashing him a warm smile.

Elton's eyes widened and he began to stammer. "I-I-I'm flattered, miss, but I'm seeing someone. Well, not yet, but I'm workin' on it. See, her name's Ursula and she—"

"No, no, no, no," Rose said firmly, waving her hands in front of her in protest. "I don't mean that! I just was wondering if maybe you'd be able to help me out with somethin'."

He eyed her curiously. "What is it?"

Sensing his imminent compliance, Rose's smile broadened.

"Well…"

Sally was beyond irritated at the events of the day. James had still offered no explanation about his bizarre behavior, instead choosing to rotate between grumbling under his breath and banging his head and/or fist on the desk. She was in the middle of a case study and James refused to leave the office, so she was stuck dealing with his bizarre and annoying behavior.

After the fifteenth time of James slamming his fist on the desk and grumbling about some "bloody island," she cracked.

"Would you knock it off? Or at least tell me what's goin' on!"

James stopped mid-mental tirade and locked eyes with her.

"I'm going to the bathroom," he said and quickly left as Sally huffed in complete frustration.

About ten minutes later, there was a soft knock as the door opened.

"James?" asked a familiar voice.

"He just stepped out for a mo', Rose," Sally answered as she focused on the file before her. As soon as she finished her sentence, her brain finally registered who she had just spoken to. She was instantly on her feet, the file forgotten and now laying at her feet.

"Rose?"

"Hey, Sally…"

As James approached his office, he noticed a blonde man awkwardly leaning against the wall, fiddling with jacket as he kept his eyes to the ground. James figured he was waiting for something or someone, and didn't feel the need to bother finding out more. He had more pressing things on his mind. When he opened the office door, he was instantly met with the image of Rose and Sally on the couch, their eyes red and cheeks tearstained. When they saw James, they stood, hurriedly wiped their eyes, and embraced.

Sally pulled away and hastily made her exit. As she passed James, she roughly slapped his arm.

"You daft git," she muttered, closing the door behind her.

James and Rose both remained fixed in place, regarding each other longingly.

He ran a hand through his hair. "Rose…I'm…I'm so sorry about what I said. It was crass and uncalled for and I honestly didn't mean any of it. It's just…the idea of you with someone else…it makes me sick."

Likewise, she thought, but remained silent. Instead, she nodded her head in understanding.

"I wasn't hiding anything from you, y'know? We just…never had time to talk about everything—what with...Reinette and all."

There was an awkward lull as that name hung in the air.

Clearing her throat, Rose continued, "But…I know how upset you were, so…I tracked down Jack. Thought it would be good for you to meet 'im and see there's nothing to be jealous about."

James eyes widened in surprise and slight terror. How would he explain his actions to Rose when Jack inevitably ratted him out? He gulped as Rose walked over and opened the door, motioning for Jack to come in. James held his breath as Ja-…

Wait…that's NOT Jack!

Instead of the dark haired American from earlier, James was now facing the awkward man who he'd seen earlier in the hallway. The man began to fidget under James' intense scrutiny. James turned his gaze to Rose and raised an eyebrow questioningly.

Rose smiled nervously. "James, this is Jack Harkness. Jack, this is my husband, James."

They awkwardly blanked each other before James finally extended his hand to "Jack."

"Nice to meet you…Jack," he said with a knowing smirk as the man shook his hand.

"Uh…same here," he shakily replied.

James motioned to chairs in front of his desk, and "Jack" quickly sat down. Rose took the seat next to him and James leaned against his desk, crossing his arms. Rose gave "Jack's" hand a reassuring squeeze. He glanced sideways at her and gave a weak smile.

James cleared his throat and began, "So Mr. Harkness—can I call you Jack?"

The man's forehead began to glisten as James addressed him.

"Uh…yeah. Sure."

James smirked again, a look not lost on Rose.

"So…Jack, I understand you were stranded with, uh, Rosie."

"Jack" glanced over at Rose, who faintly nodded at him. He turned back to James and took a hard swallow.

"Uh…yes. It was...three…," he paused and looked to Rose, who smiled in silent confirmation. "Three years. We became good friends, but that's it. When she tracked me down, she told me you were worried that maybe I'd tried something or that we fell for each other. I couldn't let you think that, so I, uh…I decided I had to meet you and tell you in person that nothing happened. We're just friends."

James remained quiet. He glanced from Rose to "Jack" and smiled.

"Well, that's good enough for me!"

"Really?" Rose and "Jack" asked together.

"Yeah. I mean the important thing is you came here and told me the truth. And that's all I really wanted."

"Well…," Rose said slowly as she stood. "I guess ya can go now, Jack."

She gave him a quick hug. "Thanks for this."

He nodded. "Sure. It was…uh, good to see you again, Rose. Take care," he said and anxiously left.

"So…feel better now?" Rose asked, hopeful that James bought it and would finally let the subject drop.

He smiled at her, though Rose could tell there was something behind it.

"How could I not?"

"Good…good."

James shrugged his shoulders as he sighed. "I'm starved. You?"

"Famished," she replied smiling.

He returned her smile. "Brilliant. I know just the place…"

Boeshane Tavern was packed with their usual lunchtime patrons, but James and Rose were seated in relatively short order. A young smiling waitress led them to one of the tables by the window, handing them each a menu after they sat down.

Rose ran her eyes over her surroundings, smiling as her eyes met James'.

"I've never been here before. It's nice."

"Me neither. I just heard about it today and thought, 'Why not?'"

Rose had this nagging sensation that something was going on with James. She could see something was off but couldn't pinpoint it. She opened her mouth to ask him about it, but the words died on her tongue as an all too familiar voice called from behind her.

"Rosie?"

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