A/N: I would like to reiterate that the Jack/Ianto slash pairing in this story is not a case of wishful thinking on my part. It is a canon pairing in the actual television show of Torchwood. The only liberties I have taken are with how advanced their relationship is.
On another note, for anyone struggling to understand the character of Jack, and what he's all about, just check out Wikipedia. You'll get all the info you need.
Later that day
Jack was in the sitting room of the hotel suite when Ianto emerged from the bedroom, shuffling slowly across the floor. Looking up at the sound, Jack was on his feet in an instant and at Ianto's side a moment beyond that.
“What the hell are you doing?” Jack asked, his voice soft with concern and affection. “Owen told you to stay in bed.”
Ianto favoured Jack with a flat stare.
“Would you be able to, Jack? I don't think so. Anyway, I'm sick of being on my back.”
Jack grinned, unable to resist such an opportunity.
“Suits me. Next time you can be on top.”
“Don't be a prat,” Ianto murmured with an affectionate smile as Jack ushered him to the nearby lounge suite.
“You bring it out in me,” Jack countered, but Ianto only grinned.
“Jack, anything with a sex drive brings it out in you.”
Jack tried to look mortified, and failed miserably.
“Not my fault,” he said with a chuckle. “That's what happens when you come from a time when the nearest human could be a million light years away.”
“You must have some very intriguing tales to tell from when you were with the Time Agency,” Ianto mused. Jack shrugged.
“Nothing really out of the ordinary.”
“For your time,” Ianto pointed out, and Jack conceded with a nod.
“Fair point. If you don't mind, though, I'll save those stories for another time, when you're fit to rise to the occasion.”
“Incorrigible,” Ianto murmured as Jack leaned in to kiss him briefly. He could feel the other man smile against his lips.
“I hope so.”
A sharp beeping interrupted their moment, and Jack pulled back with reluctance to look down at his leather wrist control.
“Always at the wrong moment...”
Ianto smiled amusedly as Jack flipped the top open and began to manipulate dials.
“What is it?” Ianto asked after several long seconds of silence.
“It's an alert,” Jack answered, quickly becoming serious again. “Someone's searching on the internet about Torchwood... and I bet I know who.”
“Our detective friends,” Ianto said, and Jack nodded.
“More than likely.” He sighed. “I was really hoping that I wouldn't have to ret-con them. Stubborn idiots...”
“Would have thought you'd need to after this morning, anyway,” Ianto said.
“I suppose so,” Jack sighed. Ianto stared at him curiously.
“You really don't want to, do you? What is it about them that you're so reluctant? You didn't have any problems giving Gwen the ret-con that time.”
“Maybe I'm just a little less eager to dish it out after what happened with Suzie.”
“That's not it,” Ianto stated flatly, and Jack had to concede.
“No,” he agreed. “That's not it. There's something about them... and about Bobby in particular. I think that they're open-minded enough to be able to deal with all of this.”
“That's not the point, Jack,” Ianto reminded him gently.
“I know,” Jack murmured. “I'd better let Tosh know, and tell her to deal with it.”
“She's at One Police Plaza?” Ianto wondered, and Jack nodded in confirmation as he leaned forward to the laptop that was sitting on the coffee table, and tapped out a quick message to Tosh.
“Yes, along with Gwen and Owen.”
“And you're here because...?”
“Owen didn't want you left alone,” Jack said with a noncommittal shrug as he settled back into the couch beside Ianto. “He had this crazy idea that if we left you here alone you'd do something stupid like try to get up.”
Ianto's lips curved upwards in a slow grin that Jack found incredibly sexy.
“Wonder where he got that idea.”
“Yeah,” Jack chuckled. “I wonder. Anyway, it doesn't matter that I'm here. Probably best anyway, after what happened this morning.”
“In the Park?”
“No, here in the hotel. I hit their captain.”
“Hey, he deserved it!” Jack argued. “Anyway, it doesn't matter. Better to be away from there for a while. And Tosh, Gwen and Owen are just doing what they can for the moment. We've been side-tracked a little by what happened this morning. Tonight we'll have to talk through what we're going to do about the Grysliaak.”
Ianto was silent for a long moment before speaking.
“You're certain, then? You're positive it's one of those creatures?”
Jack nodded soberly.
“Owen came back with the results of the scans he did on the bodies. There's no doubt.”
Before Ianto had a chance to say anything, though, Jack spoke quickly and firmly.
“Ianto, there's something I'm going to ask you to do, and you need to swear to me that you'll follow these instructions to the letter.”
“Of course,” Ianto murmured, though at the same time he felt his stomach lurch uncomfortably. “What is it that you need me to do?”
