Jack emerged with Ianto nearly half an hour later; showered, dressed and still looking like death warmed up. Despite his sallow appearance, though, he flashed Alex a cheeky grin as he sank into an empty armchair.

“Better, Detective Eames?”

“Much,” Alex replied, not batting an eyelid and easily holding his gaze. Jack chuckled softly, although the sound seemed forced.

“Okay, then. We have a lot to sort out, and not a lot of time to do it. But I suppose we’ll have to deal with your curiosity first, before we can deal with the real issues. So out with it, Detectives. Ask your questions. This may be the only opportunity you’ll have, so don’t waste it.”

“Who are you really?” Alex demanded to know, before the others had the chance to utter a single word.

“That’s one thing I can’t tell you,” Jack said apologetically. “All I can tell you is that I’m an ex-time agent and I’m from the fifty-first century. But I can’t tell you my real name.”

“For our protection?” Mike retorted sceptically, and Jack shook his head emphatically.

“No, Detective. For mine. There are a lot of people from my time who would love to get their hands on me, and I don’t mean that in a good way. I’m safe from them as long as I don’t give away my true identity.”

“How did you end up in the twenty-first century?” Bobby wondered. Jack hesitated at that, wondering exactly what to say, and how much.

“That’s a long story,” he said finally, soberly. “Too long to tell now. The short version is that I was caught up in a very big fight a long time into the future. The one I was travelling with abandoned me on a derelict space station, and I had to use this to escape.” He tapped the leather strap on his wrist. “You wanted to know what this is, Bobby? It’s called a vortex manipulator. It allowed me to travel through time. I aimed to land in the early twenty-first century, because I thought that would be my best chance of finding my friend…”

“Some friend,” Mike retorted. “I wouldn’t call someone who abandoned me like that a friend.”

“He had his reasons,” Jack said, although his subdued tone of voice suggested that perhaps he himself didn’t quite believe that argument. “My problem was that I got the coordinates a little skewed, and I landed in 1869. Then the manipulator burnt out, so I couldn’t try again. I had to live right through the tail end of the nineteenth century and all of the twentieth before I finally caught up with him again.”

“Whoa there,” Alex cut in, her voice heavy with disbelief. “1869? That would make you a hundred and thirty-eight years old!”

“Actually,” Jack corrected with a wry smile, “I’m closer to a hundred and seventy. I was around thirty-two when the battle on the game station happened. That was when I stopped being mortal.”

“Yeah, how did that happened, exactly?” Mike asked, his tone borderline cynical.

“I can try to tell you, but I don’t think you’ll understand. I barely understand it myself.”

“Try us,” Alex threw at him, and Jack shrugged.

“Okay. I was killed in the battle on the game station. Dead, deceased, departed, however you want to put it. But I had two friends… Two extraordinary friends. Rose… She opened up the heart of the ship we were travelling in, and absorbed the time vortex. She brought me back to life, but in the process she gave me immortality.”

He fell quiet, taking a moment to study their expressions. There was the whole range there – confusion, wonder… an insatiable curiosity on Bobby’s part – but now there was no disbelief. Hard though it was, each one of them seemed to have accepted what they had seen and what Jack had just told them. For that, Jack was both grateful and impressed.

“Let me try to sum this up,” Ross said dryly. “You can’t die, and you’re at least a hundred and seventy years old. You’re from the future, and now you head an agency that specialises in catching aliens.”

Jack grinned.

“Couldn’t have said that better myself.”

Ross nodded passively.

“All right, then. What is it that we’re looking for now? Because it clearly isn’t human.”

“It’s called a Grysliaak,” Jack explained. “I don’t know where it’s from, but that’s not important right now. A Grysliaak is literally a sentient mass of energy that survives by feeding off other life forms. If it feeds off one particular species for long enough, it can take on that form.”

“Which would make it even harder to find,” Bobby said grimly, and Jack answered with a confirming nod.

“Right. Once it’s completed the change, it can blend in anywhere. At the moment, it’s still at least partially vulnerable.”

