A/N: This is starting to wind down now, but there is still a bit to come…
I think I've managed to fix all of the embarrassing typos. Apologies - I'm experimenting with a new notebook computer, and the keyboard is seriously TINY.
The TARDIS materialised back in the middle of the squad room, late at night. It was something of a surprise when they filed out to discover nearly the entire Major Case Squad waiting there anxiously. There was no cheer when the door of the TARDIS opened and they made their way out single file, but the relief on all the faces was plain to see.
“Not so crazy after all,” Mike admitted, stepping forward to face the Doctor. “I was wrong. I’m sorry. Thankyou for bringing them home. All of them.”
The Doctor eyes Mike critically before nodding his approval. He glanced around, and his gaze found Ross’s.
“You have good people here, Captain. I hope you appreciate them.”
Ross glanced pointedly at Bobby.
“I do. Believe me, I do.”
The Doctor then turned his attention to Jack.
Jack stepped forward.
“Doctor, thankyou. Again.”
The Doctor smile widely, and reached out to grasp Jack’s shoulders firmly.
“No, Jack. Thankyou. For everything. I know you’ve struggled after the what happened on the Valiant, and I’m so sorry for that, but it’s going to get better. I promise you.”
Jack’s eyes shifted from the Doctor to fall on Ianto, and he smiled.
And suddenly, without warning, Jack found himself pulled into a fierce hug.
“I meant what I said, Jack,” he told the Captain in a soft voice. “I’ll be here for you, no matter where or when I am. And, I trust your judgement, but tread carefully. You know as well as I do how easily Torchwood can destroy lives.”
Jack nodded, shamelessly burying his face against the Time Lord’s shoulder. He knew what the Doctor meant, and he would not make any offers lightly.
“All right, then,” the Doctor said, drawing back from the immortal with a smile. “Ladies? Martha, ready to go home, then?”
Martha stepped in and threw her arms around Jack in an affectionate hug.
“Don’t be a stranger, all right? Anytime you need to talk, you call me or the family. Orders from Mum, yeah?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Jack answered, smiling perhaps a little sadly. Martha stretched up to press a soft, chaste kiss to his lips.
“Don’t deal with it alone when you don’t have to. You’re not alone, and don’t forget it.”
She turned, and winked at Ianto as she made her way back into the TARDIS.
“Donna?” the Doctor called out, only to roll his eyes when he caught her handing her phone number to one of the detectives. Striding over, he caught hold of her arm and began to haul her back towards the TARDIS. “Will you come on? Honestly…”
“Oi, leave off, alien boy!” she growled, shrugging free of his grip and stalking back into the TARDIS. Jack couldn’t resist smirking at the Doctor.
“Got yourself a real livewire there.”
“Oh, don’t I know it,” the Doctor muttered ruefully. “It’s like having Francine Jones and Jackie Tyler rolled into one.”
From inside the TARDIS, two indignant voices hollered out at him.
“I heard that!”
The Doctor spared Jack a very distinct ‘why me’ smile before nodding and disappearing back into his ship. The doors swung shut, and a familiar grinding noise filled the air as the time machine vanished from sight.
“And I suppose now we have to begin Operation Clean-Up,” Owen said resignedly.
“And we have a shit-load of paperwork to do,” Mike said grimly, with the air of one resigned to having to do an extremely unpleasant task. Ross, however, shook his head.
“No, Logan. There’ll be no paperwork on this. Right, Captain Harkness?”
“Right,” Jack confirmed. “Tell me, Captain Ross, can your squad be trusted to keep what’s happened here to themselves?”
Ross didn’t answer immediately, but rather took the time to look around slowly, making eye contact with each and every detective present before replying to the question.
“Yes,” he answered finally, with a certainty that couldn’t be disregarded. “They can. What’s gone on here won’t ever be repeated. Not even inside this squad room.”
Jack appeared satisfied, and deliberately ignored the uneasy surprise expressed by his own team.
“Okay, then. We’ll only need to deal with a few outsiders, then. That’s good, makes our job a lot easier. For now, though, I think we’ll head back to our hotel and get some extra rest. Operation Clean-Up can wait until tomorrow.”
Slowly the squad began to disperse, each of them filing out after pausing to tell Bobby they were glad he was safe.
“You see?” Alex said to her partner quietly as he attempted somewhat pointlessly to put his desk in order. “They were all worried about you. None of them would do anything else while you were missing.”
“I appreciate it,” Bobby murmured distractedly. Alex frowned slightly.
“What is it, Bobby? Talk to me.”
He paused, and his gaze fixed on a point beyond her. Alex looked around, and felt an inexplicable chill go through her at the sight of Jack, standing nearby and watching them both intently. She swung back to look at Bobby, having to make a conscious effort to stay calm.
“Bobby, what is going on?”
“Can we go somewhere?” he asked softly. “Maybe get a coffee... I need to talk to you.”