“This is if something happens to me,” Jack told him quietly. “This creature... if it finds out about me, it's going to target me. Life forces are its prime source of food, and I'm an unending supply. If that happens, and I disappear, I need you to make sure that none of you come after me.”
The horrified look on Ianto's face rent at Jack, but he went on quickly, in a strained voice.
“Just listen to me, Ianto. Don't argue. I'm not telling you to do nothing. I'm telling you not to do something that will get any of you killed. If what I said happens, I want you to call Martha Jones. Her contact details are in the Torchwood database. I put them there myself. If I disappear, what I want you to do is wait for twelve hours, and if you don’t hear from me in that time then you call her, and give her a very specific message.”
Ianto's breath caught in his throat as he realised Jack really was serious.
“What message?” he asked hoarsely. Jack was silent for a moment, as though mulling over exactly what to say. Then, he spoke in a soft, solemn voice.
“Tell her, the Captain needs his Doctor. And tell her, Grysliaak.”
“And that's all?” Ianto wondered. Jack nodded.
“That's all you'll need to tell her. She has a means of calling the Doctor, Ianto. And if this operation goes pear-shaped, he's the only one who'll have a chance at stopping the Grysliaak.”
Ianto didn’t respond to that. Inwardly, he knew that Jack’s words were no reflection on the Torchwood team, but he still couldn’t help feeling as though Jack had no faith in them… and in him specifically. As if he knew what was going through the young man’s mind, Jack leaned back in and covered Ianto’s mouth gently with his own in a lingering and affectionate kiss.
“I trust you,” Jack whispered, not bothering to completely disengage himself from Ianto’s mouth as he spoke. “But I know what this thing can do, and the rest of you don’t. I just don’t want to risk losing any of you. I’ll survive it. You wouldn’t, and if that happened, I think that really would kill me.”
Ianto believed him. Maybe there was nothing that could kill Jack permanently in a physical sense, but emotionally and mentally? After what Jack had told him about temporarily losing his sanity while aboard the Valiant, Ianto believed that there were some things that could result in another, even worse kind of death for Jack.
“Promise me,” Jack begged, withdrawing from Ianto a little and staring into the other man’s eyes with a real, palpable desperation. “Please, Ianto. Promise me you won’t do anything stupid.”
“I promise,” Ianto conceded finally, silently hoping that Jack didn’t notice the fingers that he’d crossed behind his back in a determined, if slightly childish gesture.
“Thankyou,” Jack murmured, and Ianto breathed a silent sigh of relief that Jack seemed to have accepted his promise without question.
“Are you all right?” Ianto asked quietly. Jack raised an eyebrow at the unexpected question.
“Me? I’m fine. Why?”
“Because you obviously didn’t get very much sleep last night,” Ianto answered. “Just what time did you leave here this morning?”
The amused look in Jack’s eyes faded.
“I didn’t sleep for very long after I had that nightmare. I think you might have just gone to sleep when I woke up again, so I waited until I was sure that you were fast asleep, and then I got dressed and headed out. Just as well I did, too. I was at the squad room to catch Bobby Goren snooping at our gear.”
“He’s quite persistent,” Ianto mused, and Jack smile almost wistfully.
“Yeah. Yeah, he is.”
Ianto couldn’t find it in himself to take offence, or feel any semblance of jealousy. He’d long accepted that Jack was not the type of man to ever settle down into a monogamous relationship; especially knowing now as he did that anyone Jack involved himself with would eventually age and die, while Jack himself would stay exactly the same. At that point in time, though, he was just happy to accept whatever Jack was willing and able to offer him.
“Relax, Ianto,” Jack said with a low chuckle. “I wasn’t planning on trying to seduce him. I was actually wondering how he’d go working for Torchwood.”
That surprised Ianto, and he took a moment to think out an answer before speaking.
“I didn’t realise you were looking for new recruits, sir.”
Ianto’s sudden reversion back to ‘sir’ wasn’t lost on Jack, and he took the liberty of shuffling slightly closer to the young man.
“I’m not. It was just a thought. Besides, if I tried recruiting anyone else, I’d have the Doctor to deal with. Believe me, that would not be a pretty sight. He’s terrifying when he’s angry.” He paused, and then added lightly. “And I definitely wouldn’t do anything like that without consulting you first. Wouldn’t do to piss off my second-in-command.”
Ianto lifted an eyebrow in bemusement.
“I’m not your second-in-command, Jack. Owen is.”
“Not from where I’m sitting right now,” Jack whispered, leaning in once more for another kiss. Ianto smiled wryly, and surrendered himself to the pleasurable, comforting sensation of Jack’s arms around him, and warm lips on his throat and jaw. Work, he decided, could definitely wait until much later.
