In spite of hearing the familiar, haunting sound of the TARDIS, the last thing Jack expects, nearly four-thousand years after he last saw the man, is for the Doctor to come walking up behind him in the cafe in New Neo Cardiff.
They don't say anything to each other, as Jack buys each of them a neo-chai. They walk quietly together, until they reach the spot they both knew they were going to.
Of course, the TARDIS is parked there.
"So," the Doctor says, breaking the silence first. "You done playing with Torchwood yet?"
You know it's not playing, Jack doesn't say, because he knows it, and the Doctor knows it, and he can see it in the other man's eyes.
"...You haven't changed," he says instead.
"Neither have you," the Doctor points out. "Weeeeell," he adds, after a moment as Jack starts to open his mouth. "Maybe a little. You're older than me now, you know," he comments, chin raised a little, and just a hint of a smile hovering around his lips.
For a moment, Jack can't think of a reply. It's true, he's known intellectually, but the idea that he's older than the Doctor... It's not an easy idea to wrap his mind around.
"Sooooo..." the Doctor continues, before Jack can say anything, rocking on his feet a little. "Care for a ride?" He nods towards the TARDIS, and Jack can see the ghost of hope in his eyes.
Several kinds of hope, and all he can think is Well how about that.
Part of him wants to say no, of course; he's said no before. The Doctor left him behind, but then, he'd basically reciprocated, but then, four thousand years is a long time to watch everyone you know die.
He smiles at the Doctor, and then finds himself laughing.
"Sure, why not? It's been a while." Oddly - or maybe not so oddly - he feels lighter than he has in, oh, at least two millennia.
The smile the Doctor gives him is dazzling, and it's trying to melt his heart. He hands Jack a new TARDIS key ("Had to change the locks a while ago, and believe me, that was an experience--"), and heads inside the ship himself.
Jack's grinning as he heads down to what's still the core of Torchwood, to the people who make up his team, these days.
They don't get it. He didn't expect them to get it, but they're his team, his people these days, so he has to tell them anyway.
The only exception is Tosh, who's been living in the computer since Old Cardiff slipped through the rift and smashed into New Cardiff, four thousand and one thousand years ago.
She makes him promise to come back, and he does, and then he's gone.
There's something so comforting about the sound of the TARDIS as he steps inside, and looks around. It's the same as it always was, and he can't help but wonder if this is tomorrow for the Doctor. The thought is disturbing, and he wonders if that's an inkling of how the Doctor feels around him.
"So where shall we go?" the Doctor asks, as Jack shuts the door behind himself. He's already bouncing around the console, flipping switches, and pushing buttons.
"There's this great cafe in seventeenth-century France. Coffee is just starting to take off there, but it's really good. Or maybe," he continues, after a glance up at Jack. "We can go to the Jalakellinian Drift, clear across the other side of the universe, but in about three days - which is, incidentally, how long it'll take us to get there - there'll be this amazing sight, you only get to see it about once every hundred thousand years, and it's never the same twice. The entire drift lights up--"
"Woah, woah, Doctor--" Jack interjects. "Slow down. We both have plenty of time, right? Let's just... Stay here for now." The Doctor looks at him, and blinks.
"Are you sure? I mean, the Jalakellinian Drift..."
"...Will still be there in a hundred thousand years," Jack finishes, with a big smile of his own. The Doctor continues to look at him from across the console, and Jack can see a hint of tension in his shoulders. Wariness in his eyes. He keeps smiling.
"Well," he starts. "We could... have some more tea," he suggests. "Catch up. It's been a few thousand years for me. How about you?"
"Oh, not quite that long," the Doctor replies airily, a hint of smile returning. "But long enough. Come on, let's go then!" The hint of a smiles morphs into something dazzling, and Jack is glad to follow behind him.
They spend some time chatting idly over tea, the small things - have you been to this planet, seen this nebula; were you there when such-and-such a star went supernova - but nothing serious. Nothing real.
"So what have you been up to, Jack?" the Doctor asks, finally, as he swirls the dregs of his tea, with just enough emphasis in the right places to show that he means it this time. He catches Jack midsip, and it makes the older man pause.