“So what do you need us to do?’ Ross asked, drawing a startled look from Jack. It was obvious that he hadn’t been expecting such swift agreement. He recovered quickly, though, and spoke urgently.

“We need to set a trap for it. Now, while it’s still vulnerable.”

“How do we do that?” Bobby asked. Jack hesitated there, his gaze flickering uneasily to Ianto. He knew Ianto was profoundly upset at the idea of him being bait, but it couldn’t be helped. He simply couldn’t see any other way to do it that wouldn’t result in the loss of more innocent lives.

“We draw it out into the open using bait.”

“Bait?” Mike echoed. “What bait?”

“Jack…” Ianto growled softly in warning. Jack ignored him.

“Me, Detective Logan. I’m the bait.”

“Isn’t that going to be a little obvious?” Alex wondered. “Surely it’s going to realise it’s a trap, and stay away.”

“It’ll know,” Jack conceded, “but it won’t be able to stay away. It took a big chance, coming for me in the hotel room earlier, so it’s a fair bet that it’s hooked already. Even if it’s a blatant trap, it’s not going to be able to resist any opportunity that it’s presented with. It’ll come after me, I guarantee it, no matter how obvious it is.”

“Damn it, Jack,” Owen growled, though there was a resignation to his voice. Jack sighed heavily.

“Look at it this way. It is going to come after me again, so we might as well try to turn that to our advantage.”

“You’re confident that it won’t attack anyone else now,” Ross said quietly. Jack nodded.

“I know it won’t.”

“How can you know?” Ross argued, searching for some sort of definitive reassurance that no more innocent lives would be lost. “How can you be so certain?”

“Captain Ross, you’re going to have to trust me,” Jack said soberly. “Now that it’s… reacquainted itself with me, it’s not going to want anyone else.”

Ross nodded his acceptance, though with some reluctance.

“All right, then, Captain Harkness. What do you need from us?”

Over the next couple of hours, they talked through their options and formulated a plan. According to Jack, luring the Grysliaak would not be hard. It had developed a taste for him again, and it wouldn’t be long before it tried for him once more. The real trick would be trapping it.

“We have a few things,” Jack went on. “Some pieces of technology that we can use, but I don’t know how effective they’ll be against it.”

Ross stood up. It was high time they got to One Police Plaza, and he had a squad to get organised.

“We’ll deal with it one step at a time. Now, we have to get to One Police Plaza.”

Jack nodded.

“We’ll see you there in an hour.”

Ross made his way out, with Alex and Mike close behind. Bobby, however, hung back and stared at Jack thoughtfully.

“What is it, Bobby?” Jack asked quietly, bracing himself for some curly question.

“You said it had reacquainted itself with you,” Bobby said. “You’ve run into this same creature before.”

It was not a question, and Jack suddenly lacked the inclination to lie, or to brush off the query.

“Yes,” he answered. “I have, but don’t ask me to tell you about it, because I won’t. It’s nothing that could help us anyway. I wasn’t exactly in a position to fight back the last time.”

Bobby regarded him piercingly.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone as secretive as you, Jack. Don’t you trust anyone?”

Jack nodded calmly, and motioned with his hands to the other four who stood around him.

“Yes. You’re looking at them.”

Contrary to the irritation that Jack expected to see on the detective’s face, Bobby actually smiled and nodded approvingly.

“Good. That’s a good thing. See you back at One Police Plaza.” He paused, and then added sincerely, “I’m glad that we’re working together now.”

And then he was gone, following his captain and colleagues out of the hotel suite. Jack watched him go wonderingly.

“He is smart, that one,” Owen mused. Ianto hesitated, and then added to Owen’s comments.

“And he hasn’t had any trouble accepting any of this.”

The look on Jack’s face became a thoughtful one at that.

“No. No, he hasn’t.”

A moment later, he shook himself out of his reverie, and clapped his hands together.

“Let’s get moving. We have work to do.”

The moment that they arrived back at One Police Plaza, Jack diverted into Ross’s office. They watched as the two men exchanged words, and then Ross grimly pulled the blinds and shut the door, shutting out wandering eyes and loose ears.

