It's ridiculous that a person can be innocently walking down a street in any city, trying not to be super angry that her father completely lied to her about her entire life, and can just blink-- and then all of the sudden she's inside some creepy concrete building with a really weird-ass layout, being shot at.
It's ridiculous, really, the situations she finds herself in.
"Hey!" she yells. "Where am I? How did I get here? What--ow!" A bullet gets her in her left shoulder. "That wasn't very nice! I'm not trying to hurt you or anything! Where are you, anyway?" She digs around in her shoulder for the bullet, and that's the second sign that this is not your average day at the Torchwood Hub, the first obviously being the appearance of some random blonde American teenager.
She takes in her surroundings: the weird column almost directly behind her, the face of a Japanese woman and an average white man with a funny-looking mouth appearing around a bank of screens. She hisses as she pulls the bullet out, then frowns at the hole it left in her shirt, the bloodstains there. She glares suspiciously up at the man and woman.
"What the-- how did you--" the man says in a funny accent. Great. The woman doesn't say anything.
An enormous cylindrical door thing rolls open behind her, metal gates swinging outwards and alarm-type noises sounding. All of that for a door, really?
Another man, this one with a nicer face, a dark and well-fitting suit, and a funnier accent, comes through. "What's going on, guys? I heard shooting." He stops short when he sees Claire.
"He shot me." She points. "And I don't know how I got here."
"Well, I'm sure we can get this all sorted out. Can I offer you some coffee?"
- - -
Toshiko, the Japanese woman, runs diagnostics on her computers as the other two take her around to a white med bay. Mr. Trigger-Happy-- Owen, his name is Owen-- sits her on a counter and pricks her with a bunch of needles and the coffee guy, Ianto, tells her that she is inside the Hub of Torchwood Three, which is a branch of a super-secret special British agency that deals with aliens and other various weird shit.
"Well, I think what must've happened is that the Rift spat you out."
"The Rift? What Rift?"
"The Rift is a weak spot in space and time."
Claire's brow furrows. "How can space or time be weak?"
"It's like your jeans, there." He points at a spot just below Claire's knee, artfully worn through.
She defends her pants. "They came like this!"
"The structure of the fabric is still mostly intact, but you could wiggle a finger through if you wanted, or a pen, or a paper clip. The Rift's a bit like that. From time to time, things get through. Aliens like to use it to come through, hence all the testing. It's standard procedure. Aliens don't always look so alien." He smiles faintly. "Sorry about the shooting, too. You'll have to excuse Owen. He's... well, he's Owen."
"Oi!" Owen glares at Ianto, then goes back to scanning Claire with a bunch of weird devices. She wishes Peter or Matt were here to make a joke about anal probes.
"Anyway, it must've just... pulled you through. Or you fell through. Happens sometimes."
Claire takes a deep breath. "Aliens. Right. Well, I've seen weirder."
"What, like seeing a person get shot and it not make a mark?"
"What? There's obviously something weird with her, but it's nothing I've been able to detect. She's not an alien."
"Of course I'm not an alien! I just... heal. Instantaneously. It's a genetic thing. There are other..." Claire trails off when Owen and Ianto shush her with nearly simultaneous gesturing.
Footsteps clambering down stairs nearly mask an odd grinding and whirring noise that has both Ianto and Owen halfway out of their respective seats. Claire looks up at them, confused. They ignore her and head towards the source of the noise, so she follows them.
- - -
When they emerge around the corner, there's a big blue box standing almost directly where Claire appeared. "That wasn't there before."
"She's a bright one, this one," Owen snarks.
"Shut up, Owen." Ianto leaps to her defense once again.
"So what, did it just fall through this Rift, too?" Claire's beginning to feel like 'confusion' is a new default setting for her.
"It's possible," Toshiko pipes up from the office area, "But I don't think so."
When Claire looks over, there's another dark-haired woman with Toshiko, peering over her shoulder. "That's the same blue box from the security feed. That's the same one Jack disappeared in. It's the TARDIS."
"The what now? Who's Jack?"
The door swings open. "I'm Jack. Captain Jack Harkness. Who're you?"
But Claire doesn't get the chance to answer, because the entire room springs into motion and everyone starts talking at once. Toshiko, the dark-haired woman, Ianto, even Owen all swarm in around Jack, even as Jack is pushed forward out of the box by a man in a long, dark brown coat, pinstriped suit, and white Chuck Taylors. A syncopated chorus of variations on the theme of "Jack! Where've you been? What've you been doing?" in four different voices drowns out any attempt Claire even considers making. She rolls her eyes, gives up, and stays where she is instead of pressing closer with the other four.
