A/N: And this is purely because I couldn't wait to post this...
In an unfamiliar city, and overcome with distress, Jack followed his instinct and made for the first place he could think of that offered him a high vantage point. He slipped through into the Empire State Building, even as people were leaving for the night. Ignoring the elevators, he instead headed for the stairs, taking them at a run.
By the time he reached the top, his leg muscles were threatening to cramp and his lungs were burning, but he relished the brief distraction that the physical discomforts afforded him. Paying no attention to the people who were still milling about, Jack made his way across to a darker, unpopulated corner of the lookout.
It was nowhere near as solitary as he really needed it to be, but with just a little effort he found he was able to block out the voices and sounds of those nearby, until it felt as though he was alone. Once he’d achieved that temporary sense of solitude, Jack reflected on the events of that evening, and cursed his own stupidity and carelessness.
Silently, he berated himself for such a public display of emotion in the club earlier. Disgust filled him at the thought that he had allowed a song… a stupid song…to overwhelm him. Although, he conceded with some reluctance, in all fairness to himself, the memories were terrible. He had even witnessed the Doctor himself being brought to a pause by them a couple of times.
It was no excuse, though, and he knew that he was going to have a hard time of it the next time he had to face Bobby Goren and his colleagues. The worst part was the sympathy and understanding that he had seen in Bobby’s eyes. The guy had no clue, Jack thought bitterly, and if he thought he’d made some sort of connection, then he was wrong.
Jack drew in a long breath as the burning in his lungs from the long climb up the stairs slowly began to subside. He was grateful that the height of his vantage point put him well clear of the city’s pollution. Next time, he mused, he would perhaps head to Liberty Island, and go up inside the Statue of Liberty. That would give him all the solitude he could possibly want, given that it had not yet been reopened to tourists.
“Excuse me, sir. Excuse me, I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to leave. We’re closing the observation area for the night.”
Jack turned as the voice gradually cut into his consciousness, and was surprised to find that all the people were gone. How long had he been up there for, he wondered. The security guard offered him an apologetic, if slightly nervous smile.
“I’m sorry, sir, but I really need to close the area.”
“It’s okay,” Jack assured him. “Thankyou.”
The guard seemed relieved by his compliance, Jack thought bemusedly, and he wondered how many times this man had been forced to confront would-be jumpers.
“Thankyou, sir. I’ve already locked the doors to stop anyone else coming up, so if you’d just like to wait near the elevators, I’ll collect the other gentleman, and I’ll take you both down together.”
Jack paused, watching as the guard crossed the deck to where a figure stood in a hood and cloak, apparently staring out at the city. The guard called to him a couple of times, only to get no response. With visible frustration, he covered the rest of the distance and closed his hand over the man’s shoulder.
“Sir, you have to leave now. I’m sorry, sir, but it’s time.”
Abruptly, the figure turned.
“Yes,” he spoke in a soft, rasping whisper that nevertheless carried clear across to where Jack stood. “It is time.”
And then the cloaked, faceless figure was on the guard. At the same instant, all the security cameras within proximity suddenly fizzed and then blew. Jack’s own earpiece did the same, buzzing viciously in his ear for a second before going dead. Momentarily ignoring it, though, Jack reacted purely on instinct and adrenalin, ripping his gun from its holster and running forward.
“Stop! Let him go!”
The creature’s head came up sharply, and Jack skidded to a halt barely metres away, an ice cold wave of panic crashing down over him as he found himself staring at a pair of all-too-familiar red eyes.
“Handsome Jack,” the creature hissed at him. “It’s been so long, and I’m so hungry.”
Its head dropped again, and Jack was unable to break his paralysis as a grotesque slurping noise broke the otherwise still atmosphere. Jack stood, rooted to the spot, as the memories of his many encounters with the Grysliaak on board the Valiant erupted violently to the surface of his mind. Horror and nausea gripped him as a new, even more terrifying realisation struck.
It knows me… It knows my name… It’s the same one…
Slowly, the Grysliaak detached itself from the guard and rose back up, those dull red eyes locking onto Jack with unmistakable intent. The life energy it had drawn from the guard had given it a sloppy sort of half-shape within the folds of its cloak, not quite solid and dripping a mucous-like fluid over its victim.
The voice grated on him like fingernails down a chalkboard, and Jack was backing away even as the creature advanced. He’d retreated all the way to the wall before he remembered that he was not a defenceless prisoner anymore. Summoning all his nerves, he brought the Webley up in a steady aim that belied the very real terror he was feeling.