“I don’t like this,” Owen muttered to no one in particular. “What the hell is he up to?”

“I have my suspicions,” Ianto murmured, “and if I’m right, I may just kill him myself. C’mon. Let’s just try and get some work done.”

In Ross's office, the Major Case captain was eyeing Jack's features critically.

“I spoke to Logan, and he told me what he did yesterday. If you want to press charges for assault...”

Jack regarded Ross calmly, with not the slightest hint of animosity. If anything, he looked amused that such a thought would even occur to Ross.

“Why would I want to do that?”

Ross hesitated, staring at Jack in puzzlement.

“He hit you, Captain. In fact, he says he's sure that he hit you so hard that he broke your cheekbone. And yet...”

Jack brushed his fingertips lightly over his cheek, where Mike had hit him just the previous day. There was no pain now, of course, but the memory of his cheekbone cracking from the force of the blow was definitely cringeworthy. Mike Logan had one hell of a right hook.

“So...” Jack said with a faint smile. “You were expecting what? That I'd look like the Elephant Man?”

“I expected to see a bruise, at the very least.”

“Captain Ross,” Jack said softly, “you watched me come back to life this morning. How much more of a stretch is it to accept that my body heals a lot faster than other people's?”

Ross considered that before nodding in concession.

“Point taken. You're a remarkable man, Captain Harkness.”

Jack grinned then.

“That's nicer than most of the things I get called.”

Ross couldn't help smiling in return. Despite his apparent arrogance – which Ross was now starting to see as something else entirely – he was beginning to genuinely like the brash American.

“All right, then. What did you want to talk to me about?”

In an instant, all signs of amusement and banter were gone from Jack's face, and he was all business.

“I want to talk to you about how we can deal with what's ahead, without any of your people getting killed. I'm particularly concerned about Detective Goren.”

It was with some effort that Ross didn't visibly cringe. He should have see that one coming, given everything that had happened so far.

“Don't misunderstand me,” Jack went on. “I don't mean any disrespect to Bobby, but I don't want him to be hurt, or killed, because he won't follow my orders. Can he be trusted to do what he's told to do, and only that? Or am I going to have to leave him out of this operation?”

Ross shifted in his chair, suddenly on edge. He knew, of course, that Jack's concerns were perfectly reasonable, but he dreaded the idea of telling Bobby that he had to sit it out.

“He'll follow your lead, Captain, as long as you give him good, solid reasons to. And don't hold out on him. Don't avoid explaining anything to him because you think he won't understand. Odds are he'll understand better than anyone. Make no assumptions where Goren is concerned. He'll knock you on your ass every single time.”

Jack allowed himself a tight smile. He knew that tone all too well.

“Speaking from experience, Captain Ross?”

“And then some, Captain Harkness.”

“What do you think of him? Honestly.”

Ross seemed taken aback by the unexpected question, but answered nonetheless.

“Honestly? The man drives me up the wall most days. He has some serious issues with authority, he's stubborn, impatient, unorthodox and insolent to the point of insubordination... but he's also singularly one of the most brilliant detectives that I've ever had the privilege of working with. His solve rate is unmatched in the NYPD, and honestly, I sometimes think it's the only reason the brass continue to tolerate him. He's undoubtedly the best profiler we have. Eccentric to a fault, but in his defence, he survived a nightmare childhood and managed to land on our side of the fence. He could easily have gone either way, but he chose the right side... and he's had some damned difficult choices to make in his life.”

“That's a fairly mixed opinion,” Jack mused, and Ross smiled wryly.

“I guess it is. He's a good cop, though, Captain Harkness, and as much as he drives me crazy, I would not like to lose him from my squad. In his case, the benefits really do outweigh the headaches.”

A grin slowly spread over Jack's face as he realised what Ross was hinting at.

“You think I'd try to poach him from you, Captain Ross?”

Ross returned his gaze steadily.

“Were you intending to try?”

Jack laughed softly.

“I have to admit that it's crossed my mind more than once, but there's someone that I have to answer to, and he wouldn't be happy with me if I tried to expand my team.”

Ross raised an eyebrow.