“What’s that?” Gwen wondered as Tosh’s laptop suddenly chimed.
“Message from Jack,” she answered, shifting smoothly from the program she was monitoring to the incoming message. “He says Ianto is up and about, and not to tell Owen…”
Gwen snorted with ill-suppressed laughter.
“Owen’ll kill him.”
“Jack or Ianto?” Tosh wondered, feeling a smile creep onto her own face.
“Both,” Gwen retorted. “Ianto, for getting up in the first place; and Jack for letting him.”
“Not if we don’t tell him,” Tosh pointed out, but that only made Gwen laugh all the more.
“C’mon, Tosh. Do you really think Owen won’t know?”
Tosh smiled and started to shake her head dismissively when she realised there was more to the message.
“Hold on a second, there’s more… Oh… Damn…”
“What is it?” Gwen wondered, not feeling particularly concerned by Tosh’s less than energetic exclamation.
“Jack said someone’s trying to search us out on the internet. He wants me to deal with it. He thinks it’s those detectives.”
“Don’t know when to quit, do they?” Gwen muttered, frowning.
“Jack seemed impressed with them,” Tosh mused as she began to type furiously on the laptop. “That is, when they weren’t almost getting Ianto killed.”
Gwen chose not to reply to that, much to Toshiko’s interest. A moment later, she hit the enter key with a flourish.
“There. Most of the sites that mention us are just rubbish sites with no valid information, but if they gain access to any of the sites that have any real information on us, it’ll trigger a virus that will burn out their hard drives and wipe their computer’s memory.”
“Nice,” Gwen said appreciatively. Tosh grinned proudly.
Bobby and Mike were in the kitchen in Bobby’s apartment – Mike helping himself to a bottle of beer from Bobby’s fridge while Bobby made coffee for himself and Alex – when there was a loud buzzing and hissing noise from the study, followed by a shriek from Alex. Exchanging startled looks, the two men hurried around to see what had happened. What they found was Alex sitting frozen in front of Bobby’s computer, staring at a black monitor screen while a thin wisp of smoke escaped the hard drive.
“What happened?” Bobby asked, stunned. Alex let her breath out in a long hiss to rival the noise the computer had made.
“Someone set up a virus to attack the moment anyone accesses certain sites. It’s burned your computer out, Bobby.”
Bobby wasn’t sure whether to be upset at the apparent loss of his computer or impressed by the skill it must have taken to set up such a trap. Mike had leaned in for a closer look, meanwhile, and whistled softly.
“Wow, that thing is toast.” He paused, glancing back at Bobby who still looked bemused. “Sorry, Bobby.”
“It’s okay,” he murmured. “It’s just a computer. Are you okay, Alex? It didn’t give you a shock, did it?”
She shook her head, slowly pushing away from the computer.
“No. Just fizzed out on me. I’ve never seen anything like this happen before. They really are hell bent on protecting their secrets.”
“You think Torchwood is responsible,” Bobby murmured. It wasn’t a question. Alex responded with a decisive nod.
“Yes, I do. I’m sure of it. I went through a heap of sites that had nothing important on them, but when I finally found something that did have something… at least, I think it did… this happened! Now I really want to know what they’re hiding.”
Bobby hesitated, and then spoke softly, so softly that both Mike and Alex had to struggle to hear him.
“I think that maybe we might have gotten an eyeful of what they’re trying to hide this morning.”
Both Mike and Alex looked around at him, one puzzled and the other suspicious.
“How do you mean?” Mike wondered, but Alex had already guessed.
“That… That thing,” she murmured. “You’re thinking what I’m thinking, aren’t you? Please, tell me you are.”
“It wasn’t human,” Bobby said softly, feeling a rush of relief that he was not the only one harbouring those thoughts and suspicions.
“Not human?” Mike echoed, sounding incredulous. “C’mon, guys, if it wasn’t human, then what was it, some kind of mutated animal? You both said it stood up on two legs, after all. If it wasn’t human…”
“Alien,” Bobby said abruptly. Silence met his statement, and then Mike burst out laughing.
“Alien? Pal, are you sure you didn’t bang your head? That is insane!”
“No, it’s not,” Alex said suddenly in a strained voice. “You didn’t see it, Mike. It wasn’t like anything I’ve ever seen before. It had this red, rippled skin… claws for hands… Its teeth were long and sharp and it had huge canines. But its eyes… Its eyes were almost human. Almost, but not quite. Mike, I know it sounds crazy, but I think Bobby might be right. I think it might be alien.”
Mike shook his head, a dark look descending onto his features.
