Disclaimer: Torchwood belongs to Russell T. Davies and the BBc, not me. Woe.

Notes: This was the original draft of what turned into Stopwatch. It's over the 4,300 character limit and is also a lot less... lean. Ah, well.

Feed(back) etcetera-cat.

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Usually.

Usually, there were Weevils. Even if nothing else was showing the slightest inclination to fall through the Rift and splat itself all over Cardiff, there were Weevils.

Ever since the Ghost Shifts started… no Weevils.

Suzi is annoyed. Gladys— who should have retired last month except ‘oh, Captain dear, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself’— wants to know if any of them are her Uncle Sam.

Jack is not sure what he thinks. Except that single-handedly managing the front desk for the fake tourist information kiosk for the past two years probably has a lot to do with Gladys’ current state of mind.

He’s been here for six months now, has Captain Jack. Three years working for Torchwood and he’s finally in charge of somewhere. In Cardiff.

On the plus side; there’s a pterodactyl.

Also, after London, Cardiff seems to be the favourite destination of the TARDIS.

Jack really wants to find the TARDIS— avoiding it (and the Doctor, Rose and himself) when he first arrived here was one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do.

Now— yes, he devotes himself to Torchwood, to his team (for the given value of ‘team’ that encapsulates Suzi and Gladys), but he also devotes himself to pouring over the data-feeds from the combined Torchwood archives because tracking the Doctor (and Rose) through history is a poor substitute, but it’s all he has.

And then the Ghost Shifts started.

Jack doesn’t sleep anymore, not since he died-but-didn’t on a space station thousands of years in the future, but he’s still capable of feeling woolly-headed and sandy-eyed. He’s got that now; thirty straight hours of focusing on the high-resolution flat screen of his state-of-the-art computer, scanning all of the news feeds and Torchwood data bursts because nothing screams ‘The Doctor will come!’ like mysterious global appearances of ghosts.

When the computer finally flags the fateful words ‘blue police box’, Jack nearly spits his mouthful of tea (‘I can’t be having with that heathen American stuff, Captain dear, no offence intended. What you need is a good cup of tea.’) over the keyboard.

Cup down, Beretta in holster, great-coat grabbed from back of chair in a grey swirl of fabric and Jack’s off. Out of his office, down the gantry-like stairs and across the floor of the Hub in as few steps as he can manage.

“Jack!” The door clangs shut on Suzi’s aggrieved shout.

Getting past Gladys takes slightly more time— tourist-information related dementia or not, the woman has been a member of Torchwood for most of her life— but Jack smiles his special smile and manages to charm her into letting him escape.

Reaching the SUV, Jack takes the time to store the Thermos flask of tea (he didn’t escape scott-free) in the passenger foot well, before peeling out of the basement car park and hitting the streets of Cardiff as fast as he can.

*

Cardiff to London. Motorway most of the way. Jack floors it, makes the speedometer needle dance around 90.

Stops on the M25, just past Heathrow, when Ghosts appear on the carriageway and suddenly— shockingly— become Cybermen.

*

Jack doesn’t know how long he was out for, but he does know that it takes him half an hour to get free of the twisted remains of the SUV and clamber up the embankment to the road.

It looks like a war zone. Apart from the Cyberman the SUV laminated over a quarter mile of tarmac, the motorway is scattered with wreckage; burning cars, blasted apart lorries, the occasional metallic limb.

Lots of bodies. None of them are moving.

Jack stares for a moment— he’s seen the effects of invasions before, seen the destruction but— the road is a six lane graveyard, and he can hear birds singing in the trees by the hard shoulder.

The Doctor is here! The Doctor is here!

*

Three hours later, Jack is stranded in the front carriage of a DLR train just outside Greenwich. He hotwired a Saab on the motorway and managed to get into central London, was gunning towards the Isle of Dogs— and Torchwood Tower— when a Dalek decided to gun for him.

The Saab— apart from the five inches of steering column Jack extracted from his side— is scattered from here to Lewisham.

The Dalek, after Jack introduced it to the finer points of the voltage used by live-rail trains, is a smoking heap. Jack has a headache, is trying desperately to figure out how to drive a DLR train and wishes he could scrub out the metal-shriek EXTERMINATE that’s imprinted on his brain.

*

Canary Wharf reminds Jack nauseatingly of the Game Station.

There are bodies. There are fires. There is ample evidence of violent and pitched battles, but there are no Cybermen and no Daleks. Not even pieces.

Almost against his will, Jack’s pace slows, his feet crunching over shattered glass and burnt concrete as he looks around, shocked in spite of himself.

The destruction worsens the closer Jack gets to the Tower. It looks like a distressed, modern-art rendition of itself. There are people wandering around the plaza at the base. All of them looked dazed, most of them seem deeply shocked. A couple have clipboards.

Jack closes on the nearest; a handsome man with dark hair and a deeply wounded expression and grabs hold of his elbow with one hand.

“Captain Harkness,” Jack says shortly. “I need to find the Doctor.”

The man stares blankly at him for a long moment. “There was an explosion.”

“Ya think?” Jack doesn’t try to hide his irritation as he gestures widely.

“No, you don’t understand.” The man looks down at his clipboard. It’s choked with scraps of singed paper. “There was an explosion— the blue box vanished— I’m trying to make a list of the…” he falters, unable to force the words.

Jack’s gaze flicks down to the list, cursory look, then—

A name catches his attention. His eyes are dragged the length of the sentence.

Unknown, Rose. With ‘the Doctor’ in the control room. ?dead.

Nerveless fingers drop from the man’s arm and Jack takes a step back, numb.

The Doctor was here. The Doctor has gone. Rose is dead.

Jack is lost.

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