The Grysliaak slowed to a halt, but any hope Jack had that it might have been intimidated, or even afraid of him, evaporated when it started to laugh.
“Brave Captain Jack,” it hissed in between cruel bursts of laughter. “You think that would hurt me? I’m shapeless, Jack. Remember?”
And with that, it threw off the cloak entirely that helped to form its human-shaped shell, to reveal the formless mass of energy and semi-solid goo that it really was.
Jack holstered his Webley with trembling hands, knowing full well that it was useless against this monster. In the end, he did the only thing he could do. He turned and ran.
The elevator doors slid open, and security guard Norbert Johnson stepped out, his eyes scanning the area in an exaggerated display. His buddy had come up a good ten or fifteen minutes ago to clear the observation deck, and as yet he had not come back. According to the security cameras, there were still two civilians on the deck when he came up. Norbert had watched as he spoke to one, but when he’d gone to get the other, a sudden surge of power had shorted out the cameras.
Norbert stepped out slowly onto the deck, and spotted his buddy a second later, sprawled on his back on the ground. Horrified, he ran to help, but it was obvious from a mere glance that it was too late. He was already long dead.
A sickening mixture of fear and anger rose up in him as he realised that the two men still on the deck had to have killed his buddy. He was just reaching for his radio to call for help when a new sound shattered the quiet.
The sound of screaming, pain-filled and utterly soul-wrenching, reached his ears and very nearly sent him running back to the elevator. Getting hold of himself at the last moment, though, Norbert pulled out his gun with shaking hands, and went to investigate.
Even as Jack ran, he knew it was pointless. For starters, he was only going in circles, as the only way off the observation deck was via elevator, stairwell, or jumping. The door to the elevators and the stairs, he knew, could only be accessed now with the guard’s key card, and to stop and search the dead man for that would only give the Grysliaak the time it needed to catch up to him.
Alternatively, he wasn’t quite desperate enough to go jumping off the Empire State Building. He really hadn’t packed anywhere near enough ret-con to cover a stunt like that.
He paused just briefly and risked glancing back over his shoulder. The Grysliaak was nowhere in sight, even though he could sense its presence with every fibre of his being. It was the one thing he had in his favour, he mused grimly. For a floating mass of energy, it was actually pretty damned slow. Not that it needed speed on its side, of course. After all, he was effectively trapped, with nowhere to go.
He could sense it coming closer again, and ducked around the next corner. There was absolutely nowhere to hide, and all he could do was to keep moving, and hope for the best. He tried his earpiece almost as an afterthought but, as he’d suspected, it was dead, shorted out. There would be no help forthcoming from his friends… even if they’d had a chance of reaching him in time.
He heard a familiar chime, and realised it was the sound of the elevator, which could only mean a second guard had arrived. Part of him wanted to shout a warning to the unfortunate soul, while another part of him wanted to throw caution to the wind and make a dash for safety.
Jack shut his eyes for a split second, forcibly stomping down on both urges. Panicking would get him nowhere, fast. And it was then, as he was trying to regroup and decide what to do, that he heard the Grysliaak’s voice violating the sanctity of his mind.
Fresh meat… Your choice, my Jacky. Who will it be; you or him?
Jack felt sick, thoroughly and utterly sick. Of course, there was no decision to debate. There was no way he could allow another innocent life to be taken… even at the cost of his own suffering. His choice made by grim necessity, Jack steeled himself and stepped out into the open.
He didn’t even have a chance to speak before the creature was on him. There was no warning, and he had no chance. In the space of a second, Jack found himself thrown violently to the ground, his head bouncing painfully off the concrete. The blow left him momentarily stunned, and a moment was all the Grysliaak needed to take complete control.
Jack’s body arched involuntarily as he felt the all-too-familiar sensation of what equated to the creature’s mouth latching onto his throat. It was a god-awful sensation that had him wanting to scream. Then, the sucking began, and with it came the pain.
Norbert rounded the corner to be confronted with a horrific sight. Nearby, a man lay on the ground, his body rigid with agony and his hands clawing upwards seemingly at nothing, and all the while the most horrendous screams erupted from his lips. At first, he thought the guy was some sort of loon – perhaps having a breakdown of some sort. But then, as he looked harder, he realised how wrong he was.
Above the man, there was something slowly starting to take shape and become visible and solid – something that seemed to have thoroughly attached itself like a leech to the man who lay on the ground. There was a dreadful sucking/slurping noise, like something was being sucked up through a straw, and even as Norbert watched, he fancied that he could almost see the man’s life leaving him.