“You actually answer to someone? You mean you don't just run around unchecked, then?”

Jack snorted in amusement.

“You make us sound like schoolkids playing truant. Yes, there is someone I have to answer to... and if this plan we've got goes belly up, then you may yet meet him.”

“So, he basically cleans up your messes.”

The smile faded rapidly from Jack's face.

“We clean up our own messes, Captain Ross. We don't run around with no responsibility. The Doctor isn't there to clean up after us. He's not my boss. He's a very old friend, and you might say I just defer to him when he is around.”

“Friend...” Ross murmured, and then his eyes snapped up to meet Jack's. “Would this be the same friend who abandoned you?”

Jack visibly flinched at the blunt question.

“I said he had his reasons.”

“Do you really believe that, Captain?”

For the first time, Jack visibly displayed signs of discomfort, and Ross suddenly wondered just how over it all Jack really was.

“I have to believe it. I lived through a hundred and thirty years on this planet, and the only thing that kept me going was believing that he had a good reason for leaving me behind like he did.”

“And did he?”

“For him? Yes, he did. I don't particularly like it, but it can't be changed, so I have to accept it. It's just the way it is.”

“You've been through a hell of a lot, haven't you, Captain?” Ross asked quietly, and Jack smiled bitterly.

“You couldn't begin to imagine what I've experienced, Captain Ross.”

“No,” Ross conceded quietly. “I doubt that I could. I can barely get my head around you being a hundred and seventy years old. I think I'm beginning to appreciate where you're coming from, and please don't take offense, but I'll be very glad when you and your team go back to where you came from.”

“Believe me, Captain Ross, so will we.”

“All right, then,” Ross said. “This plan we have. Can it really work, or are we just kidding ourselves?”

Jack slumped back in his chair and scrubbed his hands over his face.

“I can't give any guarantees. I'm working on a theory here, and that's why I don't want any of your people at ground zero. If it doesn't work, if something goes wrong, then the only person that I want in the firing line is me.”

“This thing... what did you call it?”

“A Grysliaak. Spelt G-R-Y-S-L-I-A-A-K. The 's' is silent.”

“Okay. This Grysliaak... Do you know what it wants?”

“Ultimately? To absorb enough energy to take on a host form. Once it's achieved that, it can blend in completely, and it'll be next to impossible to find it. It's fastest way of doing that is through me. I'm an endless supply of living energy.”

“You think it might try to take you,” Ross realised, feeling a cold lump form in his stomach at the thought.

“It may try,” Jack agreed. “If that happens, I really don't want any of your people getting in the way. For their sakes, Captain.”

“I understand,” Ross murmured. Jack fixed him with a hard stare.

“Just make sure your detectives do, Captain. I don't want their blood on my hands as well.”

Ross started a little as he realised Jack was blaming himself for the death of the young officer.

“That was not your fault, Captain,” he stated with quiet certainty. “If anyone should be taking responsibility for that, it needs to be me. I should never have allowed Goren and Eames to chase you like that. You warned us, and I ignored it.”

Jack uttered a soft sigh. He felt painfully weary all of a sudden.

“I think we all need to shoulder a bit of the blame for that. Your Detective Logan was right. We should have been upfront with you right from the beginning.”

Ross paused, considering that for a long moment before speaking again.

“Maybe, Captain, but with all due respect... If you had tried to tell us any of this when you first arrived, I probably would have tried to have all five of you locked up in the psyche ward at Bellevue. We would never have believed you.”

The plain and simple logic of Ross's words could not be disregarded, and Jack couldn't help smiling.

“Fair point.”

“Look,” Ross went on in a more serious tone. “I'll do what I can to impress on my people that they must do exactly what you tell them to do. But ultimately it's going to be up to you. I don't know what your team is used to, but you need to be capable of showing clear leadership. I hope you can do that, Captain Harkness, or you may have a very difficult time; especially with the likes of Bobby Goren, Alex Eames and Mike Logan.”