He was looking pale and sick, and she wondered with alarm whether perhaps he wasn't as well-recovered from his ordeal as they had all assumed. Perhaps the hours... or was it days...? spent on that freaky ship hadn't been enough at all. Then again, she mused, this was Bobby. He'd said he needed to talk to her, so odds were that there was something specific that he was torturing himself over – and oh, but he was good at that.
“Let's head back to my place,” she told him, her tone leaving no room for argument. “C'mon.”
He followed her like a subdued puppy, and as they left the squad room she hazarded another glance back. Jack had vanished inside the task room, but she couldn't shake the feeling that he was still watching them. She knew she shouldn't let it bother her. It was more likely that Jack perhaps felt some degree of guilt over Bobby being taken... or rather, that was what she desperately wanted to believe.
It wasn't, she told herself fiercely, anything else at all.
Half an hour later, they were comfortably ensconced on the sofa in Alex's apartment, nursing fresh mugs of hot coffee. Alex took a sip, and then grimaced and sighed as she set the mug down on the coffee table.
“God, I think I've been spoiled. That is nowhere near as good as the coffee Ianto made. I wonder if he'd be willing to share his secret?”
When she got no response, she leaned across and nudged Bobby lightly.
“Talk to me, Bobby. What's going on inside that head of yours?”
Bobby looked around, visibly distracted.
“I... I like your new apartment.”
Her eyebrows rose.
“You have been here before, Bobby. You helped me move, remember?”
“I know,” he mumbled, and promptly went back to looking at the coffee mug in his hands. Alex sighed and plucked the mug carefully out of his hands, setting it beside hers on the coffee table.
“What's wrong, Bobby? It's something to do with Jack, I know that much.”
He sat back, scrubbing his hands over his face in an al-too-familiar gesture of frustration.
“I'm not sure where to even start,” he admitted.
“Try from the beginning?” she suggested lightly. “Why don't you tell me what happened while you were missing?”
He considered that for a minute before answering.
“I was scared,” he confessed, “but it wasn't a paralysing fear. I mean, I knew the danger I was in, but I also knew that it wasn't me... or Ianto... that it really wanted. It was always Jack. He was the one who was in the most danger... maybe even more so because he can't die. You know, his back was broken when that thing threw him against the wall in the alley? When he woke up, he was paralysed from the waist down.”
“And it just... healed?” Alex asked, a touch incredulously.
“After a couple of hours, yes. It hurt him, though. All the nerves coming back together... He screamed from the pain, Alex. It hurt him so much.”
Alex stared down at the mugs in front of them.
“It must hurt every time. I wonder how he deals with that... with all that pain, and trauma. It'd have to do something to him, dying over and over like that.”
“Give a whole new meaning to the phrase, doesn't it?” Bobby mused. “Whatever doesn't kill us only makes us stronger.”
“Or drives us mad.” She shook her head. “I wouldn't want it, you know. Immortality. Especially not like that. I don't envy him, Bobby. Not at all.”
“Neither do I,” Bobby agreed. “Alex, he wants me to join Torchwood.”
She froze where she sat, feeling an icy rush through her body. When she did eventually speak, it was with a forced calm.
“I assuming that we're not talking about it in a casual, on-the-side consultancy.”
“No,” Bobby murmured.
“And you're obviously considering it, or it would never have come up for discussion.”
He didn't answer. Alex sighed and stood up.
“I think I need fresh coffee before we can take this discussion any further.”
He sat in silence, waiting until she was seated beside him once more before daring to look at her. He was genuinely surprised to discover no anger in her expression as she watched him - just a sad sort of resignation, like this was something she had long expected.
“You... don't look angry...” he stammered, and her eyebrows rose in bemusement.
“Did you think I would be? Ah, Bobby... I know you haven't been happy since Deakins retired. To be honest, I've been bracing myself for a while to hear that you'd finally accepted an offer from one of those places that's always head-hunting you. I guess I'm just surprised that of all of them, the one you're seriously considering is a group that probably helped to invent the phrase 'conspiracy theory'. But I'm not angry, Bobby. How can I possibly have the right to be angry when you're finally starting to think of yourself ahead of everyone else? You spent so long putting everyone else first... Your mother especially, and no. Before you say it, no that wasn't wrong. But she's gone now, and it's time you started taking care of your own best interests. And don't you dare use our partnership as an excuse to turn it down. Yes, it's been good, but nothing lasts forever...” She paused, and grimaced. “Well, except for Jack Harkness, apparently. But anyway, sooner or later one of us would have moved on, and as much as I know I'd miss you, at least I know you'd be happy with what you're doing. And let's face it, Bobby. An agency where you don't have to kowtow to politics? Or worry about stepping on someone's sensitivities? And a boss who has even fewer inhibitions than you do! That would be absolutely perfect for you. It really would.”
“Well,” Bobby said awkwardly, “nothing's actually been said yet. For all I know, I might have totally misread the situation...”
Alex shook her head, thinking back to the way Jack had been watching them... No, she corrected herself. The way he'd been watching Bobby.
“I don't think you're wrong, Bobby. But... would you really be willing to leave New York? For Cardiff?”
Bobby smiled faintly at her incredulity.