"You mean you don't know?" he asks, quirking his eyebrow.
"Come on Jack," the Doctor says wryly, with a smile to match. "You're old enough now to know better. I don't know everything."
Jack returns the smile. "Could've fooled me, Doctor."
"Oh no, I definitely don't know everything," the Doctor says lightly. "All right, so I know nearly everything," he adds after a brief pause. "But really, who wants to know everything? I mean, if I knew it all, what'd be the point?"
"You tell me," Jack says, raising his chin slightly. The Doctor smiles again.
"I don't know either, don't you see? That's the brilliant part. The most brilliant part of it all!" The Doctor's smile spreads again, into another of his brilliant grins.
"I don't know Jack," he continues, the shining grin taking on an almost manic edge. "And that means I can find out. How brilliant it that, eh? We could travel through all of space and time, you and me, and still not see it all." He's leaning forward over the small table now, and there's something so very earnest about him, so very young, it strikes Jack, until he looks at the Doctor's eyes again, the eyes that still look older than Jack's own.
It makes him smile, slightly bittersweet, but affectionate, spreading across his face in a way that feels so familiar.
"And here I thought you'd decided you didn't want anything to do with me after all," he says, shaking his head. "I thought--"
"Aw, Jack, come on," the Doctor interjects, giving him a small smile that feels somehow more real than all the brilliant grins in the universe. "I'm a sentient being. I can overcome a silly little instinct, with enough time."
"How much time?" Jack asks.
"Enough," the Doctor replies quietly. "But not too much," he adds, grinning again, and running his hand through his hair. "Still no grey, huh?" Jack has to laugh at that.
"Rub it in, why don't you?" he says. The Doctor's grin widens a little.
"Well, if you insist," he says, setting down his teacup. Without more warning than that, he reaches out to briefly mess Jack's hair.
For a moment, Jack just stares at the Doctor, flabbergasted. Stares at his smile, at his eyes that somehow say I'm sorry, forgive me.
And then he's reaching out, and grabbing the Doctor by his tie (did the man have no idea how convenient a handle to made? Kinky, wonderful, and great for impromptu bondage) and snogging him, because he's waited too damned long, and it's a really, really good idea.
The Doctor tastes different than he had before, which only makes sense, since he's in a different body, and just finished his tea. And Jack could almost swear he can hear the Doctor thinking - Should've guessed he'd do this... -
He would have dismissed it entirely (especially when the Doctor kisses him back, which is almost more than he'd hoped for) except that that kind of thing has been happening a lot, the last century or two, and it's getting harder to ignore.
But he puts it to the back of his mind for the moment, and just enjoys what he has; the soft feel of the Doctor's lips, the taste of his mouth, the slick, smooth, hardness of his teeth...
Eventually, he lets the Doctor go, sort of, drawing back from the kiss, but not releasing his grip on the tie. The Doctor's breathing is, for the moment, at heavy as Jack's own, and he wonders if the other's hearts are thudding in his ears the way Jack's is in his. The Doctor takes a single long, deep breath.
"Don't," Jack interrupts. "Don't say something we'll both regret."
"--I missed you," the Doctor finishes, and it has the tone of an admission he'd spent a while working himself up to. The Doctor's fingers are cool as they trail lightly down the side of Jack's face, for just a moment, and Jack smiles.
"I missed you too," he says. There's silence for a moment, and he can see something wavering in the Doctor's eyes. "So, what about this Jalakellinian Drift of yours?" he asks.
"You want to see it?" the Doctor asks.
"Sure, why not?" Jack says, echoing his earlier reply. The Doctor gives him another of his brilliant grins, and bounces up out of the chair, bounding for the control room.
"All right! We still have time to get there-- Wait, what am I talking about? We're in the TARDIS! Of course we have time! We have all the time in the universe, right here! It'll be beautiful, just wait and see!"
"I can't wait," Jack says, as he follows. He can't help grinning again himself, as he watches the Doctor zip around the room.
It's a start.