Like a gargoyle overlooking his territory, Jack squatted on the roof of the building, watching the city. The wind whistled through his hair and in his ears, sometimes threatening to knock him off the edge. It had happened before; of course, he had woken up, gasping for breath through the pain of becoming alive again. It hurt to die, and it hurt to be reborn. He was becoming used to the pain. At least he was alive to feel it.
The city of Cardiff sprawled across a lush green landscape to the north-east, and sat along the ocean to the south-west. England lay to the north-east border, but he couldn’t see it from southern Wales. Once in a while, a smell from below wafted upward far enough for him to smell. It reminded him that he was getting hungry.
He went back into the building, ignoring the looks from the people who worked in the upper offices, and took the elevator back down to the basement level where he entered a code into the wall. A series of circular doors began to open, allowing him to walk through them.
“Upstairs again?” Ianto asked quietly from across the room.
“Clears my head,” Jack said. He felt Ianto’s eyes on him but didn’t pause to answer the unasked questions.
“Jack,” Tosh called out as he came in. “I was just about to call you. There’s a report of a haunted house.”
Knowing Tosh wouldn’t bother him with the idiot-sighting of the day, he went to look over her shoulder.
"News crew got to it?" he commented as he watched the report. A chair flew out the front door of the house, causing the on-lookers to screech and run away from it.
“How are we going to investigate this with all those people and cameras around?” Tosh wondered in despair.
“What do the readings say?” Jack asked. She changed screens to show him the monitors.
“Definite Rift patterns in the area,” she said, pointing them out. He looked them over, watching the continually adjusting patterns on the monitor.
“The last time we had ghosts, it turned into a war,” she reminded him.
“I know,” he said, putting a hand to her shoulder for a moment. “I don’t think this is the same, though. Let’s get the police to clear the area. Tell them to call it a gas leak or something.”
While Tosh got on the phone to the police, Jack went into his office and called up the files on ghost-like activity.
Most of Earth’s ghost history was based in superstition. About ten percent was caused by true psychic talent, although it was usually done unconsciously by the human involved. Less than one percent was an actual alien situation, such as what turned into Cybermen at Canary Warf. The monitors said this one was possibly alien. There were very few alien races that could invade through a non-physical form, which is what would need to happen for a house to become ‘haunted.’
After getting Tosh and Owen into the SUV, Jack sped off almost before the doors were even closed.
“Where’s Gwen?” Owen asked, frowning as he buckled in.
“Call her,” Jack said with a short clip. A muscle in his jaw gave a tick. Owen glanced in the rearview mirror at Tosh.
“Do it!” Jack snapped at him. Owen held up a hand and pulled his cell phone out.
There was in image in his head that he had been trying to forget all day; he knew he was being an asshole with his team. Actually, he was controlling most of it.
Gwen had had breakfast with Rhys. She had held his hand. The grinding in Jack’s head became louder. It was all Jack could do to not blast the other man out of existence. Ianto knew something was wrong, but he didn’t press Jack for answers beyond, “Did I do something?”
“No,” Jack had growled. That was enough for Ianto.
The younger man’s presence was soothing, a comfort; when Jack was calm, he’d probably talk about it but until then, Ianto would respect his space. Jack appreciated it.
They came to the neighborhood with the problem house and screeched to a halt behind all the emergency vehicles. The police were getting the locals and news crews back out of the way while they bit their tongues with impatience at Torchwood’s immunity, and impudence, when it came to talking over a scene with no explanation. Many officials had tried to curb Torchwood’s power, and many officials had their careers shot down for it. If Torchwood had even once stepped over the line, bribed or pushed someone beyond the bounds of morals or ethics, it would have been a different matter. Captain Harkness, however, ran Torchwood to within inches of sainthood. As far as they knew. Sneaking off with alien devices and sleeping with co-workers were things the public did NOT need to know.
A lamp came flying out the front window of the house and everyone ducked from the glass.
“Get those cells placed and stay on the outside of them!” Jack ordered as soon as they were inside the front door. A teenage girl sat in the middle of the livingroom, her arms clasped around her knees, hair in disarray, rocking and keening quietly to herself. The yellow glow of her eyes gave away the alien presence. Tosh and Owen slid around the four walls of the room, placing small, portable prison cells on the floor in front of each corner. The combined cells quadrupled their energy, encircling the entire room and everyone within it. Jack
would turn them off when they had dealt with the alien.