What was truly burned into Norbert’s mind, though, was the contorted look of sheer agony on the man’s face. His screams shattered the otherwise still night, gradually degenerating into gurgling moans which, in turn, were eventually silenced completely, but it was that look of pure pain that tore into Norbert’s very soul.
And then, suddenly, it was over. The monstrous creature was rising up, and turning to face him. For a long, heart-stopping moment, Norbert found himself staring into the eyes of the devil.
He thought he was dead. He really honestly believed that his time was up, and so his confusion was palpable when the creature circled around him, making no attempt to attack.
“A message,” the creature hissed, evil red eyes locking with terrified blue ones. “A message for Torchwood.” A strange, glutinous appendage that Norbert suspected was an arm stretched out in the direction of the man’s lifeless body. “He’s mine. I’ll be back for him.”
And then, inexplicably, it was gone. Slowly, Norbert stumbled over to the body that had been left behind by the creature. He was fairly sure that the sorry son of a bitch was dead, but nor was he going to touch him to find out.
Looking just as sick as he felt, Norbert pulled out his radio and put out a call for the police to come and attend the scene.
Within minutes, police were swarming the observation deck, and barely fifteen minutes beyond that, Major Case was on the scene. Mike Logan, accompanied by Captain Danny Ross, stepped out of the elevator and into a scene of organised chaos. They were met by ME Rodgers, who was just pulling on a fresh pair of latex gloves.
“Rodgers,” Ross greeted her, and she nodded in acknowledgement.
“Two, this time. Your killer is escalating.”
“Have you seen the bodies yet?” Mike asked, and she motioned back over her shoulder.
“Only that one, and it’s the same as all the others. I haven’t been to look at the other victim yet.”
Ross nodded as he began to pull on a pair of gloves himself.
“All right. Let’s go see.”
“Holy mother of God…”
The exclamation came from Mike, although Ross felt he could safely say that something similar probably would have emerged from his mouth had the detective not beaten him to the punch. He moved forward slowly, note quite sure whether to feel sick or smug, and truly hating himself for even considering the latter option.
The second body, laid out before them like some tragic kind of sacrificial offering, was none other than Captain Jack Harkness himself, still in his heavy military coat, and covered in the same viscous fluid that adorned all the other bodies. He was plainly dead; of that there could be no doubt.
Rodgers crouched down beside the man’s body, and pressed her fingers firmly to his throat, checking for any sign of a pulse. There was none, as she’d expected.
“He’s still warm,” she commented quietly as she peered down at his face. “He hasn’t been dead very long at all.”
Mike came up to stand beside Ross, observing the scene with increasing agitation.
“I saw him barely a couple of hours ago! We were all in O’Reilly’s! Damn it!”
Ross looked across at Mike quizzically.
“I assume I don’t need to ask the obvious questions?”
“Bobby and Alex were drinking,’ Mike answered, a touch defensively. “I only had soda. And secondly, no. I didn’t notice anyone unusual…”
He trailed off, winning a frown from the captain.
“Logan? What is it?”
“Well, something happened while we were all still in the bar. Alex picked a song on the jukebox… can’t remember which one now… and Harkness went into a pretty severe panic attack.”
“A song triggered a panic attack?” Ross queried sceptically. Mike shrugged.
“Yeah. Bobby seemed to think that it might have triggered a pretty nasty memory in him. Anyway, when he pulled himself together again, he took off from the bar.”
“The killer could have been waiting outside,” Ross murmured.
“Right,” Mike agreed. “Now, the kid on his team, the one in the suit, he followed him out. Maybe he saw something.”
Interest filled Ross’s face, only to be rapidly followed by frustration as reality set in.
“It doesn’t matter. This isn’t our case now. We shouldn’t even be here.”
“And yet, here we are,” Mike said dryly. “Captain, they’re going to have to accept our help, now. With the latest victim being their captain, it’s a huge conflict of interest.”
Ross’s lips quirked upwards in an involuntary wry smile. Mike was right, of course. When… not if, but when… the killer was caught, his or her lawyer would have a field day with the Torchwood team over conflict of interest. He looked back to Jack’s lifeless body, and felt that spark of satisfaction dim as he was again reminded that a man was dead, and he had no right to take pleasure in another’s suffering.
And then, something struck him about Jack.
“There’s something different about him, in comparison to the other victims,” he said suddenly, walking over for a closer look. “The other victims looked like they all died peacefully. Even that security guard around the corner…”
“But he looks like he put up a fight,” Rodgers concluded as she scanned Jack’s body.
