Title:The First Time
Summary: The first time is always a shock
A/N: Hugh is mine and is also featured in The Waiting/Wandering Years. You really don't need to have read them to understand this.
Huge thanks to crystalshard and miss_zedem who patiently sat through multiple drafts and argued amongst themselves until I got it right.
The First Time
Cardiff, 8th February, 1960
The grassy bank was rapidly turning to mud as he slid down it, struggling to keep his balance on the slippery surface. At the bottom, he splashed through murky puddles, desperately hoping that they really had taken out the last of the hostiles. He hadn't holstered his gun and kept glancing towards the activity away to his right, while keeping most of his attention focussed on the body lying face down in the middle of the field. It was hard to worry about getting shot by aliens when your boss was dead.
Hugh blinked the rain out of his eyes, trying to keep his balance as images floated to the top of his mind.
Jack, hefting a smoke bomb and smiling that damn smile which somehow managed to bypass Hugh's common sense.
Jack, jerking horribly as the hostiles broke from the tree cover long enough to shoot at the obvious lunatic sprinting across the grass towards them.
Smoke, pouring from the cluster of trees and half-hiding the purple-haired figures as they tried to escape.
The memories were a welcome distraction as he stumbled across the boggy ground. Next time, he decided, they would find another way, one that didn't involve Jack taking such a stupid risk. Oh, he knew what had happened at Torchwood House and he'd heard the stories about the unkillable Captain Harkness, but using it as a combat strategy was not something he ever wanted to do again. Assuming he was given the chance to do it again.
Jack had fallen into one of the larger pools of water, unresponsive as Hugh came closer, calling his name. After a final check of the undergrowth and a nod to the other Torchwood men, Hugh put his gun away, crouching down to take Jack's shoulder. But before he could so much as touch him, there was a choking gulp and Jack began to move, struggling weakly and taking gasping breaths. Startled, Hugh tried to move away, but his feet had sunk into the boggy ground and he fell, landing hard and covering himself in mud.
The coughing was still going on as he dragged himself forwards again, tugging at Jack's sleeve, then his collar and finally wrapping arms round his waist to pull him clear. He wasn't about to let him drown so soon after coming back from the dead. Jack spluttered and spat water, shaking in Hugh's embrace as they both tumbled over again, getting even more muddy, which Hugh hadn't realised was possible. It was easier to think about that, about the cold wetness seeping through his suit and Jack's weight that was now half-crushing him and how hard it was going to be to get the stains out and how Jack was still coughing and shaking. That was so much easier than trying to think about what he'd just seen. About how the man he was holding onto, warm and heavy against him, had been dead barely twenty seconds ago. Because that just didn't make any sense. Vaguely, he wondered if he'd have to put in a casualty report. Did it count if the casualty got up and walked away?
After a while, he became aware that Jack had stopped coughing and when he spoke, Hugh could hear the smile in his voice.
"You wanna let go, or are we holding a hug-in?" Releasing his grip, Hugh shifted back, letting Jack sit up properly. He was still pale and Hugh knew that he was trembling badly, but he gave a smile that made up in sincerity what it lacked in wattage. "I wasn't complaining, by the way. Any time you want more hugs, you know where to find me." Jack pushed wet hair out of his eyes. "Thanks."
"Did we get the cannon?"
"They're taking it away now, along with the hostiles." Hugh snorted. "If it's alien, it's ours, including the prisoners."
"Good." Jack nodded but made no attempt to move, so they sat in silence for a while, shivering in their damp clothes as the rain continued to fall around them. As expected, it was Jack who spoke first.
"So, this was your first time, huh?"
"How was it?"
"I'll get used to it." Curiously, Hugh realised that his own hands were trembling. For a horrible moment, he'd thought it had all been a mistake. When the first shots had been fired, he hadn't been too concerned. He'd expected Jack to just pick himself up and carry on, ploughing forwards regardless, just like he always did. He hadn't expected him to literally die.
Aware of Jack's stare, Hugh turned back and looked at him. White as a sheet and obviously chilled to the bone, Jack's expression was full of concern, and Hugh was struck by a sudden sense of guilt.
"Come on," he said, getting to his feet and holding out a hand. "We both need some dry clothes."