The yellowed eyes gave Jack a clue as to which race the creature was –Udug. He had ran into them once before, and he had hoped never to again. So much for wishful thinking.
An ancient expulsion chant came back to him, and he began to intone it. He couldn’t actually speak the language, but the Udug would be forced to obey the laws the chant spelled out. Mainly –This is my territory, Get out!
The creature snarled and spat at him and he forced himself not to retaliate; he’d only be hurting the girl, and it wasn’t her fault.
It growled at him and gave a knowing chuckle. “I can smell it, you know,” it said through the girl’s mouth. The dual vocals, the girl’s and the low growl of the Udug, was disconcerting to hear. “The stink of a time-traveler. You are not one of them.”
“I’m human, on the planet of human origins,” he growled back. “I belong here, you don’t. Obey the rules –leave that child and this planet! This territory is mine!” He re-chanted the laws and it hissed in frustration.
“Where is your ship, time traveler?” it demanded. “Give it to me and I will leave!”
“You get nothing,” Jack promised it. “Your life only!” He doubled the energy of his chant, and it howled in pain. An orange mist came out of the girl and reformed into another creature. It was short, squat, gray, had floppy, pointed ears, sharp, pointed teeth, and small, black beady eyes. It crouched low, hissing at him with a slithering tongue, keeping its clawed, elongated fingers at the ready. Jack drew his gun and pointed it at the creature and slowly moved until he stood between the creature and the girl who had collapsed, unconscious,
on the floor.
“Push the cells closer!” he yelled. Tosh and Owen carefully nudged the small pieces of metal closer to the center of the room until only Jack and the Udug were inside. The girl cried out in more pain as the cell walls passed over her.
As long as someone on the outside was manipulating them, someone on the inside could be removed. It wasn’t without pain, though. Owen hurried to the girl.
“Pulse is weak!” he called out.
“Get her out!” Jack ordered. Owen lifted the girl and backed out of the house with her while Tosh held her gun on the pair within the cell walls. Tosh had paled at the sight of the creature but held steady.
While the door was open, Jack could hear Gwen outside, ordering someone to stay back as emergency medical people came to take the girl from Owen. She was present and helping. A small part of Jack’s brain took it for granted that she would know not to interfere with an unknown situation by running blindly into the house. Keeping guard outside was exactly right.
“Tosh, move them closer,” Jack said, keeping his gun on the creature. She didn’t take her eyes off the two in the center as she carefully kicked the cells closer. It snarled at her and she jumped back.
“It can’t get you from here,” Jack told her. “Just get them between us.”
He was prepared for the pain of the cell walls passing over him; not having actually experienced it personally, he wasn’t prepared for exactly how painful it was. The girl had screamed in pain while she was unconscious. Jack wished he had been unconscious. The Udug rushed him. It bounced off the inner-walls,
howling in its own pain.
He shook the waves from his body which reacted quickly to redact the pain, and flipped his wrist band open to press at the controls. The four cells collapsed.
The Udug was gone.
“Where’d it go?” Tosh asked, her voice shaky.
“Inside the cells,” Jack said, picking them up and pocketing them.
“Which one?” she asked.
“All of them.”
Her eyes widened at the thought of Udug pieces within the four cells.
“Clear!” Jack called out to the locals. He swept by Gwen, not saying anything, and she paused in mid-syllable. Tosh was close behind; she gave her head a shake and shoulders a shrug at Gwen’s glance.
The ambulance had already taken the girl to the hospital, along with a hastily scribbled report from Dr. Harper telling the medical personnel that the girl had collapsed from stress and a possible mental imbalance. She’d get a few months of meds and psychiatric treatment before being declared fit and released to her worried parents. At some point, she would receive an extra little white pill and forget the events all-together.
When Tosh and Owen were in the SUV, Jack hit the gas and sped off with a screech of tires while Gwen stood by her car and watched them.
“Jack, are you alright?” Tosh asked after a mile. He didn’t respond.
The entire team was quiet as Jack flew into the Hub and slammed his office door.
He couldn’t remember the last time he had hurt so much; not even dying and resurrecting hurt so much. Watching Gwen get almost married to Rhys came pretty close; he managed to smile his way through the ceremony that almost was, and kept his shout of joy to himself when it was canceled. He turned the back of his
chair to the door, leaned back, and closed his eyes as he took deep breaths.