Mike joined them, and crouched down beside the body, opposite Rodgers. His sharp eyes took in Jack’s face, still lined with the pain that he had died experiencing. He noted Jack’s hands, clenched so tightly into fists that blood was visible where his nails had dug into his palms.
“He didn’t go easily,” Mike agreed, quietly respectful. “He fought it, poor bastard.” He stood up again, sighing heavily. “We’re going to have to tell his team. Damn, I’m not looking forward to that.”
“Well,” Ross commented grimly, “at least we won’t have to go far to do it.”
Mike’s eyebrows rose quizzically, and then he heard it. From around the corner, a distinctly British voice was telling someone – probably one of the uniforms on duty – to ‘get the hell out of our way, we’re Torchwood’.
“C’mon, Logan,” Ross said quietly. “Let’s go and talk to them.”
The uniforms had finally let the team through, and Owen had led them to the first body when Ross and Mike emerged from around the corner.
“Fine bloody time for Jack to bugger off,” Owen was complaining. “Someone remind me to kick his arse later.”
Ross approached slowly, eyeing the four of them appraisingly. Gwen spotted him first, and rose up to meet him.
“Captain Ross,” she said in polite greeting, and he nodded in acknowledgement.
Owen, however, was less concerned with the niceties of manners.
“I thought you lot were off this case,” he said flatly, not bothering to look up from the body he was examining.
“We couldn’t know it was the same killer until we got here,” Ross pointed out, irritated that he had to validate his actions to an arrogant son of a bitch like Owen Harper.
“Fair enough,” Owen conceded. “And now that we know it is, you can leave now.”
“I don’t think so, Dr Harper,” Ross replied tersely, having to make a conscious effort not to react to Owen’s attitude. “You might find that you need the extra support that we’re offering once you’ve seen the second body.”
That got the attention of all of them, and Ianto took a step towards Ross.
“Where is it? I’ll take a look.” And then, to Owen, Gwen and Tosh, “You all stay here, and keep going.”
To Ross’s interest, all three of Ianto’s colleagues accepted the directive without question. When he hesitated, though, Ianto eyed him in bemusement.
“Are you coming, Captain Ross?”
Ross walked across to join Ianto, wondering how possibly to deliver the news.
“The other body…”
“Isn’t getting any fresher,” Ianto cut in blithely, and Ross cringed visibly.
“Mr Jones, there is something you need to know before you see the body.”
Despite the bruising that was still visible on his face, Ianto still managed to look genuinely amused, as though he was simply humouring the captain.
“And what would that be, Captain Ross?”
For a split second, Ross was sorely tempted to just send Ianto on around the corner, and never mind that the shock might only be adding to the physical trauma he’d already suffered that day. He changed his mind at the last moment, and drew Ianto aside.
“It’s Ianto, right?”
Ianto eyed Ross curiously.
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Okay, Ianto. I’m sorry, but you need to know. The second victim is your captain.”
Ianto froze, a multitude of emotions streaming across his face. Shock, disbelief, anger, dismay… But not grief, Ross noted with mild interest. He shrugged off the thought as soon as it occurred to him, though. It was far too early to make a judgement like that.
He found himself having to step swiftly aside to avoid being knocked over as Ianto suddenly rushed past him. Sparing a grim look to the other three members of Torchwood, who so far seemed oblivious to the fact that anything was wrong, he hurried after the young man.
Ianto moved faster than he should have but, in his rush to get around the corner and see for himself, he ignored the way his aching body protested. Rounding the corner, Ianto came to a momentary halt as his eyes locked onto the sight of Jack’s lifeless form.
“No,” Ianto whispered hoarsely as he stumbled over. “Jack…”
He fell to his knees, looking over Jack’s body in dismay.
Ross stood back with Rodgers, watching with interest to see how Ianto reacted to this tragic development.
Seemingly oblivious to anyone else’s presence, Ianto scooped up Jack’s hand in his own, ignoring the slimy residue that covered it, and tried unsuccessfully to unlock the fingers from the tight fist that they formed. In the end, he settled for cradling the fisted hand against his cheek.
“Wake up, Jack,” Ianto whispered desperately. “C’mon, please, wake up…”
Ross felt his stomach knot up painfully as they listened to Ianto’s soft pleas. He hated this part of the job more than any other. Rodgers spared him a glance, and then stepped over to crouch down beside Ianto. With a tenderness that was utterly unlike her, she laid a hand gently on his shoulder while she spoke.