Jack got up slowly and, even as Ross watched, he drew himself up to his full height and all banter and amusement fled his features. His expression darkened, giving rise to something else that Ross could not quite identify. The man who stood before him now was not the same personality who had walked into his office only minutes ago. The man who now stood in front of him was plain terrifying.

“I think I can manage that, Captain Ross,” Jack said in a quiet, tense voice, and Ross flinched a little at the mere sound of it.

“Yes,” Ross agreed in a soft voice as Jack strode from his office, positively exuding confidence and authority. “I think you probably can.”

Bobby, Mike and Alex were gathered together, talking quietly, when Jack emerged from Ross's office. All three were drawn to stare at him as he strode past, taken aback by the distinct and powerful aura of authority that radiated from him.

Jack walked around until he was in a position where the entire squad could see and hear him. Once he was certain he had their attention, he spoke in a voice that rang out clearly through the squad room.

“You should all be aware by now that the Major Case Squad and Torchwood have made a decision to work together to catch the killer that's out there. I believe that between us, we can stop the killer, and I appreciate your willingness to work with us, despite the way you've all been treated by us.”

“Smart,” Alex murmured, watching with interest as the other squad members began to set aside their resentment, and really listen to Jack.

“Before we can focus on trapping it, though, there are some things you need to know. They won't be easy for you to accept, but I need you all to at least hear me out. Firstly, the killer is not human.”

“You mean it's some sort of animal?” someone wondered, but Jack shook his head.

“No, it's not human, and it's not animal. It's alien.”

Silence reigned for several seconds before sniggering bursts of laughter began erupting across the room. Before it could explode fully, though, Ross spoke grimly from where he stood in the doorway of his office.

“It's true. I've seen it with my own eyes.”

Startled silence fell as the members of the squad looked back and forth between Ross and Jack. With a nod of acknowledgement in Ross's direction, Jack went on in that same authoritative voice.

“The Major Case Squad and Torchwood will be working together from now on, but it is important for all your sakes that you defer to Torchwood at all times, and specifically to me. This killer is nothing like any of you have ever come across before, and there is no need for any of you to put yourselves in danger unnecessarily.”

“But you and your team will be,” someone called out, audible derision in his voice. Jack smiled, but there was nothing pleasant in that smile.

“That's our job, Detective. It's got nothing to do with being a hero. We're not looking for accolades. I can tell you right now that when this is resolved, it'll be you lot getting the credit for closing it. Not us. We're here to stop the creature that's killing people, and when it's over with we'll disappear again back to where we came from.”

“We're not afraid of this thing, Captain,” someone else stated fiercely, and Jack nodded.

“I don't doubt that, but there is a big difference between showing courage and being reckless, and I won't take a chance on anyone being reckless. Torchwood is still in charge, and if you want to stay involved, then you'd better damn well do as I tell you. Even if you don't agree with me, you'd better follow my orders or I guarantee you'll be off the case before you can blink.”

“No questions asked?” a third voice asked. Jack looked around and his gaze fell on Alex, who had been the one to ask. His expression was hard as he stared at her, and though she didn't look away her discomfort at suddenly being the centre of his focus was blatantly obvious to all.

“No questions asked, Detective Eames,” Jack stated flatly. “Don't try me. Not now. I and my people will be at the centre of this, and I won't tolerate them being endangered by any of you who can't follow orders.”

Silence met his words. Then, after a long moment, Bobby stood up and spoke in a quiet but firm voice.

“We'll follow your orders, Captain. Just tell us what you need us to do.”

“This is fucking insane.”

Jack glanced ruefully at Owen as he tried to work out the calculations that were needed for the trap that he'd designed.

“We really need to talk about your language.”

Owen snorted.

“Whatever. It's still nuts. We've got a creature that is practically made of energy, and you want to feed it more? Just where did you come up with this, anyway?”

Jack hesitated, his eyes glazing over just slightly as a memory came back to him of a conversation he'd had with Martha before they'd parted company.

“It was something Martha came up with... during that year. She and a couple of others brought down one of the Toclafane by simulating a lightning strike. It didn't destroy it... but it did more or less paralyse it. The Grysliaak... it survives by steadily feeding off living energy, but I'm hoping that a massive surge of power will at least paralyse it, like it did with the Toclafane.”