After a while, the door quietly opened. A tray was placed on his desk, with a cup of tea and a plate of crackers and cheese. Since it was Ianto’s scent, Jack didn’t yell about the intrusion.
“Are you ready to talk?” Ianto quietly asked.
“Alright.” A shadow moved to the front of his eyelids. “She doesn’t understand, Jack; neither do I or anyone else, but you’re obviously mad at her for something.”
“I said I don’t want to talk about it!” Jack opened his eyes and snarled at the man. Ianto didn’t blink.
“That’s too bad,” came the unexpected reply. “I don’t know what relationships are like on your planet but on our planet partners talk to each other. We work it out together. You want to be a bastard for a while, that’s fine. You go ahead and feel sorry for yourself. I suppose we all need the time, once in a while. When you’re ready to grow up, let us know.”
Shocked beyond words, Jack could hear only the roaring in his ears while Ianto walked out of the office and quietly closed the door.
It was several hours later when Jack stopped his temper tantrum long enough to notice that he was alone. Everyone had left the Hub. He stood outside his door, glaring at the gray walls and equipment.
“Ianto!” he yelled. There was no reply except for the echo of his voice off the concrete walls. He stomped down the halls to his quarters. Empty. Huffing in irritation, he tore his clothes off, threw them on the bed, and went to the showers.
Hands against the tile, head down, the strong spray of water his the back of his neck. Ok, so he was behaving like an ass. Damned if he really knew why. He’d had partners cheat on him before; he expected it. For some reason, this betrayal hit him harder than any had before. It wasn’t like Gwen sleeping with Owen after she
had started at Torchwood; he understood that, it was a case of shock and needing someone to take it out on. Gwen had settled in long ago, though, so what was the problem? Was he the problem? Did he not please her? She certainly yelled loud enough when she came, which was often. Jack felt as though he were missing something and shit if he knew what it was.
When he noticed his fingers pruning, he shut the water off. The effects of alcohol were pointless on him but he drank half a bottle of Scotch anyway as he sat on his bed. He looked around. A couple of throw-rugs were strewn across the concrete floor, red Celtic knot work of dragons and swans. Ianto, Jack knew; the man was very proud of his heritage. A dark-stained wooden dresser stood across from the bed, brush sitting neatly on a silver tray on top of the dresser. A mirror sat behind it, held up by strong hooks that were drilled into the cement. The mirror also has knot work on the edges. These Celts were a colorful people, Jack had long ago noticed. They did everything with a great passion.
The bookstand on the east wall was slowly becoming crowded with books. Jack rarely bought a book, although he enjoyed reading them. Most of them were from Ianto, who had a surprising love of the classics. There was a new book on the bedside stand. Something small. Jack picked it up. Welsh Love Poetry. Yes, it
had to be Ianto. Jack made a half-hearted flip through the pages before stopping to read.
I have loved colours, and not flowers;
Their motion, not the swallows wings;
And wasted more than half my hours
Without the comradeship of things.
How is it, now, that I can see,
With love and wonder and delight,
The children of the hedge and tree,
The little lords of day and night?
How is it that I see the roads,
No longer with usurping eyes,
A twilight meeting-place for toads,
A mid-day mart for butterflies?
I feel, in every midge that hums,
Life, fugitive and infinite,
And suddenly the world becomes
A part of me and I of it.
A hunger tore at him and he fell to the sheets after hurling the book across the room.
At some point, someone had come in and covered him. He didn’t know who, he had already fallen into a heavy, dream-disturbed sleep. He didn’t remember the dreams, he never did. They were becoming more and more erratic the older he became; not knowing what was real, what was history and what was nothing more
than his head talking to itself. He hated these phases.
When he became conscious of his surroundings, he noticed someone was sitting on the end of the bed, watching him.
“Can we go for a walk today?” he quietly asked.
“Yes,” Gwen said.
The team worked quietly as he came out of his quarters. Ianto held out his great-coat. Jack shook his head.
“Civvies, today,” Jack said, gently, patting at his slacks and Polo shirt. Ianto gave a nod and folded the coat over his arm. Jack took a step past, paused, and reached for Ianto’s hand. He leaned in and pecked him softly on the lips. That he wasn’t rejected, struck him to the core.
Gwen drove her car instead of the SUV. They went to Dyffryn Gardens, neither of them speaking on the way. Once they were parked, they walked slowly toward the lake. A smaller hand crept into his and Jack held tightly to it.