“No way, I can’t accept that. I just can’t.”
With that, he turned and strode from the room, leaving them behind.
“Thankyou,” Bobby murmured once Mike had gone from the room. Alex looked up at him, puzzled.
“For what?” she asked.
“For believing me,” he answered simply. A weary smile flickered across Alex’s face.
“It’s okay. I have to admit, I’m finding it a little hard to get my head around it all, but I really do think you’re right. And anyway, just saying it’s alien doesn’t necessarily have to mean we think it’s from another world, or something like that. Right?”
It was a desperate effort to try and put some sense into something that made no sense whatsoever to either one of them, and Bobby wasn’t going to argue with her over it. Instead, he reached up and took her hand in his in a gesture of wordless solidarity. Mike could believe whatever he wanted to believe. Bobby took comfort in knowing that even though Alex was still struggling to accept what seemed to be right in front of their faces, she was at least making a genuine effort.
He could understand she was frightened. He was, too, but he was also prepared to follow this path to wherever it led them both, and he was more grateful than he was capable of expressing to know that she was, as she had said so many times before, good for the ride.
“I’m telling you, this is not a good idea,” Owen said, not for the first time, as the Torchwood team walked slowly along the Manhattan street.
It was night time, and the New York night life was positively teeming. When Gwen, Tosh and Owen returned to the hotel, Gwen had enthusiastically urged them to get out for a while, and experience the city. Despite Jack’s reservations, Gwen had been insistent and had gradually won them over. The only one less than enthusiastic had been Owen, though his concerns were primarily for Ianto, who he maintained should have stayed in bed in their hotel suite.
That had proven to be an interesting discussion when they came back to the hotel, to find Jack and Ianto cuddled up together on the couch and in the middle of what appeared to be a prolonged embrace. Owen had exploded, first blasting Jack for not keeping his promise to make sure Ianto stayed in bed, and then blasting Ianto for daring to get up.
Tosh and Gwen had watched the medic’s outburst in trepidation, half-expecting Jack to get up and silence Owen by way of a fist to the face. To the astonishment not only of Gwen and Tosh, but Owen as well, both Jack and Ianto had burst out laughing and hadn’t been able to stop for nearly twenty minutes. Every time they seemed to be getting themselves under control, one would look at the other, and they would simply dissolve into laughter once more.
In the end, Ianto won himself a severe gut cramp, but even that hadn’t been able to keep the grin off his face. It had been at that point that Gwen had suggested they leave the hotel for a meal, rather than just ordering pizza or Chinese, as they were so often wont to do, and Ianto had been the first to agree.
Thanks to the concierge, they had found themselves enjoying a quiet dinner at a little, out of the way restaurant near the hotel. Afterwards, though, both Gwen and Tosh had resisted returning to the hotel, wanting to go on elsewhere and, as Gwen had put it, enjoy the city’s nightlife. Jack had protested, until Ianto sidled up to him and whispered something to him that the others couldn’t hear, but all three were able to guess at the content. The way Jack’s face lit up was a dead giveaway, and Owen pounced on them both.
“When I said no strenuous activity, that included sex!”
The women had been reduced to peels of laughter as Jack’s expression went from ecstatic to sulky in the space of a few seconds. Ianto had murmured something else to Jack, and the Captain had brightened just a little, enough to concede to the women’s request to find somewhere else to spend some time.
That was where they found themselves now, walking along a Manhattan street and looking for somewhere that might suit their distinctly British tastes. What had prompted Owen’s irritated comment was the way Ianto was getting slower and slower, as the pain from his injuries was slowly starting to overtake him once more. Jack eyed his lover in obvious concern.
“I can get us a taxi if you want, to take us back to the hotel.”
“No, I’m okay,” Ianto assured him.
“Ianto...” Jack started to protest.
“Jack, I said I’m okay,” Ianto insisted. “And besides, you’ve had me shut up inside the suite for most of the day. I needed to get outside for a while, because knowing you, I’ll be stuck inside One Police Plaza all day tomorrow. Just... don’t go too quickly, and I’ll be fine. It really isn’t hurting that badly.”
“Bullshit,” Owen snorted. “You’re crap at lying, Teaboy.”
“But it isn’t,” Ianto protested. “Really...”
“Look, what about that place?” Gwen asked suddenly, anxious to put and end to the developing argument. They all looked around to see where she was pointing. It was a bar called O’Reilly’s, and from the looks of it, it wasn’t terribly crowded.
“Okay,” Jack agreed. “We’ll get a couple of drinks, and then we have to get back to the hotel. We do still have work to do, people.”