"If you throw in a hot bath, I'm there." After a brief hesitation, Jack took the offered hand, letting Hugh haul him to his feet and support his weight as they stumbled back across the field, sinking into the wetter patches and leaving them both breathless by the time they reached the car. The rest of the team were milling around, collecting prisoners and stolen technology. Neither of them would be missed for a while.
Carefully, Hugh eased Jack's arm from around his shoulders, helping him lean against the car as he fumbled in his sodden pockets for the keys. Tipping his head back, Jack looked up at the sky.
"It's getting heavier," he commented. "You know, it always rains when I come to Wales. I think you arrange it specially."
"Maybe it just likes you," Hugh muttered, finally locating the key ring and unlocking the door.
"Who doesn't?" The words were right, but there was an underlying weariness in Jack's tone that Hugh didn't hear very often. Gently, he took Jack's arm and helped him into the car, not surprised to encounter no resistance. By the time he got round to the driver's door, Jack was slumped in his seat, eyes closed and head down, asleep or unconscious, Hugh couldn't tell. But he drove as carefully as he could, trying not to disturb him until they were back at the boarding house that Torchwood Three had arranged for them. Turning the engine off, he reached out and touched the other man's cheek. It was cold.
"I'm here." Stretching, Jack blinked his eyes open and peered out of the car windows. "Wherever here is."
"Home, sir, for now at least. We should get inside."
"Sometime today, sir."
"Right." Jack turned on his seat. "Why is that you only call me 'sir' when you're telling me to do something?"
"Does it work?"
"Well, that's no reason not to try. Sir."
"Hugh." There was something in Jack's tone that caught Hugh's attention, and he looked over properly for the first time. Some colour had returned to Jack's cheeks and he looked a little less tired. Maybe just seriously ill rather than near-death.
"Are you alright? Really."
"I'm fine. Really." Seeing Jack was about to speak, Hugh got in there first. "I knew it was going to happen, it was just…"
"Surprising." His mouth twisting into a wry smile, Hugh added, "I get the feeling I'm going to get used to it, though."
"Probably." Laughing a little, Jack stirred himself. "You're right, we should get inside. I'm freezing and you're just dying to get me out of my clothes."
"Only because I know you'll claim for them on expenses if we can't salvage them."
"I think you're just trying to take advantage of me while my defences are down."
Hugh raised an eyebrow. "I've never noticed you needing taking advantage of before." He usually tried not to rise to Jack's prodding, but he was feeling a little defenceless himself, giddy with a mixture of fear and relief. "As I understand, the difficulty occasionally comes in persuading you to keep your defences up and your clothes on."
The car filled with Jack's laughter, a warm, comforting sound, and he was still laughing and shaking his head when Hugh came round to open the passenger door. Accepting the helping hand out of the car without hesitation this time, Jack tightened his grip, just for a moment. Hugh looked up, returning the gentle smiling and tugging the other man in the direction of the house.
"Come on. Clothes, bath, bed."
"Why, Mister Jones, I'm not that kind of girl."
"Could have fooled me." Able to laugh properly at last, Hugh let go of Jack's hand to locate the key he'd been given by the landlady. Jack didn't move for a long moment after he'd opened the door, apparently lost in thought. When Hugh put a hand on his arm, he started, looking up in surprise. There was none of the usual Jack Harkness brilliance about his expression, the mask slipping just for a moment, before he smiled.
"Thanks, Hugh. For everything."
Not for pulling him out of the puddle or driving him home or any of the hundred other things that Hugh did all the time. For everything; there was no need to ask for the list. Hugh nodded, then stood back to let Jack precede him into the house. He stood for a moment on the threshold, feeling the rain creep down the back of his neck and the mud starting to dry on his hands and face. It was hard to see the other man in the half-light of the hallway, but Hugh didn't need to. Jack was always going to be there, as far as he could tell, and he was faintly surprised to find that the thought made him smile.
"You know, if you don't hurry up, I'm just going to have to get naked without you." Jack's voice carried through the empty house and probably halfway to Newport.
Breaking into a grin, Hugh closed the door behind him. Jack was going to be fine, and that was all he needed to know.