Children and dogs played, running and yelling in their joy and excitement, while parents called to them, unheeded. Ducks were chased, geese honked, and the smell of popcorn and cotton-candy was in the air.
While rain was normal weather, the day was sunny and clear except for a few fluffy, white clouds dotting the blue sky. Kids were flying kites, and one small boy tripped and fell. His face puckered. Jack took the few yards to the child and he knelt down to lift the boy to his feet, giving him a gentle brush while Gwen fetched the kite.
“There, now, it’s alright,” he said softly. An anxious mother came toward them.
“He’s ok,” Jack told her. “Just wounded pride.” She smiled gratefully, took the kite from Gwen with one hand and the boy in her other had.
They continued their walk to the lake.
“You like kids,” Gwen commented. “You’re good with them.”
“My little brother was stolen when I was 14 and he was 10,” Jack heard himself saying. “I was in charge of him.” Shocked, Gwen tightened her hand on his.
“Oh, God, Jack….”
He shook his head. “I don’t know why I said that,” he told her. “It was a long time ago. In a galaxy far, far away….” He smiled at the sky with a hint of melancholy before sending the feelings away.
Gwen tugged on his hand, making him stop. “Jack, please; what’s wrong?” she begged. He shook his head again, and took his hand, walking a few paces as his heart raced.
“Are you going back to Rhys?” he asked, looking at a small grove of trees.
“What?!” She stepped quickly to the front of him, making him look at her. “Jack, no! Whatever gave you…… you saw us, didn’t you? Yesterday. Having breakfast at the café.”
He shoved his hands under his armpits. Gwen reached up and held the sides of his head between her hands.
“Jack, listen to me.” Her dark eyes were fierce with that inner flame as she held his blue gaze. “Rhys and I need to work this out. We were always good friends, and we want to remain good friends. Nothing more. I hope there will be a day when you can call him a friend, too. He’s been an important part of my life and I cannot, will not, toss that aside. For God’s sake, Jack, he was my first lover!”
“Look at me, damn you!” She gave his shoulders a shake when he closed his eyes. He opened them again. “I’ve had three lovers in my life, Jack; Rhys, Owen, and you! In that order. Do I seem like the kind of girl to toss men aside?”
“No,” he whispered. He knew he had made a mistake. A big one. “I’m sorry,” he whispered hoarsely. She smacked him on the chest and walked away. A hand went to her face, wiping swiftly at it.
“Gwen,” Jack called to her as he hurried after her. “I’m sorry. Please. Look, this is no excuse, but I’m new to this….” She turned to look at him, angry.
“Alright, I’m no spring chicken, but it’s been a very long time since I….. loved anyone. You met the last woman I loved, and look how old she was.”
Gwen considered him as she wiped at her face again.
“Estelle was your latest love?” she asked. The old lady had been, well, old, when Gwen had met her. Jack and Estelle’s love affair had been during World War II.
“You can’t say it, can you?” she asked, watching him.
Jack brought his hands to his mouth for a moment, trying to sort out his thoughts and feelings. Dealing with feelings always brought him trouble. Life was easier without emotions getting in the way.
“Gwen, this is so hard,” he said, his voice muffled in his palms. “People keep…. dying on me….”
More tears ran down her face as she reached out to put her arms around him.
“This is life, Jack,” she whispered into his ear. “Yes, we die. I will die, Ianto will die. And at some point, you will die.”
He tightened his arms around her. “I calculated it,” he said. “Unless something drastic happens, like being torn limb from limb or something, I’ll be around for a few million years.”
Gwen drew back, horror on her face. “Jack, no…!”
“Yes,” he nodded. “I age, but too slowly for it to be noticeable. Don’t you see? I will have to love and watch people die over and over again for millions of years. This isn’t a blessing, Gwen, it’s a curse. I would rather you return to Rhys now, than to feel the pain of you dying later.”
She glowered at him. “Coward.”
He leaned back. “What?”
“You are a coward, Jack Harkness. Or whatever your real name is. This is LIFE! Get used to it! No matter where you go, life and death happens! You can scream and yell about it, go hide in a cave, bury your head in the sand, and it’s still going to happen. I could die tomorrow, Ianto could fall in love with some pretty blond up the street, and you could meet the man of your dreams delivering your lunch. It happens! And you know what you do when it happens? You bless everyone who has ever walked with you for a while, because it is those experiences that make you the person you are!”