Turns out it's interesting enough to watch, anyway, as Jack kisses Ianto square on the mouth and Claire can see jealousy flash across the other man's face (and how did they both fit in that box, anyway? It really wasn't that big) and disappointment cross Toshiko's.
"Guys, guys," Jack finally settles them down, "We'll have plenty of time for stories later, and I've got some stories you wouldn't believe. But don't you think we're being a little rude to our new arrival?" He gestures at Claire, grinning. She smiles back, nervously.
"What about your new arrival, Jack?" The dark-haired woman pipes up, sounding-- angry? Hurt? Some combination of the two?
"Right! Well, then, introductions all around!" The brown-coated man is cheerful now, despite the jealousy Claire saw only a few moments before. "I'm the Doctor, and you must be Toshiko, Owen, Gwen, and Ianto." He looks at each of them in turn as he says their names. "Iantoooo. Lovely name, that." He grins even wider, if that's even possible, but his grin fades slightly as he comes to Claire. "But you, I don't know."
"I'm Claire Bennet."
"You're American! Fantastic! I love Americans!" The Doctor effuses, coming over to shake her hand vigorously.
"The Rift spat her out here," Ianto adds helpfully. "She's not an alien, though."
"Well, of course not!" The Doctor exclaims. "But Claire Bennet, Claire Bennet... why do I know that name? Claire Bennet..." he trails off.
"Claire Bennet. Really." Jack says, looking contemplative. "You're real."
"I sure think so," she says. "I mean, why wouldn't I be?"
"She came from New York City, but had recently arrived fromTexas. Odessa, right?" Ianto asks and Claire nods.
"New York City, Claire Bennet, Odessa, Texas..." the Doctor mutters.
"Is he okay?" Claire asks.
Jack grins. "He's just the Doctor." Like that explains everything.
- - -
Later, after Jack promises repeatedly to tell them everything but not now, and then finally reverts to using his Captainly authority, telling Toshiko to monitor the Rift activity and "do computery things," Gwen and Owen to make sure there aren't any more Texans wandering around the base and surrounding area, and Ianto to "be a dear and get us some of your damn fine coffee which I haven't had in ages," he leads a reluctant Claire and a nearly puppyish Doctor into his office.
"Well, Claire Bennet, it is an honour to meet you, however odd the circumstances may seem," he says more seriously than he'd been a moment ago, offering his hand.
Claire shakes it, saying, "Um, well, it's very nice to meet you, too."
"Wow," Jack says, shaking his head. And then again, "Wow."
The Doctor's muttering "Claire Bennet, Claire Bennet..." faintly when Claire asks, "Okay, why are you staring at me? It's freaking me out. When can I go home? I have things to do."
"Yes you do, Claire Bennet," the Doctor says, and grins.
"Let me guess. You remembered?" Claire arches her brow.
"Yes, yes, I did!" The Doctor grins widely.
"Are you going to tell me? I mean, I think if some weird English guy who appears in a big blue box knows who I am, I should at least get to know about it."
"Nope! That would defeat the whole purpose." He sounds way too happy.
"Well, what about you then?" Claire turns her attention to Jack, who is sitting behind his extremely messy desk, feet resting atop it.
"I just can't believe you're real." Jack shakes his head. "Unbelievable."
"Why wouldn't I be real?" Claire asks.
Jack looks to the Doctor, a question in his eyes. The Doctor frowns thoughtfully, but nods.
"No reason," Jack says, nonchalantly enough that Claire's eyebrows raise. "It's just that legends often aren't."
"I'm-- I'm a legend?"
"You're legendary!" The Doctor grins.
"Well, you did save the world," Jack shrugs.
"But-- but no one knows!"
"Oh, sure, now they don't!" exclaims the Doctor. "But someday they do."
Claire tilts her head. "And you know this... how?"
Jack smirks, folding his arms behind his head. "He's an alien."
The Doctor squeaks, then gapes indignantly. "Well, you're from the fifty-first century!"
Jack leaps up, leaning over his desk towards the Doctor. "Shh! My team doesn't know that!"
"Well, that explains a bloody lot then, doesn't it?" The Doctor grins brightly.
"Would you both just SHUT UP and EXPLAIN?" They look sufficiently shocked and contrite. Jack even sits back down.
Well. At least she knew what Ianto meant about aliens not necessarily looking alien.