“He died fighting. With any luck, he’ll have transferred some evidence from the killer, so we can identify the son of a bitch. He won’t have died for nothing, I promise you.”
Ianto’s head suddenly snapped around, and he stared at her with wide, wild eyes.
“How long has he been dead?”
Rodgers stared blankly at Ianto, thrown by the unexpected question.
“What do you mean…?”
“How long?” Ianto demanded to know, now with a distinct edge to his voice. Rodgers shook her head and went back to her case of supplies.
“I don’t know, but I can find out.”
Ianto’s eyes widened even more as she withdrew a long metal needle-like instrument from the case.
“What are you going to do with that?”
“Test the temperature of the liver,” she answered. “It won’t take long.”
“Don’t you dare put that thing in him,” Ianto snarled, suddenly livid, and Rodgers stared at him incredulously.
“Excuse me? This is my job, and I’m damn well going to do it!”
“This is our case,” Ianto snapped, “and Torchwood has jurisdiction here!”
“I don’t care who you are,” Rodgers shot back. “I have a job to do, and I am going to do it!”
She started towards Jack again, and Ianto finally snapped out of his paralysis. Twisting around, he unlatched the holster on Jack’s belt and in one smooth move he slid the Webley out and swung it around to aim it directly at Rodgers. She froze in shock, sensing very strongly that he would, indeed, go ahead and shoot if she tried to advance. To the side, she was aware that both Ross had drawn his own gun, increasing the sudden tension tenfold. Then, before she or Ross had a chance to speak, Ianto shouted out loud.
“Owen!” he bellowed as loudly as his injured ribs would allow him to. “Owen, get over here, now! Gwen! Tosh!”
Rodgers couldn’t conceal the frustration on her face as Owen rounded the corner at a run, with Gwen and Tosh right behind him. Mike was hot on their heels, skidding to a halt at Ross’s side.
“All right, what the hell are you yelling about?” Owen snapped, only to do a double-take in shock at the sight that met them.
“Fuck!” he exploded, and bolted across the concrete to where Jack’s body lay. Gwen and Tosh followed, and Gwen reached out cautiously to take the gun from Ianto.
“Easy, Ianto,” she murmured, rubbing his back gently as she eased the gun from his grasp. Then, and only then, were Ross and Mike finally able to relax their grips on their own weapons. Owen, meanwhile, was anxiously examining Jack’s pallid, lifeless features before looking back up at Ianto.
Ianto shook his head.
“I don’t know.” He inclined his head back towards Rodgers and spoke in a terse and bitter voice. “She was just going to stick that thing into his liver.”
Owen looked from Rodgers to the unpleasant-looking device, and then back to Rodgers again.
“The hell you are! Get that fucking thing away from him!”
Rodgers bristled visibly. She was beyond fed up with this lot.
“It’s the only way to gauge how long he’s been dead for! We need to know to judge how long ago the killer was here!”
Owen glowered at her, not backing down one bit.
“That’s all well and good, but he’s not dead!”
Silence descended at that statement, and Rodgers stared incredulously at him, as though she was suddenly uncertain of Owen’s sanity.
“I beg to differ. He has no vital signs, and rigor mortis is beginning to set in. He is most certainly dead!”
“And I’m telling you that he’s not!” Owen bellowed back.
“Owen,” Gwen said tensely as she stood behind him. Owen nodded in wordless acknowledgement. He knew he had to put an end to this argument and get rid of the ME, the captain and the detective before Jack reanimated right in front of them.
“Look, sweetheart, what it comes down to is this. It doesn’t matter whether you believe me or not. This case is our responsibility, and I’m telling you to get lost, now.” He looked up at Ross and Mike. “All of you.”
For long seconds, no one moved or spoke. Then, abruptly, Rodgers unseated herself from beside Jack’s body, and stormed away. Ross paused long enough to glare furiously at the Torchwood team before he followed her around the corner. Mike lingered for a moment longer, eyeing them with a look that was akin to sympathy.
“You’re going to regret that,” he said quietly, his focus on Owen. “I guarantee it.”
Owen looked back at him impatiently.
“Whatever. You too, Detective. Get lost.”
Shaking his head with grim humour, Mike turned and stalked away to go and join his captain.
“You realise that you’re never going to get back into that woman’s morgue?” Ianto asked dryly.