She knocked his arm. “For someone as old and experienced as you, you can be the town idiot!”
Jack watched in disbelief as she stormed away from him.
“What the hell just happened?” he asked a duck. It muttered at him and walked away, also.
When it occurred to him that she wasn’t going to wait, he hurried to catch up.
“Son!” He heard someone calling out and saw an old man waving at him from behind a flower cart. “Son, come ‘ere!” His manners took over and he stopped long enough to hear what the old man had to say. Flowers were thrust at him. “I don’t know wha’ yon lady is angry aboot but trust an old man; gi’ these to her.” Jack kept an eye on Gwen’s retreating form as he impatiently reached into a pocket.
“No, no,” the old man shook his hand and waved his hands. “Jus’ take ‘em. Go, son, hurry before she leaves wi’ou’ ye.”
When he reached the parking lot, he didn’t see her car. Squeal of tires made him jump back from the edge of the road.
“Get in!” she ordered. Jack got in. Quickly. Before she changed her mind.
“Oh, yes he did!” she snapped into the earwig. “How the hell should I know where he gets these ideas?” Jack had a sinking feeling he knew who she was talking to as the Welsh accent got thicker in her anger. His bed was going to be empty for a while. He really hated sleeping alone. When she switched to actual Welsh, he knew he was going to be celibate.
Ok, so maybe he went a little over-board, but couldn’t she understand? The increasing decibels of tongue-twisting vowels and heavy consonants told him she didn’t. And neither did Ianto. Jack sank lower in the seat and watched out the side window at the passing city. He tried to hold up the flower bouquet. She
glared at him. He put them to his nose, took a sniff, and continued looking out the window.
When they got back to the Hub, Jack followed Gwen in. Tosh and Owen took one look at them, and then at Ianto who stood watching darker than normal, and quickly excused themselves.
“Oh, how time flies,” Owen said, looking at the invisible watch on his wrist.
“Tosh, up for a burger?”
“Love one!” she squeaked, and high-tailed it up the stairs after him.
The upstairs door slammed shut.
“No!” Jack yelled, holding up a finger. “You are not going to ring me dry for this!”
Gwen and Ianto stood side-by-side with their arms crossed, waiting.
“How would you feel if you watched the people you love get old and die while you stayed young and healthy? Huh?! It gets tiring after 80 years; try it for a couple hundred!”
He rounded on Gwen, the finger back in the air. “Am I a coward? No! A little insecure, yes, but not a coward! I l….. I…..” He tried to breathe, feeling his chest tighten.
“Say it, Jack,” Ianto said softly.
“We’re here and we’re not goin’ anywhere,” Gwen said, equally soft. “Just say it.”
Jack fell forward, hands on his knees as specs of light dazzled his eyelids. Hyperventilating; he knew the signs. He forced himself to regulate his O2 sats.
“I… I can’t…”
Hands touched his hair, smoothing the sticky, moussed chestnut strands.
“Yes, you can,” he was told. “It’s three simple words, Jack, just say them.”
“You’re not alone, anymore; we’re not goin’ anywhere, sweetheart,” Gwen cooed gently. “I’ll say them first, shall I? I love you, Jack. See? Three simple words.”
A strong hand touched his back. “Dwi'n dy garu di,” came a lower rumble. Jack fell to the floor.
They got him to his feet and led him to his quarters, sitting him on the edge of the bed while his shoes were taken off and his belt loosened before setting him back onto the mattress. Gwen curled into his right side while Ianto curled into his left. Jack talked. He talked for hours about his life and whatever came to his mind. He had no idea he had needed to share so badly with someone the most important times of his life, had no idea he had been under so much stress. He knew his partners were at times shocked at his actions and things that had been
done to him, and other times amused at some of the situations he had found himself in.
He was held throughout his discourse, hands never leaving his body.
“Jack, what did Rose mean by you being the closest thing to a Time Lord?” Gwen asked when he began to quiet. He looked at her. “I heard her talking to you. She said you were the nearest thing to a Time Lord and you were needed out there. What did she mean?”
He wiped at his face and sniffed. “You weren’t meant to hear that,” he said.
“So I guessed,” she said. “Will you tell us anyway?”
It took a while for them to understand about Time Lords and Time Agents; the new syntaxes hurt everyone’s brain. Surprisingly, Ianto seemed to catch on faster than Gwen. Jack wondered exactly how much Ianto hid in his quiet brain.