Gwen nodded enthusiastically in agreement, and led the way across the street, and into the bar.
“If you ask me, I think this is a bad idea.”
“Good thing we didn’t ask you, then, Mike,” Alex retorted as Mike brought drinks back to the booth for himself, Bobby and Alex. Mike shook his head ruefully.
“Look at me, I’m saying it’s a bad idea to go to a bar and get pissed.”
“Yeah, the world is going to implode and all existence will grind to a halt,” Bobby said with a smirk. Mike glowered at him half-heartedly.
“Don’t be a smart ass, Goren. Just because you’re injured doesn’t mean I won’t smack you.”
“That’s Alex’s job,” Bobby threw back at him, and Alex just rolled her eyes as she held the Scotch up for him to have a mouthful.
“This is your last one, Bobby. Anymore, and you won’t be capable of taking yourself to bed when we get back to your apartment, and I doubt Mike will want to help you out.”
“Hey, why me?” Mike protested. Alex raised an eyebrow at him.
“Do I even have to bother answering that, Logan?”
Mike shook his head.
“No. Forget I asked.”
Bobby sighed as he tested his current inability to pick up glasses on an empty Scotch glass. It slid out of his bandaged hands, fell onto its side on the table and was only saved from rolling off onto the floor by Alex’s quick reflexes.
“Definitely your last one,” she retorted. “Then we’re taking you home. Seriously, Bobby, your hands must be hurting like hell by now.”
“Nope,” he replied with a tired smile and a faint spark in his eyes that hinted to Alex that he was not nearly as drunk as his actions suggested. “I’m self-medicating tonight.”
“Idiot,” she murmured affectionately.
“Hey,” Mike murmured as his gaze went beyond Alex. “Look at who just walked in.”
Both Bobby and Alex looked up simultaneously, and immediately saw who Mike was talking about. Captain Jack Harkness and his team had just walked into the bar.
Apparently oblivious to everyone around them, Jack led the way over to an empty booth and, as the three detectives watched with interest, aided the young Welshman who had been injured earlier that day in sitting down and sliding over to the wall of the booth. The other man and the two women crowded comfortably into the other side and Jack spoke to them briefly – taking orders, they assumed – before turning and heading to the bar.
“Guess Ross was right,” Alex mused. “Maybe he wasn’t hurt as badly as we thought.”
Bobby, however, looked less than certain. As he watched, his sharp eyes picked out the way that Ianto winced as he tried to shift himself into a more comfortable position. He was in pain, Bobby realised, and probably a lot of it. Before he quite realised it, Bobby was sliding out of the booth.
“What the hell are you doing?” Mike asked, frowning.
“Making amends,” Bobby replied quietly, and headed away towards the bar before either Mike or Alex could stop him.
Jack was just reaching for the money clip that was tucked away within the folds of his coat when a familiar voice spoke to the barman from beside him.
“Put those drinks on my tab, Rick.”
The barman nodded cheerfully.
“Whatever you say, Bobby.”
Jack looked sideways to find Bobby standing there beside him, leaning gingerly against the bar. He kept his expression carefully neutral as he looked the other man over.
“Thanks,” he said passively, not giving a thing away. Bobby gave a slight shrug.
“It’s the least I can do. Look... I’m sorry for what happened this morning. We did the wrong thing, and you were right. We shouldn’t have been there.”
“No,” Jack agreed. “You shouldn’t have been there.” He paused, eyeing Bobby’s thickly bandaged hands. “How’re the hands?”
“They hurt... but it could’ve been worse,” Bobby answered softly. Jack nodded.
“Yes. It could have been. You could have been dead right along with that kid.”
Bobby hesitated, and then spoke again in a tone that suggested he was struggling to form the right words.
“That kid shouldn’t have been there, either. That’s on our heads, not yours.”
Jack raised an eyebrow slightly. It was clear he’d not expected such a contrite apology. Bobby’s expression was not entirely passive, though, and his next words held the barest level of threat in them.
“But that aside, a cop did die today and yet, according to every official avenue, he’s not even been reported missing.”
“You want to know if we covered it up?” Jack asked, but Bobby shook his head.
“No. I know you covered it up.”
“Then what do you want, Bobby?”
“Uncover it. That kid deserves better.”
“Sorry,” Jack replied, sounding as though he wasn’t the least bit sorry. “Can’t do it.”
“Why not?” Bobby demanded, suddenly struggling not to get angry. Jack turned to face him head on.
“Think about it. Think about what happened this morning. Knowing what you humans are like, you’ve probably already constructed some false memory to explain something that you really have no explanation for. You try to tell the powers that be what really happened this morning, and they’ll have you in a psyche evaluation faster than you can blink. We’re protecting you and your partner by covering up that kid’s death.”