“Me?” Owen retorted. “I’m not the one who was holding the gun on her, mate. Anyway, I don’t really give a fuck right now.” He reached over and pressed the palm of his hand to Jack’s cheek. “Getting colder. Damn it, he should’ve woken up by now! I thought this whole coming back to life thing was only supposed to take a few minutes?”
“Normally,” Gwen agreed, “but think back to Abaddon.”
“He was dead for nearly a week, remember?” Tosh reminded them all. Owen looked around at his companions.
“And since it took Gwen kissing him to wake him up then, would someone like to volunteer to give it a try this time? Ianto? How about it, Prince Charming? Care to try the kiss of life on Sleeping Beauty?”
Ianto spared Owen an exasperated, if slightly amused look.
“No need to mock. I’ll give it a go.”
Owen smirked and leant back in to give Ianto room. He was just leaning in when Jack came back to life with a strangled gasp. He jerked upwards reflexively, causing his and Ianto’s heads to clash with an ugly cracking sound.
Simultaneous groans of pain filled the air, accompanied by visible winces of sympathy pain from Owen, Gwen and Tosh. Jack groaned again, and coughed painfully as he brought one hand unsteadily to his forehead.
“Ow… my head…”
Ianto pulled back slowly, rubbing gingerly at his own head.
“So much for the kiss of life,” Gwen remarked ruefully.
“What the hell were you trying to do?” Jack grumbled as he slowly pushed himself up with Owen’s help.
“Never mind,” Ianto muttered, and threw a threatening look at the others to warn them off saying anything.
“Jack, you’ve been dead for over half an hour,” Gwen told him anxiously. “We didn’t know what to do!”
“Yeah,” Owen agreed. “And believe me, it was bad enough trying to frighten off the local coppers in first place. It’s going to be even worse having to deal with them when you walk out of here. Their ME is pretty damned certain that you’re stone cold dead.”
Jack sat there, half-sitting up, as his mind went back over the events of that night, and his breath caught.
“Jack?” Tosh asked softly. “Was it the Grysliaak?”
He looked first at her, and then to the others, pale and visibly shaken. When he answered, it was in barely a whisper.
“And now it’s going to realise pretty soon that you’re an endless supply of food,” Owen concluded grimly. “Fucking brilliant.”
“It already knew,” Jack said in a bitter whisper.
“What do you mean?” Gwen wondered. “How could it already know?”
“Because I’ve encountered it before,” Jack told them. His voice was slowly regaining its strength, but all of them heard the tremulous waver as he explained to them what he knew. “It’s not just any Grysliaak we’re dealing with. It’s the Grysliaak. It’s the same damned one that was on the Valiant.”
Silence met Jack’s words.
“But…” Tosh started to say finally, “how…? If time reversed itself, then how could it know? How could it remember?”
“There’s only one way,” Jack answered bitterly. “It must have still been somewhere on the Valiant when the paradox machine was destroyed.”
“Fuck,” Owen whispered, and Jack eyed him critically as he sat up all the way.
“We really need to talk about your language.”
Owen snorted and didn’t bother to reply to that. Shaking his head, Jack’s attention then went to the goo that his body was coated in, and he grimaced in disgust.
“Ugh. I’d forgotten about this part.”
“What is that stuff?” Tosh wondered.
“A Grysliaak’s body fluid,” Jack explained. “A Grysliaak normally isn’t a corporeal being. Most of the time, it exists only as a mass of living energy. When it feeds, though, it solidifies and begins to take the shape of the species that it’s feeding off of. Not completely, but some… Normally it can’t get enough energy to complete the shape change. This gunk is like a waste product.” Owen opened his mouth to speak, but Jack’s glare effectively silenced him. “Don’t you dare, Owen. I don’t need to hear it. Just… help me up. I need to get back to the hotel and have a really long shower.”
“We still have a problem with those cops,” Gwen pointed out as she and Owen hauled their temporarily weakened and somewhat sluggish leader to his feet.
“Did any of them get a chance to examine me beyond checking for a pulse?” Jack asked, leaning heavily on Owen for support. He was quickly realising how much he’d underestimated how ready he was to move under his own steam. He felt like he was going to throw up and the smell permeating his nostrils from the goo he was covered in wasn’t helping. To Owen’s credit, though, he made no complaints about suddenly finding himself almost completely supporting the semi-dead weight of his captain.
“The ME was pretty certain about your lack of vital signs,” Owen answered wryly, and Jack emitted a noiseless sigh.
“She’ll have to be ret-conned. Anyone else?”
“I don’t think so,” Ianto mused. “Unless, of course, you count Captain Ross and Detective Logan, but they may be more easily convinced that you weren’t really dead at all.”