“So…. I don’t understand,” Gwen said, using his chest as her drawing board. “If more Time Lords are needed, why not go back in time to get them?”
“Can’t,” Jack said, shaking his head. “When the Time War happened, it didn’t just destroy Gallifrey at that time, it destroyed all aspects of it. Even in the past. From the beginning of time itself, and in all dimensions and parallel universes. That’s what a Time War does.”
Gwen’s eyes got wider as did Ianto’s as they finally began to understand.
“Your Doctor friend…. he’s not only alone, he’s completely alone!” Gwen cried in understanding. Jack nodded soberly. “But how did he survive?”
“I’m not sure,” Jack admitted. “He doesn’t talk about it much. Hardly ever. He was probably in his TARDIS, which takes him out of direct contact with space and time.”
“And are you really needed out there?” she asked, watching his face. Jack shrugged.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “The universe got on without me for a very long time, I’m sure it will continue well enough on its own.”
“How come you don’t time travel anymore?” Ianto asked. “With the ships and stuff we find, it isn’t like you’re stuck here.”
“Well, besides the fact that my so-called time machine is broken and pretty much dead, I’m happy here,” Jack told him. “I don’t want to leave.”
Gwen’s mouth crooked up. “You have a time machine?” she questioned. Jack smiled and reached over to the bedside stand for his watch. He handed it to her. She and Ianto were both confused.
“I don’t understand,” she said, holding it. She knew there was some kind of controls inside of it, but it still looked like a watch.
“Think about it as a universal remote control,” Jack said. “Only this one is broken; it doesn’t change channels anymore.”
Ianto took it from Gwen and looked closely at it. “The one Rose has. You could have taken it and left with her.”
Jack slid an arm under Ianto and up his back. “I could have. I didn’t.”
Ianto tossed the wristband to the table and bent down, covering Jack’s mouth with his own. Feeing his shirt forced up, Jack chuckled and opened his mouth.
Much to Gwen’s amazement, it was Jack who rolled over onto his stomach and spread his legs once he and Ianto were both naked and stroking each other. It thrilled Jack even more that she was watching them, that she was turned on by what she was seeing. He knew she didn’t care for sex that particular way for herself, and he respected her even more for being open with her preferences, and yet she was turned on watching the two men together.
When Ianto rolled away, Jack turned and nuzzled his way up Gwen’s legs. In her fever, she allowed him to do away with her clothes and have his way with her dripping center until she came in his mouth.
His heart exuberant with the energy that the three of them brought together, Jack laughed and drew them both to him as he settled into the middle of the pile.
“I don’t believe he earned that,” Ianto commented between finding air to breathe. He used Jack’s white t-shirt to wipe the sweat from his face.
“I know he didn’t,” Gwen agreed. Her face was regaining its color as her breathing also returned to normal. She accepted Jack’s shirt to wipe her face, too. “That little pity-party of his was really over the top.” Jack ignored them; they were right, but he really did have anxiety about out-living his partners.
“I’m also pretty sure he didn’t tell us everything,” Ianto said.
“I agree,” Gwen said. “Hopping about through time, all those planets, and all he does is a little thievery, getting into fights, and snogging aliens? I don’t think so. I want to meet this Doctor friend of his and have a chat.”
Jack’s eyes flew open.
“And he still hasn’t told us about this whole immortality thing,” Ianto continued.
“Oooh, yeah, there’s that,” Gwen agreed.
The anxiety was leaving, and panic was setting in.
In the morning, Jack showered, dressed, and walked slowly into the main part of the Hub. Coffee was smelling up the place, telling him where Ianto was, and Gwen had her face deep into a police report on the computer. The upstairs door opened and Owen stuck his head in. He was squinting in suspicion, although Jack felt that Owen’s glasses needed updating.
“Well?” Jack called up. “You just going to stand there and let the tourists in? Make sure they bring sauce; I don’t think Myfanwy’s been fed this morning.”
Owen removed his face. “He sounds normal,” he said behind him. The door opened and Owen came in, followed by Tosh. They came down the stairs, watching the other three in the Hub.
“Is there going to be some sort of formal announcement?” Owen asked as he and Tosh came to a stop in the center of the room.
“Of what?” Jack asked, looking through one of the weekly rags. He found the most interesting stuff amidst all the crap….