“What, so I should be grateful?”
“I’m not that much of an idiot, that I'd make that assumption.”
“And neither am I, Jack. I’ll tell you what happened this morning. A young cop was killed by a creature that wasn’t human, and wasn’t an animal. I can’t tell you what it was, because I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life, and part of me hopes I never do again. I can’t say anything for sure, but I believe it was probably alien.”
Anyone else would not have registered a change in Jack’s expression, but Bobby was highly trained and even more highly skilled, and he easily picked up on a very slight shift in Jack’s eyes. It was minute, and oh so fleeting, but it was there, and Bobby knew he’d struck a chord.
“I’m right, aren’t I?” he asked quietly. “That creature wasn’t even from this world. Which then begs the question, how did it get here in the first place and secondly, are there anymore out there?”
Bobby was on a roll, though, his mind shifting into high gear as more puzzle pieces began to drop into place.
“You all looked like you knew exactly what you were doing out there this morning... which makes me think you deal with creatures like that on a regular basis. That’s what Torchwood is really about, isn’t it? You’re not some agency like the CIA. You deal with aliens, don’t you? Makes sense, after everything that’s happened around the world in the last couple of years... That spaceship over London last Christmas... What happened at Canary Wharf...”
It was with some effort that Jack contained his surprise. Before he had a chance to say a word, though, Bobby went on in a soft, urgent voice.
“And if that’s all true, then why are you here now... unless...”
Jack felt the muscles in his gut clench almost painfully as he waited for the inevitable. Bobby paused, staring at Jack in shocked realisation.
“The one who’s been killing those people... It isn’t human, is it? It’s alien. That’s why you’re here.”
Slowly, Jack slipped one hand inside his coat pocket, and closed around a small tube that he always carried with him, a tube with a minimal supply of ret-con. He had no intention of giving Bobby a dose yet. There was no point in doing that until it was time to leave... but he was certain now that he had no choice. Bobby Goren would have to be ret-conned.
“You’re a perceptive guy,” Jack remarked softly. Bobby, for his part, seemed to be taking no joy in the revelation.
“What is it?” he asked softly. “What is it that’s killing those people?”
Jack stared at him intently.
“You’re better off not knowing,” he said simply. “Thanks for the drinks, Bobby. Now, go back to your friends, and forget about all of this. For your own sake, forget about all of it.”
Picking up the tray with the drinks, Jack turned and carried it back to the booth where his team sat. Bobby watched him go, a leaden feeling in his stomach. He felt no joy in the discovery, and the triumph was a bitter one, for it only confirmed that he had finally come across a killer that he was no match for. He stood at the bar, watching shamelessly as the five members of Torchwood fell into a lively conversation. Minutes past, and then Jack glanced back at him. For just a brief moment, the two men locked gazes, and Bobby could almost swear he could hear Jack’s voice echo within his mind.
Go back to your friends. Forget about us.
Forget? Bobby thought with a fresh wave of bitterness as he finally turned to go and rejoin Alex and Mike. He would never be able to forget. Never.
“Jack?” Gwen asked softly. “What is it?”
He tore his gaze away from Bobby, and forced a smile onto his face that he was certain that Gwen could see through.
“Nothing. It’s nothing.”
“What did that detective have to say?” Ianto wondered as he sipped at the soda Jack had brought back to the table for him. Jack paused, and then settled on a half truth.
“He wanted to apologise for nearly getting you killed this morning.”
Ianto raised an eyebrow.
“And what?” Jack asked a touch defensively. For a long moment Jack and Ianto stared at each other. Then Ianto seemed to concede, and shook his head.
Jack grunted as he picked up his glass of water.
“Great. We’ve established a whole lot of nothing.”
A surreptitious glance reassured him that Bobby had finally rejoined his friends. Although they were still looking in the team’s direction, that was easy enough to ignore. Not so much when the big detective was standing staring at them from just a few metres away.
He took a mouthful of water, only to grimace a little and set the glass back down. There was nothing wrong with it, per se, but it just wasn’t the same as the cool, clear water he could get from the pubs in Cardiff.
He came back to the present to realise that Ianto had pushed his soda across to him. Jack hesitated, and then decided what the hell. He took a mouthful, relishing the slightly bitter after-taste that it left in his mouth.
“Thanks,” he murmured. “Water’s not quite the same here.”
“And you actually sound surprised by that.”
Jack smiled, but before he had a chance to say anything in response, Gwen let out an undignified squawk.
“A juke box! Owen, give me a quarter?”
Suspicion flooded Owen’s face.
