Chapter 16

The rest of that night was a bit of a dull blur. No one had exactly had a solid meal or a good night's sleep in a while, but things still needed to be done, reports filed, prisoners dealt with. But first there was takeout Chinese-a lot of it.

Stephanie seemed to be hanging onto her sanity remarkably well for a thirteen-year-old who had so recently been kidnapped, threatened at gunpoint, and imprisoned by an insane alien. Girls that age tend to be very resilient. She did, however, desperately want to go home.

There was just the slight problem of explaining her temporary disappearance to her parents and the Cardiff police. Figuring the easiest way out would be best, Jack gave her some retcon to give to her family and make them forget she had ever been missing. He made a quick call to the Cardiff police telling them that Stephanie had been found, and all record of her disappearance needed to be destroyed. When PC Andy made the mistake of asking Jack what had happened he got the usual "This is Torchwood business and top secret. Besides, it would take half a day to explain it all and then you wouldn't believe me anyway so why don't you just take my word for it." Jack didn't retcon Stephanie. She deserved that much after what she had been through.

There was a bit of a problem over where Kate and Jenny were going to go in the immediate future. The Doctor wanted Jenny to stay in his TARDIS while things were sorted out, Janice wanted to take Kate home right away, and the girls were very determined that they weren't going to stray so much as a foot form each other for the next month or so.

While this was being argued they dozed off curled together contently on the Hub couch. It would have been cruel to wake them. Janice gave up on the idea of going home and settled onto the other end of the couch, reassuringly close to the daughter she had thought she had lost again.

As dawn neared Ianto went below to take a nap in Jack's bunk, and Gwen went home to Rhys. Tosh and Owen retreated to their respective empty apartments. This left the Time Lord and the almost immortal, neither of whom really needed to sleep yet.

They went to deal with the prisoners. They could release them the next day with UNIT's help, but tonight they would check for any latent mental programming the Master might have left and then retcon them.

There were thirty mercenaries, all young men, usually not very bright, and most rather frightened. The Master seemed to have acquired the majority of them from America, but there were a few British and oddly enough a couple Germans mixed in. The Hub had a lot of cells and Jack had put each man in one of his own. Fear made the mercenaries easy to deal with. Jack just had to promise in his most calming/threatening voice that it was all going to be all right so long as they complied, and they usually did.

Jack would unlock the cell, the Doctor would take a brief look in the prisoner's mind, and then they would give him a cup of water with retcon in it and watch him drink it.

The trouble arose with one of the last mercenaries, an unremarkable, brown haired Englishman. He seemed calm until the Doctor tried to put his hand on the side of his head. His eyes went wide and he tried to bolt through the open door of the cell. Jack tackled him and brought the struggling man down with surprising ease. For a trained soldier the man didn't seem to know how to fight.

Jack managed to get the man's hands behind him and cuffed, and a knee in his back, but he still kept up his desperate struggle. If the Doctor hadn't been there Jack would have been sorely tempted to slam the mercenaries head on the floor.

"He's gone psycho. Hurry up and check him!" snapped Jack as he got an elbow in the ribs. The Doctor quickly knelt and put and hand on the side of the man's face. He instantly stumbled back as if he had been shocked.

"Drums?" he murmured. Suddenly his whole face lit up. "Master! You're alive! You saved your consciousness."

The prisoner spat, but stopped struggling. "Doctor, after all this time, I would have thought you'd realize that death won't have me. Now that the game is up I might as well get rid of this human body." He began to glow with regeneration energy. Jack scrambled off him quickly before the light could touch him.

The Doctor began to curse. "Stop that! You'll kill him like you did Lucy. Wait, please, we'll find something else to put your mind in."

The Master wasn't listening. The glow grew brighter and illuminated the dark hallways. In the spill of light his features shifted and returned to the handsome face of Harold Saxon.

He smiled at the Doctor with far more confidence than a man handcuffed and lying on the floor really ought to have. "Stop pouting, I know you're glad to see me."