“The… arrangements,” Owen said. “This threesome and when it started.”
“Oh? You and Tosh and who else?” Jack asked. “Please don’t tell me you’re sleeping with that guy next door because he…”
“No,” Owen said, rolling his eyes. “You and Ianto and Gwen.”
“Oh, good,” Jack said with a relieved nod. “’Cause that guy is all wrong for you. I think he likes that shepard down the street a little too much, if you know what I mean. The four-legged one, not the two-legged one….”
Jack brought his head up from the paper, frowning with hurt feelings. “Owen, I’m only expressing my concern for your well-being.”
“I’m not sleeping with the bloody neighbors or their dogs! Are you sleeping with Ianto and Gwen?”
“Well, sleep eventually did happen….” Jack chuckled as he put his face back into the paper.
“Jack, stop picking on him,” Gwen told him. “Yes, Owen, Tosh, Jack and Ianto and I are sleeping together. Well, Jack and I sleep together, and Jack and Ianto sleep together; Ianto and I are happy as friends.”
Owen considered it and rubbed at his pained head.
“Well,” Tosh piped up with a supportive smile. “As long as everyone is happy. I had a date last night.”
“Really?” Gwen smiled and went into a hen-huddle.
“Hey!” Jack shook the paper at them. “How about you girls dish on your way across the bay to Bristol and bring me back this Arcturian cub’s skeleton that’s being mistaken as a missing link in the evolution of dolphins. We’ll give the poor kid a decent burial in our chambers until we can get him home.”
The ladies took the paper with dubious frowns, studied the picture, and went to collect their things.
“Find out where they found the kid, and see if you can get a lead on the rest of his crew and ship!” Jack called out to them as they went up the stairs. When the door closed, Jack turned to Owen.
“Are we going to have a problem?” he asked, crossing his arms as he waited. Owen took a moment before shaking his head.
“No, we are not,” he said. Jack gave a nod.
“Good. Do a little research; museums, private collections, hospitals, universities, everyone who has taken in an unusual skeleton within the past ten years. That cub looks about ten years dead. His parents should have been found near him. The skeletons might have been mistaken for small whales. A little larger than a manatee.”
Owen returned Jack’s nod. “Got it.” The emphasis was not on the order.
Whatever had happened between Gwen and Owen had been over soon after it had started a couple years earlier when Gwen first came to Torchwood. From the giddiness and smoldering looks they continually shot each other, and then nothing except sniping until they settled into the new routine, Jack was pretty sure the entire Owen-Gwen thing had lasted only about a month. They quickly got it out of their systems and parted ways. If it had affected their jobs, Jack would have stepped in; it didn’t, though, and it never occurred to him to stop it before it began.
His computer was beeping at him when he got to his desk. He moved the mouse and the screen came back on. There was a message waiting. Several, actually. Jack sighed and sat.
The team thought he sat and read through old files all day. Sometimes he did. Sometimes he played RPGs against an unsuspecting Owen. Usually, though, he was fielding bitchy emails and IMs from world leaders who felt he had too much power for a civilian. None of them knew about his past; he had made sure his
paper-trails were recreated every couple of decades. He was about due for another recreation, so he was thinking of taking a note from Duncan McLeod and looking up a death certificate to usurp. No, he thought, shaking his head; too traceable. Just start the trail from scratch. Nothing he could do about his face, but he was good at coming up with stories. Maybe a little tuck here and there to fake a few years. Colored contacts, dye his hair… blond? He shuddered.
The thoughts were put on the back-burner as he looked through the emails. The parents of a certain young royal privately thanked him for the brat’s safe return, while the official stance was that it never happened. Someone had forwarded him an angry email from a Texas billionaire who wanted to know who he needed to bomb for destroying a tradition and losing several million dollars of his own money, and several hundred million of the club’s banked money. There was also an email with a report from several local, national, and international charities who received anonymous donations with between three and six zeros after the initial numbers. Jack smiled; Ianto deserved a treat for that one.
Tosh may be able to speed her way at the technical stuff, but Ianto knew his way around the Information Highway like no one else.
Movement on the other side of his glass gate took his attention. Ianto handed Owen a cup of coffee; Owen politely thanked him and went back to his work. Jack frowned, picked up his cell phone and dialed. Another phone rang. Owen took his cell phone from his pocket and looked at the ID. He turned and looked at Jack
who was waving.