“Because I want to hear some music, and maybe have a dance,” she retorted. “Why do you think?”
Owen shook his head.
“Oh no. No way. You’re not getting me up there.”
Jack watched the exchange with amusement, and something in him gave at Gwen’s crestfallen expression. Digging into a coat pocket, he produced a quarter and tossed it to her. Throwing a triumphant grin at Owen, Gwen rushed off to the jukebox to pick a suitable song.
“I’m going to get you for that, Harkness,” Owen told him wryly. Jack, however, only grinned back at him as he slid out of the booth and went to join Gwen as the sound of The Four Season’s song Oh, What a Night filled the air. The look on her face was priceless as Jack took her by her hands and began to dance with her, but the astonishment rapidly faded to be replaced by a genuine enjoyment as Jack expertly led her around the floor.
“Tosh, would you care to dance?”
Toshiko’s eyes widened slightly at Ianto’s soft but sincere offer.
“Are you…? I mean…”
He smiled reassuringly at her, and edged out of the booth, holding out a hand for her to join him. After just a moment’s hesitation, Tosh accepted and Owen was left alone in the booth, rolling his eyes in mock exasperation at his colleagues.
“Well, at least they’re having fun,” Mike remarked dryly as the detectives watched the two couples move easily around the floor. Alex nodded.
“Yeah,” she agreed, and neither Bobby nor Mike could possibly miss the wistful note in her voice. “They are, aren’t they?”
Bobby and Mike exchanged glances, and then Bobby spoke tentatively.
“I’d be happy with dance with you, Alex, but…”
He trailed off, looking helplessly at his bandaged hands. Alex smiled warmly at him, knowing full well that his offer was sincere. He would have danced with her, if he could.
“It’s okay, Bobby. Mike, on the other hand, doesn’t have any excuse.”
Mike’s eyes went wide, and his mouth opened to utter a protest. Before a sound could escape, though, Alex had slid out of their booth, grabbed him by the wrist and hauled him out onto the floor to join the two couples already dancing.
Bobby watched in amusement, and was so caught up in the sight of Alex effectively leading Mike that he didn’t immediately notice that he was no longer alone in the booth.
“Lucky you, you have an excuse.”
Bobby looked around in surprise to see that the young man he recognised as being the Torchwood medical examiner had slid into the booth to sit opposite him.
“Sorry?” he asked, mildly confused, and Owen motioned to his hands.
“Them. You have an excuse not to get dragged out there.”
“Oh… Well, I would have, if I could. I… I like dancing.”
“More fool you.”
A slight smile curved up the corners of Bobby’s mouth as it occurred to him that the bitterness in Owen’s voice could easily be attributed to jealousy of his two male colleagues.
“You can’t dance.”
It wasn’t a question. Owen frowned darkly in response.
“I bloody well can. I just choose not to. None of your damn business anyway.”
Bobby held up his hands defensively.
“Fine. But you are the one who came over here.”
“Yeah, I did. So much for male solidarity.”
Bobby chuckled and returned his attention to the floor. The song had ended and now all three women were at the jukebox picking a new song, while their partners waited.
“I don’t know any of these,” Tosh lamented as she peered at the choices. Gwen looked around, and nudged Alex lightly.
“Go on, pick one. Alex smiled and leaned in closer to look.
“Something to pick up the pace a little,” she mused, and then her face lit up. “Perfect! Rogue Traders! This one’ll get things moving.”
She punched in the right number, and a moment later pounding music filled the air.
“Oh, great,” Mike groaned as Alex rejoined him. “Seriously, Alex, are you trying to kill me?”
“No, but I might if you don’t keep dancing,” she teased him lightly. “I still have my gun on, Logan.”
Mike grimaced and did his best to match Alex’s moves.
“Are you okay?” Tosh asked Ianto as he took her hands in his again. “I can get Owen if you’re not…”
“I’m fine,” he assured her. “Really. I’m enjoying this.”
Relief filled Toshiko’s face, and she allowed Ianto to take the lead once more.
Jack froze, his stomach dropping right to the floor and his heart clenching painfully in his chest at the sound of the song that filled the air. It was a song he had not heard for over a year in his time, but the memories that he now associated with it were still as fresh as though they had just happened. Dimly, he was aware of Gwen coming back to him and starting to dance, but he just stood there, motionless, as nausea and panic rolled continuously through his stomach in ever increasing waves.
“Jack? Jack, what’s wrong…?”
He heard her voice, but it didn’t register and, all of a sudden, he was transported to another place, and another time – into a memory that he had desperately tried to escape.