Jack hesitated, worry creasing his brow.
“Is Bobby here?”
“That big cop?” Owen asked. “No, he’s not. And since when have you been on a first name basis with him?”
A brief glance at Ianto told Jack that the Welshman was wondering much the same thing.
“Know your enemy,” Jack murmured, and for a brief moment his expression became distant, as though he was remembering something. Then, it was gone and he spoke with a lopsided shrug. “He wouldn’t be so easily convinced, and I don’t want to have to ret-con him until we’re ready to leave.”
They didn’t question him, even though they all suspected he wasn’t being entirely truthful. Instead, Owen tightened his grip around Jack’s waist, feeling him waver slightly.
“Okay, let’s get you out of here before you collapse. Oh, and anyone care to put ten quid on who has a heart attack first? I reckon it’ll be Captain Ross.”
“Never mind him,” Ianto retorted. “We’re going to send the ME into a complete meltdown.”
Owen grinned wickedly.
“I’d pay ten quid to see that.”
“They’re out of their damned minds, the whole lot of them!” Rodgers ranted while a bemused Captain Ross and Mike Logan looked on. “The man is dead! He’s dead! He has no pulse, and no vital signs! He’s dead, end of argument!”
“Please, Rodgers, calm down,” Ross begged her. “You know he’s dead, we know, and I think they know, too, but the reality is that they’ve just lost their captain. They’re in denial… and in shock. Just give them a chance for it to sink in.”
Rodgers, however, was far too worked up to be willing to even make an attempt at being understanding.
“This is the end of the cooperation, Captain Ross. I don’t care what trouble it causes, because the only one of that mob who knew how to treat his peers is currently lying dead just around that corner.”
Ross was just trying to decide what he could possibly say to placate her when Mike spoke softly.
“Captain, you don’t have a heart condition, do you?”
Ross stared back at him incredulously.
“No, Logan, I do not, not unless you count the one that you and Goren have given me over the last twelve months. Why?”
Mike hesitated, and then lifted one hand to motion slowly to a point beyond them. Ross and Rodgers both turned at the same time to see what had Mike’s attention.
“What in the name of God…?” Ross whispered, the shock so great that it stole the very air from his lungs. Rodgers made no sound at all, and could only stand there and stare in speechless shock.
Coming around the corner, supported carefully between Owen Harper and Gwen Cooper, was Captain Jack Harkness – on his feet and very much alive. He was the colour of ash, and seemed to be struggling to stay upright, but he was alive.
They guided him along slowly, ignoring the gaping cops around them, clearly intent on getting their captain out of there. Ross hesitated, and then went to intercept them, reasonably confident that Jack was in no fit state to punch him again.
“You…” he said hoarsely, unable to hide his confusion. “How…? Damn it, you were dead!”
Jack’s eyebrows went up slightly at the captain’s exclamation.
“Do I look like I’m dead? And if I was dead, how could I be standing here like this, talking you? Really, Captain Ross, you’re starting to sound like you could use some time off.”
Beside him, Gwen barely covered a snort of laughter, and he had to make an effort not to frown at her. Ross, for his part, was not buying the line that Jack was pushing.
“You were dead,” he said softly. “For over half an hour, you were dead. Rodgers wasn’t wrong about that. No one can be revived after being dead for that long, not without some sort of permanent damage. And they sure as hell wouldn’t be walking around like this.”
“And yet here I am,” Jack answered back softly, “alive, on my feet and fully functioning. What explanation do you have for it, Captain? I’d love to hear your theory.”
But Ross had no explanation to offer. Finally, Ianto stepped forward and more or less nudged Ross out of their way.
“Excuse us, Captain Ross. We’d like to get Jack back to our hotel, so he can clean up and recover from the attack.”
“Hey!” Mike burst out suddenly, striding forward. “Wait just a goddamn minute! If you take him anywhere, it should be to a hospital. You could be carrying evidence.”
Owen snorted softly.
“He makes it sound like you could be diseased.”
“Our case, remember?” Ianto reminded Mike in a low voice. “We’ll deal with it. It’s not your concern any longer.”
They made their way past Ross and Mike, and were almost to the exit when a new voice spoke up, sounding one step shy of hysterical.
“You’re alive! My god, you’re really alive… I thought you were dead! I thought it killed you!”
Jack halted, forcing Owen and Gwen to stop as well, just as a man in a security guard’s uniform stumbled over.
“Guess I’m just stubborn,” he said, managing a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. The guard looked from Jack to the others, his eyes wide with terror.