- - -
Jack says he's going to give her some time to adjust to the whole time-traveling alien with a time-traveling human and aliens ending up everywhere thing, but she's only been relaxing in a room she found inside the blue box -- the TARDIS, the ship the Doctor uses to travel through space and time, and how is she supposed to relax and digest this information when she's sitting in a frigging spaceship, even if it's still on earth? -- when she hears the Doctor calling for her.
She pops her head out of the door and yells, "I'm in here!" She sits back down on the pink bed in the pink room and listens as the Doctor's footsteps approach, slowing as he reaches the doorway.
"Oh," he says thoughtfully, grin absent for the first time since Claire met him. "I should've known you'd find this room, I suppose. You're very similar. She'd've liked you, I think." He speaks softly, almost to himself, and looks around the room slowly from the doorway.
"Who?" Claire asks.
"Rose." He pauses. "She was... a very good friend of mine. Got sucked into a parallel world. My fault, that. Least she's got Mickey'n'her mum'n'Pete... Living a fantastic life, that girl, working at a parallel Torchwood in a parallel world."
"Oh," Claire says. "I'm sorry." She pats the space next to her on the bed. He crosses, sits, and re-examines the room from the new perspective. Claire flops back and, a moment later, so does the Doctor.
He heaves a sigh. "Well," he says, slipping back into cheerfulness. "How are you, Claire?"
"Aliens. Torchwood. Bigger inside than outside. Parallel worlds. I'm awesome." She says, deadpan.
The Doctor turns his head and grins at her. "Fantastic."
She raises herself up on her elbows. "You know, you think you're so special, but I have this friend, Hiro, and he can time travel and teleport without a TARDIS."
"But he can't leave the earth."
"Who needs to? He's seen dinosaurs! He could go to the fifty-first century right now and find Jack if he really wanted to."
The Doctor raises himself, too. "That would be a very bad idea. And he can't leave the earth, can he? I can go anywhere. You could come with me, if you want."
"No, thanks," Claire says. "I think I'm dealing with enough weirdness here on earth, in my own time."
"Just thought I'd offer."
"Thanks." Claire smiles at the Doctor.
"Anytime." He grins back.
- - -
After awhile, the Doctor leads her by the hand out into the main room of the base. Jack sees Claire looking around. "I sent the others home. We should probably think about getting you back, too."
Claire's "real life" starts flooding back. "Oh, man, Peter's gonna kill me for being gone so long without checking in."
"The TARDIS travels in time and space. We can have you home five minutes after you left, if you want. Besides, last time I checked, you're invincible." Jack grins.
"Yeah, that's true. And so're you."
"That's very true. Jeez, how many times have I died?"
"I was dead for eight hours once."
"Thirty-four." Jack announces. "I totally have more bragging rights than you."
"Fine. Coolest way you died and came back to life?"
"Oooh, that's a tough one. The scary monster from the Rift, Abaddon, sucking the life out of me was pretty awesome. But the cyberwoman-electrocution was pretty sweet, too. What about you?"
"Oh! I was talking to a friend at cheerleading practice and this football player accidentally tackled me. It was at this weird angle, and my head ended up being completely twisted around. Like that girl in the Excorcist!"
"Nevermind. Oh, and there was the time I fell and this stick got lodged, like, in my brain stem, which I guess is where this power comes from, because I was dead for eight hours afterwards-- I was mid-autopsy when the doctor removed the stick and I came back to life. She'd already completely cut me open. I had to put my skin back and sneak home in a lab coat. Not fun."
"I'll have to thank Owen for not autopsying me. Definitely."
All three are grinning at this point, even the Doctor, and Jack says, "You know, Claire, you're the only person on earth who knows my entire life story, what with this guy being an alien and not on earth very often."
Claire's smile softens. "Thank you for trusting me."
"Thank you for listening. We'll have to keep in touch, really."
"D'you have a cell phone?" The Doctor asks suddenly, reaching inside his coat and pulling out a strange-looking silver device.
Claire hands it over. "What are you going to do to it?"
"Just a bit of jiggery-pokery." He grins. "Now it'll work anywhere, anywhen. Jack, you'd better write down her number."
- - -
Claire's watching TV on Peter's couch, trying not to see the TARDIS everytime her eyes flick towards the kitchen, where they left her, when Peter comes in. "Hey, Claire," he says, dropping next to her, easy. "How was your day? What did you do?"
Claire leans into his shoulder and smiles, tired. "Nothing much."
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