He came back to life with a whimper this time, rather than a wild gasp, and was confused and frightened to realise that his chest was still on fire from where he’d been hit by the blast from the Master’s laser screwdriver. In fact, it hurt so much that he could barely breathe. There were arms around him, though – comforting arms that held him close. Martha’s arms…
But her attention was not on him. Rather, she was staring at something else. The Doctor…
Jack realised in an instant what was happening, and with that realisation came the horrific understanding that they were not going to win. Before he could think twice about what he was doing, Jack removed his vortex manipulator and pressed it into Martha’s hands.
Martha looked at him, horrified.
“We can’t stop him. Get out of here.”
She hadn’t fled immediately, though. Instead, she’d left him to curl up on the floor in agony while she crawled over to the Doctor’s side.
What followed was a vision that would never be forgotten by himself, the Doctor, Martha and her family. The Master announcing the end of the world, triggering the paradox machine and releasing billions of deadly spheres into the Earth’s present through a literal tear in the fabric of space and time, and all to the pounding noise of the pop song Voodoo Child…
“Jack?” Gwen cried out in alarm as he stumbled and dropped to his knees, his face the colour of ash and his breath coming in ragged, erratic gasps. All movement came to an abrupt end as Torchwood members and Major Case detectives alike went to Jack’s aid. Owen pushed through roughly, crouching down beside his leader.
“Jack, you’re hyperventilating, mate. You need to breathe. C’mon, Captain, breathe!”
Owen’s voice cut through the shock and the wrenching fear that was induced by his memories, and Jack came back to reality with a strangled gasp. He reached for the nearest body, grabbing hold of broad shoulders in an effort to steady himself, and as his vision slowly cleared, he realised with dismay that it was Bobby whose shoulders he was clinging to.
There was no condemnation or mockery in the detective’s eyes, though. There was only sympathy, and an odd sort of understanding.
“Are you okay?” Bobby asked quietly, sincere in his concern. Jack glanced around slowly. They were all looking at him with that same expression, and all of a sudden he couldn’t cope.
Sick with guilt over allowing his memories and emotions to overcome him, not only in front of his own team but also in front of three NYPD detectives who he suspected would use any advantage to get the better of Torchwood, Jack staggered to his feet and fled the bar.
“What the hell was that all about?” Mike growled as Ianto went after Jack. He didn’t really expect an answer, and was surprised when Gwen spoke in a strained voice.
“The music. There must be something about this song…”
“He was remembering something,” Bobby said abruptly, looking around at each of the three remaining Torchwood members with a piercing stare. “This song triggered a memory in him… and a bad one at that.”
Owen frowned as he got to his feet.
“Yes, thankyou, Dr Phil.”
“Owen, knock it off,” Tosh growled.
He glowered right back at her, but any further arguments were silenced when Ianto walked back in, worry creasing his brow.
“Where’s Jack?” Gwen asked anxiously, hoping furiously that Ianto would say he was right outside.
“Gone,” Ianto said grimly. “I caught up with him outside, but then he said he needed some time to himself, and he took off. Told us to head back to the hotel and read those files.”
“That’s just wonderful,” Owen snapped. “He takes off and we have to read bloody case files. When he comes back, I’m going to…”
“Do nothing,” Ianto cut in swiftly, levelling a distinctly warning look at the other man. For a split second it looked as though Owen was going to argue, but then he changed his mind and, with an unintelligible grunt, he snatched up his jacket and stormed out.
“Is there anything we can do to help?” Alex asked, genuinely concerned. “If you need help to find him…”
Ianto favoured her with a warm smile.
“We appreciate the offer, Detective Eames, but I think he’ll be fine. He just needs some time alone to sort out his thoughts. No need to concern yourselves. If you’ll excuse us now, we’ll be heading back to our hotel.”
“If you need anything,” Bobby said, nodding briefly to Alex, who produced a card from her pocket, “please call us. Anytime.”
Ianto smiled again, and politely accepted the car.
“Thankyou, but he’ll be fine. He always is. Good night, then.”
He, Tosh and Gwen headed out after their recalcitrant colleague. The detectives watched them go in sombre silence, and it was not until the bar door had swung shut that Mike spoke in a quiet, grim tone.
“That had to have been one hell of a bad memory to do that to the guy.”
Bobby nodded in agreement.
“I know. I just wonder what was behind it. I think Jack is hiding some very big demons from everyone, including his own team.”
“I don’t know about that,” Alex remarked. “None of them looked especially surprised. I think they had a fair idea what that was all about, even if they didn’t know the specifics.”
“Let’s just hope we can figure him… and the rest of them… out really soon,” Mike said tersely as he collected all their jackets and helped Bobby to get his on. “Before someone else gets killed.”
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