“Cardiff isn't that bad, Alex. I've been there before, when I was still in the army.”
She sighed again, and shifted across to lean against him. He hesitantly slipped an arm around her shoulders, and the two of them settled back against the soft sofa together.
“I'll miss you, and so will Mike. And you should know that Ross was just starting to get used to you as well.”
Bobby laughed softly, feeling an intense relief as it hit home that she not only accepted the possibility of his leaving the NYPD, but fully supported whatever decision he made.
“Nothing's set in stone, Alex. He may never ask.”
“You don't believe that anymore than I do. Just make me one promise, Bobby.”
“Don't let them change who you are.”
He smiled wryly, and hugged her to him.
“Don't worry. I won't.”
“Please,” Owen said fervently, “tell me we'll be on a plane back home by tomorrow night.”
Jack glanced across at Ianto as they all filed into their hotel suite.
“You, Gwen and Tosh will be. Ianto and I will be staying here for a little while longer to take care of some extra business.”
Startled silence met his words, and finally Gwen spoke tentatively.
“What extra business is this, Jack?”
“There's a small rift running through New York,” Jack explained, deliberately not elaborating on how it came to exist. “The Doctor confirmed it while we were still on the TARDIS.”
“And what?” Owen asked with a frown. “You're not gonna try and close it, are you?”
“No need,” Jack answered as he began pouring drinks for all of them from the bar. “It just needs to be carefully monitored, like the rift back home in Cardiff.”
“Brilliant,” Tosh moaned. “As if we didn't have enough work to do already.”
A knowing grin filled Jack's face, and they knew then that he already had something well planned out.
“That's not going to be your jobs. I'm going to star up a new branch here in the city. Torchwood Five, New York City.”
“And who's going to run it?” Gwen wondered, although the look on her face suggested that she strongly suspected who Jack had chosen.
“I'm hoping that Bobby Goren and Alex Eames will run it,” Jack admitted, and Owen snorted loudly.
“Do you think they would?” Gwen asked. “I mean, they're police officers...”
“So were you,” Jack reminded her with an amused smile as he handed drinks to each of them.
“I was just a PC, Jack,” she retorted. “They're detectives. It's a little bit different.”
“I'm going to offer it to them,” Jack went on patiently. “If they refuse, I'll just have to find someone else, but somehow I don't think it's going to be an issue.”
“That confident, are you?” Owen asked bemusedly. Jack smiled grimly at him.
“I don't recall any of you saying no to me.”
Owen took a mouthful of his drink, mumbling something that sounded suspiciously like 'arrogant bastard'. Jack went on, barely concealing a smirk.
“Ianto and I are going to set it up, and then I'll offer it to them. In the meantime, you three are going to have to cope on your own. And before any of you start complaining, you coped without me once before. You can do it again.”
“Excuse me,” Owen protested. “Before, it was the four of us. You're keeping Ianto with you, this time.”
Jack looked utterly unapologetic, and unashamedly smug, earning himself a familiar eye roll from his lover.
“Yes, I am.”
Uneasy looks were traded between Gwen, Tosh and Owen.
“How long is this all likely to take?” Tosh wondered.
“A couple of months, I think,” Jack mused. “Three at the most.”
Ianto nodded in agreement with Jack's estimate.
“I would say three months. It may take some time to secure a location, but once that's taken care of, it shouldn't take too long.”
“Bloody wonderful,” Owen grumbled. “We get to go home and deal with all the usual shit, while you and Ianto get a three month holiday!”
“I thought you wanted to go home, Owen,” Ianto said snippily, winning himself a rather sour 'fuck off' from the medic.
“Behave, kids,” Jack chided lightly. “It's hardly going to be a holiday, Owen. But in case you really do need me, I can be back home in the blink of an eye. The Doctor fixed the teleport function on my manipulator. I'd just prefer not to have to use it unless I really have to. It's like getting your head twisted inside out.”
“We'll be fine, Jack,” Gwen assured him, and he grinned.
“I know you will be.”
“Remember what I said,” Ianto murmured as Jack stripped off and slid into bed beside him. Jack resisted the urge to roll his eyes.
“I'm not going to forget, Ianto. I'm going to talk to them both tomorrow, together. Just give them an outline of what's going on, and give them a chance to think about it.”
Ianto nodded approvingly.
“We can get it all set up, ready to go, and then come back and see whether they're willing to accept.”
“That's the plan. Ianto...”
“This is the right thing to do, isn't it?”
Ianto hesitated, and then propped himself up on his elbow to look down at Jack in the dim light of the bedroom.
“You're having doubts? You were confident enough when you were pitching it to the Doctor.”
“I had to be. He would have picked up on it, otherwise, and used it as an excuse to scuttle the project.”
Ianto reached out and brushed his fingertips lovingly down the side of Jack's face.
“It's the right thing to do. I really do believe that, and I believe that Bobby and Alex are an excellent choice to take it on.”
The relief that shone in Jack's face was palpable.
“Thankyou,” he whispered, and Ianto smiled as he settled back down beside Jack.
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