“You're hoping,” Ianto said coolly. Jack clenched his jaw in frustration.

“What the hell else am I supposed to do? I don't hear anyone else offering ideas here.”

“We're just worried about you, Jack,” Gwen pointed out. “What if it doesn't work? What's likely to happen then?”

Jack said nothing, but looked pointedly at Ianto who, in turn, frowned and turned away.

“You do have a back-up plan, don't you?” Tosh pressed, but Jack didn't answer. Ianto answered for him instead.

“Of course he has a back-up plan. He lets the Grysliaak take him. That’s his back-up plan.”

“Jack…” Gwen started to protest, but was stopped cold when Jack turned a hard look in her direction.

“I don’t want it to go that way,” he said in a soft, tense voice, and though his words were for the whole team, his focus steadily turned back to Ianto. “I can’t begin to tell you how much I don’t want it to go that way, but no matter what we do… no matter how careful we are, there’s that chance that it could go wrong.”

“And if it does go wrong, what then?” Gwen asked. “If this monster takes you, what do we do then?”

“I’ve given instructions to Ianto for what to do if that happens,” Jack answered. “He knows what to do.”

Three pairs of eyes shifted to Ianto, but he only had eyes for Jack.

“Jack, please, you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to put yourself at risk like this.”

Jack stared up at Ianto with a pained gaze.

“What other choice is there? You tell me, Ianto. Please, because if you have an alternative, then I’d love to hear it. I really would, because the thought of being captured by that thing is scaring the hell out of me.”

Jack’s voice broke on the last few words, and the sound of genuine fear in his voice effectively dissipated Ianto’s lingering anger. He sat down next to Jack, and closed his hand over the Captain’s in a reassuring grip.

“We’ll just have to make sure that it doesn’t get you, then, won’t we?”

“All right,” Owen spoke up with a roll of his eyes. “You two can get all cosy later on. Right now we still have to work out how this little trap of ours is going to work.”

“Captain Ross is fairly certain that whatever we need can be rigged up by their CSU team,” Jack murmured, quietly grateful to Owen for shifting the topic of conversation along. “But I need to work out the right calculations, and then there’s the problem of where to set it up.”

“Somewhere central,” Tosh mused, “where we’ll have access to all the power we need. Jack, what about the roof of this building? There’s apparently a helipad up there. I overheard someone mention it.”

Jack nodded his agreement.

“Good idea, Tosh. That could work… In fact, I think it’s probably our best option.”

“So the plan is to lure it in, and then electrocute it,” Gwen stated quietly, “and probably you, too, in the process.”

Jack frowned, sensing the rebuke in her words.

“Unless you have a better idea, Gwen…”

“I wish I did,” she admitted ruefully.

“Okay, then,” Jack said. He paused, and then abruptly stood up. “Tosh can you keep working on this? We need the exact calculations for simulating a lightning strike.”

“Where are you going?” Ianto asked in surprise as Tosh took his place at the desk, and Jack headed for the door.

“Out,” Jack answered back in a dull tone. “I need coffee.”

And then he was gone.

“Well?” Tosh said finally to Ianto in an impatient tone. “What are you waiting for? Go after him!”

Ianto grimaced, grabbed his coat and hurried after the Captain.

“And don’t forget to bring us back coffee as well!” Owen shouted after him.

Bobby watched wordlessly as Jack exited the squad room, followed soon after by Ianto. After his second encounter with the Grysliaak, Jack was starting to look more than a little worse for wear, and Bobby couldn’t help but wonder just how ready for this he was. He was just contemplating following them out himself when a shadow fell across his desk, and he looked up to see Ross standing there.


“Do me a favour, you two,” Ross said quietly to Bobby and Alex, “and follow Harkness. Assuming he’s right, and that… thing really is targeting him exclusively now, it’s not safe for him to be going anywhere on his own.”

Bobby looked across at Alex, who nodded in wordless agreement. Getting up, Bobby grabbed their coats from the rack, and they hurried out after Jack and Ianto.

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