The Doctor looked at him wearily, shoulders slumped almost as if in defeat. "Have you any idea what it was like having to burn your body again?"

"Probably delightfully excruciating. Now this floor is a bit chilly, mind getting me off it? Perhaps back to your cozy TARDIS?"

"I ought to leave you here, locked up in this cold dark cellar for the rest of the life you just stole from that mercenary."

The Master rolled his eyes. "Now, now, we both know your not going to leave me here with the Freak. You're far too lonely to do that."

Jack cast the Doctor a glance. He didn't want the Master in the Hub, the least complicated of all his concerns being that the Master would probably find a way to escape sooner or later and kill all of Torchwood while he was at it. On the other hand he didn't like the idea of the Doctor being alone on the TARDIS with the Master. The best thing to do would be to kill the Master again, but the Doctor would never allow that.

The Doctor knelt beside the Master with a sigh. "I am going to take you back to the TARDIS, but only because it's the one place I don't think you'll be able to escape from." His words would have been believable if he hadn't been brushing the Masters hair from his face with surprising gentleness.

"Goody. Do I get to remodel it again, return it to that nice red lighted color scheme?"

The Doctor gave him a withering look. The Master ignored it. "Now, are you going to get me off this bloody floor?"

With an exasperated sigh the Doctor helped the Master to his feet. Jack hovered closely and quickly got a hand over the Master's bound ones, to make sure he wasn't going to make another break for it. They led the Master through the dark halls of the vault back towards the first floor and the TARDIS.

"Are you really sure you want him on the TARDIS?" he asked the Doctor. "It won't be safe for Jenny to go with you if the Master is there."

"Ooh, does this mean he has to chose between me and his brat?" piped the Master happily

"I doubt she would be able to come with me anyway. She'll want to stay with Kate. I can already sense their link reforming, and with Time Lords a pair bonding is usually stronger than a blood tie." The Doctor was trying to keep his face neutral and failing, sadness seeping trough behind his eyes. Jack hated how the Doctor almost seemed to want to set himself up for loneliness.

"Doctor, there's no reason you have to go off on your own with just the Master. Dump him on some abandoned moon and travel with both Jenny and Kate. Problem solved."

The Doctor shook his head sharply. "No, I can't have Kate in my TARDIS, not after what she did."

The Master laughed at this. "So you won't live with your daughter's girlfriend because she killed me, but you'll live with me despite all the murders and atrocities I've committed? You've got a strange sense of justice, Doctor."

The Doctor stayed silent. Jack didn't bother to say anything either, just twisted the Master's bound hands as hard as he could. Jack knew the Doctor. What the Doctor really wanted was to be with the Master. He would think up any necessary excuse, make any sacrifice to justify it to himself. The Doctor loved Jenny, and he would protect her if he could, but she wasn't as important to him as the Master and never would be. He shared his DNA and a few hours with Jenny, he shared his past and soul with the Master.

They got the Master into the TARDIS and into a room the Doctor described as a "Zero Room". They pushed him into the room, closed the door, and the doorway melded into the wall. "That should hold him for now," the Doctor said quietly leaning his back against the wall where the door had been.

"How soon do you leave?" Jack asked.

"Before the others wake might be best. I think they'd all be happier thinking the Master was dead."

"You should still tell Jenny goodbye."

"I will. Walk with me. I need to get her and Kate some Gallifreyan books first. They deserve to know some of their own history and culture, even if I can't be here to teach them."

The Doctor pushed off from the wall and set off for the library. It was one of the few rooms of the TARDIS that the Doctor had not changed since his first regeneration. It was a beautiful place full of warm polished wood, soft chairs, and the comforting smell of old paper.

The books were put into some kind of order, but during his time on the TARDIS Jack had never been able to figure it out. The Doctor moved quickly, piling tomes in his arms, and once his arms were full he handed them to Jack.

Jack read the titles absentmindedly. "TARDIS Repair 101, Gallifreyan History: Rassilon to Modern Day, Basic Biology, A History of Music, Great Cricket Games of the 19th Century."

