First Outing

“So, what's the standard procedure for outings like this?” Alex queried. She was in the back seat with Ianto, who had graciously given up the front passenger seat to Bobby, in deference to his bigger physical stature.

“Well, it depends on a lot of variables,” Jack answered as he guided the SUV through the Cardiff streets. The most important thing to remember, though, is that we need to be flexible. Try not to go into any situation with set expectations. The rift is unpredictable, and it'll knock you on your butt if you give it half a chance.”

“What Jack is so eloquently trying to say,” Ianto said placidly, “is that more often than not the rift tends to throw out alien toasters and hair dryers, but don't automatically make the assumption that what comes through will be harmless.”

“Got it,” Bobby said for the both of them.

“Our methods of retrieval aren't that different to those of the NYPD,” Jack went on to explain. “Rule number one, though, is caution. Always be careful, regardless of whether you think something is harmless or not. Always.”

Two hundred metres more, Jack,” Tosh’s voice told them over their Bluetooth ear pieces. “The signal is steady, but I don’t think it’s a living entity. No way of knowing yet whether it’s sentient, though.”

“You’re saying it could be inanimate and sentient?” Alex queried incredulously. Jack flashed her a brief grin in the mirror.

“Broaden your mind, Alex. Artificial Intelligence isn’t just science fiction anymore, especially when we’re dealing with the rift.”

Alex rolled her eyes.

“Gosh, Bobby, just think of the fun we’re going to have when we get home.”

Jack laughed, unperturbed by her sarcasm.

“Hey, you gotta have fun.”

“Your favourite motto, sir,” Ianto said with the tiniest of smirks. Jack chuckled again and returned his attention to the road.

Jack, stop!” Tosh almost shouted at them through the comms. “You’re practically right on top of it!

Pulling up hard, Jack was out of the SUV almost before he’d put the handbrake on. Ianto, Bobby and Alex were out just behind him.

“Your driving is almost as bad as Bobby’s, Jack,” Alex grumbled as she rubbed the back of her neck. “And... do you realise you’re parked on the sidewalk?”

“Technically, it’s only half on the footpath,” Jack said dismissively. “Tosh? Exactly how close are we?”

I told you, Jack, you’re right on top of it.”

“There’s nothing here, Toshiko,” Jack answered, looking around in steadily growing frustration. “Are you positive?”

A hundred percent, Jack. Directly beneath your feet.”

Jack looked down slowly, and felt his stomach drop. When he looked up again, he saw similar realisation dawning in the eyes of his three companions.

“You can’t be serious...” Alex groaned, and Jack uttered a chuckle that was just a little bit strained.

“So, how water-proof are your shoes?”

“Day one, and we’re on the equivalent of dumpster duty,” Alex griped as they made their way down into the sewers. “You never mentioned anything about this in your plug, Captain.”

“Oh, c’mon, Alex,” Jack retorted. “There’s nothing like getting good and dirty.”

“I get the feeling your mind is on cleaning up afterwards,” Bobby commented in wry amusement. Jack’s grin was almost blinding for a brief few seconds, but he chose not to reply to the remark.

“On your guard, people. Keep an eye out for anything that doesn’t look like it belongs. The sooner we find our target, the sooner we can get out of here, and go clean up.”

Even in the darkness of the sewer tunnel, Bobby and Alex could see Ianto rolling his eyes in fond exasperation. It was clear that he was well used to the steady flow of innuendo, and they both knew already from what little experience they’d had that he was more than capable of giving as good as he got.

Silence fell as they began to search in earnest for the as yet unknown cause of the rift spike. Minutes ticked by as they made their way slowly along the tunnel, following Tosh’s directions until she told them that, once more, they were virtually right on top of the item, whatever it was.

“I still don’t see anything, Toshiko,” Jack told her, and by this time he was starting to sound more than a little bit irritated. “And if you’re about to tell me that it’s in the water…”

“It’s not,” Bobby said abruptly, and though his voice sounded calm enough, his three companions easily picked up on the undercurrent of fear. Jack turned and shone his spotlight in the direction that Bobby was staring, and sucked in a sharp breath of shock. Not ten metres from them, and hovering almost in guard formation around an oddly shaped silvery blue container, were three weevils.

“I’m guessing this isn’t good,” Alex said in a low voice.

“You’d be right about that,” Jack confirmed. He moved slowly, stepping around to place himself between his companions and the weevils, even as they hissed threateningly at them. Ianto moved up beside him, discreetly unholstering his own gun, while at the same time Jack took out his Webley.

“Both of you, stay behind us,” Jack ordered them. “You’re not armed, and I don’t want you putting yourselves at risk.”

“Jack…” Alex whispered, only to be silenced by Jack.

“Do as I say, and stay back! You’re not ready to deal with one weevil, let alone three.”

“They’re attracted by the box,” Ianto said, keeping his voice deliberately low and even, while at the same time he carefully released the safety on his gun.

“I guess leaving them to it isn’t an option?” Bobby wondered.

“No,” Ianto confirmed. “No way of knowing whether the item is dangerous or not. The fact that it’s attracting the weevils is enough to suggest it probably is. We can’t just leave it behind.”

A snarl off to their right drew their attention, and two more weevils emerged out of the darkness.