“I s… saw it… I saw… it…”
Jack glanced to Ianto and gave a slight nod. Ianto withdrew a single pill from within his jacket.
“Take this, sir. It’ll calm you down.”
The man took the pill from Ianto, but spoke again anxiously.
“I saw it! It spoke to me! It said it had a message… for Torchwood… Are you Torchwood?”
Jack froze, and then pulled away a little from Owen and Gwen, his attention suddenly and completely on the guard.
“What did it tell you?” he asked tensely. “Tell me what it said.”
Norbert stared wide-eyed at Jack for long seconds before finally answering.
“It… It said, he’s mine. I’ll be back for him. It was talking about you.”
Nausea filled Jack’s gut anew as more puzzle pieces began to fall into place.
“Take the pill,” he told Norbert softly. “You’ll feel a lot better once you do.”
Norbert put the pill numbly into his mouth, and Jack looked around until his gaze found Ross and Mike.
“Make sure he gets home safely.”
“What the hell did you just give him?” Ross demanded to know, but Jack gave a slow shake of his head.
“Not your concern. Just get him home safely… please.”
“But will he be safe?” Mike pressed, following them as they made their way through to the elevators. “Is the killer likely to come back for him?”
Jack drew in a shuddering breath as they entered the elevator, and answered just as the doors slid closed, separating them from the NYPD.
“No. It doesn’t need to now.”
As soon as they were out of sight of all the NYPD officers, Jack’s strength finally gave out. His knees buckled, and he would have fallen if it hadn’t been for Owen and Gwen on either side of him.
“Your turn to rest, mate,” Owen muttered as he pulled Jack back up. “Maybe now I’ll be able to get Ianto back into bed at the same time.”
Jack opened his mouth to speak, only to have Owen cut him off sharply.
“Don’t say it. I don’t want to hear it.”
By the time the elevator doors slid open again, Jack had managed to gather what strength he had left and, with minimal help, made it to the SUV. It was only once he was safely concealed within the vehicle that he was finally able to let go. With a shudder, he slumped back into the seat and his eyes slid closed, the adrenaline and strength bleeding entirely from his body.
Dimly, he was aware of two people climbing in on either side of him. Warm hands brushed against his temple and gently drew him down sideways to rest his head on a broad, comfortable shoulder. Ianto’s shoulder, he thought with a soft, relieved sigh.
He thought he could hear someone speaking his name, but he had nothing left with which to respond. His eyes slid closed as exhaustion overcame him, and he slipped into a deep, dreamless sleep.
“Jack?” Gwen asked softly, but Ianto shook his head.
“He’s out. That thing took a lot out of him.”
Tosh twisted around in the front passenger seat to peer at Jack’s sleeping form with a tearful look of wonder.
“I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to him being immortal.”
“I’m thankful for it,” Ianto said quietly as he cradled Jack awkwardly, “especially in light of incidents such as what happened to him tonight. We never need to fear losing him to death.”
“All right,” Owen interrupted with a hint of impatience, “enough of the sentimentality. Start thinking about how we’re going to get him back up to our suite without drawing too much attention to ourselves.”
Ianto looked down at the man who was currently sleeping on his shoulder.
“With a great deal of difficulty, I imagine.”
As it turned out, they were in luck. Upon arriving at the hotel and driving into the underground garage, they had a clear run all the way to their suite. The only contact they had was with one of the night porters, who winked knowingly when Ianto made a discreet hand gesture to indicate that Jack had simply had too much to drink.
“He’ll kill you for that,” Gwen remarked once they were safely inside their suite.
“Would you rather I’d said he’d just been attacked?” Ianto retorted. “I don’t think so. Now, help me get him to my room.”
“Ianto…” Owen started to protest, but Ianto cut him off short.
“Will you give your filthy mind a rest for just five minutes? Unlike yourself, every other thought that goes through my mind is not about sex. The only reason I’m saying take him to my room is because unlike Jack’s, my room’s ensuite is equipped with a bathtub. I need to bathe him first, and try to get all of this… this slime off him. After all, I hardly think he’d like to wake up to find himself still covered in it.”
“Right,” Owen muttered. “Hadn’t thought of that. You’d better be able to wake him up, though, because we’re not going to help you put him in the bath. As much as we love him, seeing the man naked is something we can all just do without.”
Ianto nodded in placid agreement, but it was with great interest and amusement that he noted neither Gwen nor Tosh vocally expressed agreement with the young medic’s assertion.
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