"I don't think they'll need a Cricket guide." Jack held the book back out to the Doctor.

The Doctor paused. "Hm, you're probably right. I couldn't do without that book anyway."

Once they were both weighed down with books they returned to the Hub. It was still peaceful, just about an hour or two after dawn. Everything was as they had left it. The Doctor set his armload of books down on one of the tables, and then went to the couch to wake up Jenny.

He had to half lean over Kate to very gently shake Jenny's shoulder. The blonde's eyes snapped open instantly with intense military alertness. She relaxed when she saw it was her father. Before she could speak, the Doctor shushed her.

"Sh, don't wake anyone else up. I just came to say goodbye, Jenny. I'm leaving now."

She looked very much like a hurt child in that moment. "Already? I just found you again."

"I'm sorry. Something's come up." Her eyes were damp, but she didn't cry. There was no way to deny this felt like another abandonment. "All right, Dad," she whispered.

"Take care of yourself." The Doctor kissed her on the cheek and fled before he could regret his decision. He half ran back across the Hub. Jack was waiting outside the TARDIS. When the Doctor reached his hand for the door, Jack covered it with is own. The Doctor met his eyes and Jack kissed him. There are a thousand different things a kiss like that can say with just soft meeting of the lips and an hand held to the back of the head.

With this one Jack said quite a few of them. I still love you, I still admire you, you're still my hero, I miss you, you're always welcome here, I think you're making a bad choice, take care of yourself, don't let the Master break your heart any more than he already has. When the kiss ended the Doctor ran a brief hand across the side of Jack's face and then turned and ducked into the TARDIS.

There was a whoop of sound, and then it was gone, and Jack was looking at a blank wall. Well, that was the Doctor for you, always running. Jack had been like that once too, but he didn't have that luxury anymore. He wondered if Ianto was awake. He could use a hug. He headed down to his quarters to see.

It was a windy winter morning two weeks later when they saw Kate and Jenny off. Kate and Jenny had clearly not expected all of Torchwood to show up when Kate had casually mentioned what time she and Jenny were departing from her back garden. But they had, and they had all brought presents of sorts.

Ianto pressed a box of earl grey tea into Kate's hands. "I don't know what you see in this stuff over coffee, but enjoy."

Owen had a plastic Red Cross medical kit. "I looked in the medical book you showed me. All of this stuff should be safe for both of you to use if you get hurt. I wrote the correct doses on the inside of the box"

Tosh gave them a clipped folder of all the records Torchwood had on Kate's TARDIS and the repairs she and Kate had done on it before Kate had had to flee.

Jack tried to convince them to take a gun. "My dad doesn't like guns," protested Jenny, "besides, I'm enough of a deadly weapon as it is." Kate, however, accepted the gun when Jenny was looking away, hiding it in one of the many pockets of her coat. Her morals were not as complicated as the blonde's.

Gwen had somehow gotten it in her head that they needed an electric teakettle. So she had brought one in a big white box with red bow on top. "You know, they're not getting married, you didn't have to get them such a wedding present." Owen teased her.

"You can give electric teakettles to people for things other than weddings," protested Gwen.

"But usually you don't. I mean, how often do you give a friend a kitchen appliance for their birthday?"

"Well, I think it's a very thoughtful gift," said Kate quickly, hoping to keep Gwen and Owen from having a spat.

"Yeah, she has a tendency to forget about the teakettle on the stove. Now maybe we don't have to worry about her setting the TARDIS on fire," piped Jenny. This was probably not the best thing to say in front of Kate's mom, who got a very troubled expression. She seemed to be having second thoughts about how easily she was letting her daughter leave. But she wasn't the sort of woman who liked to make scenes, so she just hugged Kate and then Jenny and told them to take care of each other, and she'd see them in two weeks. For all her insecurities she was a good mother; she knew when to let go.

With a final goodbye to everyone, Kate and Jenny went into the TARDIS. There was a whoop, a flash of light, and then nothing left but a patch of flattened hellebores where the garden shed had been.


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