Characters: Jack, Jackie, Rose
Disclaimer: Doctor Who and Torchwood's characters, concepts, and events belong to their respective owners, including but not limited to Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat, and the BBC.
Summary: "I went back to her estate in the Nineties, just once or twice, watched her growing up. Never said hello, time lines and all that."
A/N: For whoverse_las Challenge Eleven, based on the prompt "Chance Encounter". And woohoo, I won! I don't even know how it happened, lol, but there it is! Good luck to everyone playing in round 2!
“Thirty-four pounds thirty,” the cashier repeats, an eye-roll lurking in her voice.
Out of the corner of her eye, Jackie can see Rose’s grimy little hand dropping what appears to be a half-melted Curly Wurly onto the conveyer.
“Put it back, Rose,” she says, automatically, and resumes digging through her purse, fingering through balled up receipts and old bus tickets in search of buried treasure.
Rose lets out a high-pitched whine, the kind that acts as an early warning signal for oncoming temper tantrums, and Jackie realizes that even if she turned out her purse right on the counter, she’d be lucky to scrounge up an extra fifteen p.
“I’m so sorry,” she says, exhausted, “Seems I’ve only got twenty quid on me.”
The cashier says nothing, just flashes her a bored look. (And here’s Jackie paying her salary!)
Annoyed, she huffs out, “I’ll just—”
“Let me,” the man behind her in the queue interrupts pleasantly, no shred of pity in his voice. He begins to open his wallet and Jackie just stares at him, gobsmacked, until he flashes her a smile.
“Oh no, I couldn’t,” she babbles, and damn her for getting flustered over the first handsome bloke she’s seen since she swore off men. She scans her bags frantically. “I don’t even need the Slim Fast, anyway, because who am I kidding, right?” She laughs.
“Really,” the man says, deflecting her laugh kindly. “I insist. You’d be doing me a favour, really. I hit n’ ran a fire hydrant this morning and I could really use some positive karma right now.”
He has the money out, is handing it to the cashier, so Jackie bursts out, “At least let me cook you lunch then!” And then mentally kicks herself.
“It’s a deal!” he says.
She should probably reply to that, something witty or seductive or something. “I’m Jackie,” she says, “And this is Rose, my daughter. Her father’s out of the picture.”
“Jack,” he replies, taking up her bags by handfuls with ease. “And that’s good to know.”
They’re halfway home when she realizes that Jack’s easy-going available nature may not survive her cooking, so she uses her twenty quid to stop at the chipper. Rose eats the Curly Wurly while they wait on their order. She watches Jack warily.
Jack, for his part, just stands by, hefting all Jackie’s groceries without complaint. Instead, when the distraction of the chocolate’s gone and the impatience creeps back into Rose’s mannerisms, he asks her, solemnly, “Tell me Rose Tyler, do you believe in...” and lowering his voice to a whisper, continues, “aliens?”
Okay, so as far as talking to kids goes it’s a little... random, but it’s a sight better than when Tom asked her about football.
Rose looks to Jack, eyes screwed up, and Jackie stifles a laugh. “Of course not,” she replies, her superior tone belied by the chocolate smudged at the corners of her mouth, “S’for babies.”
This apparently amuses Jack, because although he seems to have the parent-sense not to insult her by laughing, there’s a twinkle in his eyes. “Good to know,” he says, “I’ll tell my alien friends you’re much too grown up to meet them, then, shall I?”
“Noo!” Rose squeals in protest, and this time the both of them do laugh over her head, ignoring the indignant shouts of, “What! What!”
When the laughter dies down and Jackie catches Jack’s eyes, he flashes her a warm, earnest smile.
She has no idea what does it. One moment Jack has a chip stuck into either side of his mouth like a walrus’ tusks and Rose is laughing and Jackie is shouting “Oh come off it!” and throwing empty ketchup packets at Jack’s head, and the next Jackie is fleeing to the kitchen nearly in tears, muttering something about tea.
What the hell is she thinking? Inviting a strange man into her house, into her life? After that fiasco with Robert trying to call himself ‘Daddy’ to Rose behind Jackie’s back, after that report on the news about the danger of bringing home unfamiliar boyfriends... and she’s been so cautious, before now, so careful and distrustful and it hurts not letting anyone in, but it’s the best thing for Rose, and isn’t that what’s important?
She hasn’t even gotten to the kettle by the time Jack comes in after her, shutting the sliding door to the kitchen closed surreptitiously.
“I’ve got things under control in here,” she says, willing him to leave, leave already, damn you.
His big hand cups her shoulder, then, and suddenly he is turning her, gathering her into his chest.
His voice when he speaks is thick with emotion, and she doesn’t quite know why, “I never knew,” he says, “I never knew how special you were, Jackie. And now--”
She grabs him by the sleeve and tugs.
She isn’t sure who initiates the kiss, but there it is.
The way he kisses her, like she’s the most important woman in the world, has her thinking words like ‘fate’ and ‘serendipity’ and ‘love at first sight’.
It’s like a bucket of cold water over her head.
She pushes him back as hard as she can and he barely stumbles, but he does let her go, covering his lips with his fingers to catch the kiss.
“Get out,” she shrieks. “Get out right now.”
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t...” Jack tries. He shrinks back from her.
“You weren’t what? Weren’t expecting to get called on it, you slimy...! Is that what you do? Find yourself a broke single mum and act the hero, get her to bring you home, get cozy with the family? Is that what you do?”
The news reports swim through her head.
“No,” Jack says. “No, never.”
“Then tell me, just what is this, then?” she demands. It’s all she can do to keep from slapping him across the face.
“It’s nothing,” Jack lies, and it’s the last thing she ever hears of him.