“Could you come in for a moment?” Jack requested sweetly. Owen sighed, put his phone away, and dragged himself to Jack office.
“You couldn’t just yell for me?” Owen asked. “I got minutes, you know.”
Jack gave an absent wave. “You’re voice in my ear… I don’t…. anyway, why are you being nice?”
Owen shifted his feet, tilting his head as he thought about it. “I don’t understand.”
“You haven’t said one nasty thing in a week,” Jack informed him. “Either you’re
on drugs or something else is happening. What’s going on?”
“Nothing is going on,” Owen told him in a huff. “If you like it so much, I’ll be happy to verbally abuse you.”
He turned and walked out of Jack’s office. Jack pursed his lips, watching the man walk to his lab to work on his research project. Personnel records were available at a touch, so Jack brought up Owen’s. A quick scan showed nothing out of the ordinary, no special dates taking place, no missed birthday. A glimpse of Owen’s background always brought a twitch of snarl to Jack’s lips; his mother had been a true bitch. She was an obese woman, now, with a failing liver and diabetic kidneys due to alcohol and bad habits. Jack could only assume that karma works. He wondered if Owen had had recent contact with his mother. Owen was always a little strange after those instances. Jack did a search on her name. Several minutes later he sat back, fingers tapping in thought.
“Are you alright?”
Jack gave a start, not hearing Ianto open the door.
“Yeah, sure.” Jack tapped the screen closed. “Ianto, do you have a good relationship with your family?”
Surprised at the question, Ianto was silent for a moment.
“The family I have left, sure,” he said with a shrug. “Parents are dead, you know that; a few aunts, uncles and cousins around.”
“Do you have good memories of your parents?”
Ianto came in and sat down. “Is there something you’d like to talk about, Jack?”
“No, no,” Jack quickly shook his head. “I think I’ve said plenty to last a while,” he said with a brief smile. “I was just curious. Your file says you were a twin. Do you ever think about her?”
Dark eyebrows went up. “No, I don’t, not really,” Ianto said. “Bethan died when we were born, so I have no memories of her. What about your parents? You didn’t talk about them.”
“Actually, I hardly remember them,” Jack said, gazing inward. “It’s been over 150 years; can you remember 20 years ago? Oh, right, you were about 5. Never mind. How about ten years ago? Well, try remembering 150 years ago. I have warm feelings, lots of love for them, but I can’t see their faces or hear their voices anymore.”
“Jack, really; are you alright?”
He gave Ianto another smile. “It isn’t me I’m thinking about,” he said. “It’s ok. Really. How are you doing after your kidnapping? Any anxiety? You seem to be sleeping alright.”
“I’m good,” Ianto said with a nod. “I knew you’d find me, so I wasn’t worried. I am thinking we should have locator chips implanted subcutaneously, though.”
Jack leaned forward in thought. “GPS’s under the skin? Good idea. The US has subcutaneous ID’s for pets; hasn’t caught on here, yet, though, but I’m sure Tosh and Owen could rig something up.” He stood, walked around his desk, and bent to put his mouth to Ianto’s head. “Knew I kept you around for a reason.”
“I thought I was around to plow your ass?”
Jack smiled on his way out the door. “That, too.”
Several calls were fielded throughout the day from angry museums, collectors, medical labs and town officials, all of whom wanted to know what right Jack had in confiscating unusual skeletons. Jack called the Torchwood lawyers who called the officials back and read them obscure legal codes. Gwen and Tosh were on
their way home with a van full of alien skeletons, and some odds and ends spaceship debris.
It was just before dark that Owen began yelling and throwing things. Jack and Ianto came running, worried that something had crawled into the Hub. In the path lab, metal instruments clattered off the walls, tables and the surgical gurney were shoved across the room.
“Fuckin’ bitch needs to suffer more!” Owen yelled. His face was red and wet. Jack’s eyes found the report on the main computer screen. Judy Harper had died of liver failure ten minutes earlier. Jack jumped Owen, wrestled with the smaller, wiry man, until they were on the ground where he wrapped himself around Owen, holding him tight.
Chapter 4: Life, Fugitive and Infinite
By Michele Briere
Rating: R (Jack/Ianto/Gwen)
Summary: Jack shows his ass and is in major doo-doo with his partners after allowing a situation to get the better of him.
Note: The poem Jack reads is called “Amends to Nature” by Arthur Symons, a Welsh poet.