“Oh, this is not good,” Jack muttered. “Okay, Bobby and Alex, you two need to get out of here. Tosh, you there?”

I’m here, Jack.”

“Get a hold of Gwen and Owen, and tell them to get to our location as fast as they can. We’ve got a serious problem here. Five weevils, and only two guns.”

I’ve sent them the details, they’re already on their way. They should be there in five minutes.”

“We may not have five minutes,” Jack said tensely. “Okay, I’m going to try grabbing that box…”

“Are you out of your mind?” Alex demanded. “They’ll rip you to shreds!”

“We can discuss my state of mind later,” Jack retorted sharply. “Just do as I say. I really do not want to lose either of you on your first day. I’m going to make a grab for that box. When I toss it to you, run like hell and get topside as fast as you can. Wait for me at the SUV. I’ll be along as soon as possible.”

There was no response, and Jack risked a quick glance around. The expression on Ianto’s face was one of weary resignation, while both Bobby and Alex looked positively hostile at the implication of Jack’s next impending death.

“This isn’t the same as with the Grysliaak,” Jack insisted. His gaze focused on Bobby. “I promise.”

Bobby’s expression altered fractionally, and he gave a slight nod, at the same time backing up a couple of steps and turning his body to enable himself the best possible get-away.

“Do what you need to do.”

Not feeling altogether better about what was about to happen, Jack re-holstered his Webley, and braced himself. Before he had the opportunity to move, though, nearly blinding torchlight flared through the tunnel, followed by a rapid succession of gun shots. The weevils howled and fled, driven off by the unexpected assault.

“What the…?” Jack exclaimed, only to grin in relief as Gwen and Owen appeared, guns in hand. “Just in time, you two.”

“Yeah, we know,” Owen retorted. “Just in time to save your sorry arse from death by weevil. And for what? A ruddy metal box? Bloody hell, Jack…”

“We have no idea what’s in it,” Jack snapped, the grin melting from his face as rapidly as it had appeared. He strode over and used his manipulator to scan the box before bending over to pick it up. “Let’s just get back to the Hub, and start the analysis. I want to know what it is that attracted the weevils to it.”

They began to make their way back along the tunnel, and Ianto spoke to Gwen and Owen quizzically.

“Tosh said you were at least five minutes away. How did you get here so fast?”

“Because Gwen has been taking driving lessons from Jack,” Owen said wryly. “She drove like a bloody maniac when we got the message from Tosh. Nearly took out two school kids and a homeless guy selling the Big Issue. You should be proud, Jack.”

Jack grunted, but didn’t respond to the bait. Ianto shook his head.

“God help us, and Cardiff.”

“Excuse me!” Gwen objected. “We got here in time to save you lot. Let’s not hear any complaints, thankyou! And what about Jack? Not one day back, and you nearly got yourself killed!”

“That must be a record,” Alex piped up, and Owen uttered a short, sharp bark of laughter.

“Not quite. This time he only nearly got himself killed. The last time he came back after being away, he managed to get himself killed after just three and a half hours. We found him splayed out across a metal bench, where he’d landed after getting shoved off the top of a building. He was bent nearly in half with a broken back. It was disgusting. We had to practically peel him off the bench.”

“See the lack of sympathy I get?” Jack bemoaned.

The silence that met his statement spoke in volumes, and it was all the others could do not to burst into laughter, even as Jack descended into a sulky silence.

“Is it a compulsion?” Bobby asked once they were safely out of the sewer tunnel, and back at the SUV. Jack froze momentarily in transferring the cause of their current, filthy state into the back of the SUV.


“This… need to sacrifice yourself,” Bobby said, seemingly oblivious to the way Jack’s jaw tightened.

“I don’t have a need to sacrifice myself,” he said tersely, and turned away from him, only to find Ianto standing in front of him. There wasn’t so much a look of disapproval on the younger man’s face, as there was disappointment. He said nothing, though. Instead, he merely held out a containment box for Jack to drop the object into. Jack did so with a scowl, agitated by both the sudden scrutiny he was under and the lack of warmth from Ianto.

“Let’s get back to the Hub,” he said shortly, and climbed back into the SUV without waiting for any of them to concur. Bobby looked across and Ianto, apologetic.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”

Again, Ianto said nothing. He just clapped Bobby lightly on the shoulder and offered him a tight smile before climbing back into the SUV himself. Alex spoke in a low, grim tone as she passed by him.

“Foot in mouth, Bobby. You have chronic foot in mouth disease.”

“I know,” Bobby muttered as he reluctantly headed around to get into the front passenger seat.

“Ladies, the shower is all yours,” Jack announced gallantly as he carried the containment box back into the Hub. “We’ll take it after you. Get cleaned up and changed. I want everyone in the meeting room half an hour.”

“I don’t have a change of clothes,” Alex said in sudden dismayed realisation. Gwen smiled reassuringly at her.

“Don’t worry about it. We’re about the same size, you can borrow a change of clothes from me. I always keep a few sets here, just in case.”

Overhearing the women’s discussion, Bobby looked around uncomfortably as he realised that he didn’t have a change of clothes either. Seeing his discomfort, Ianto patted him on the back.

“We have some spare clothes stashed away. I’m sure I can find something to fit you. I’ll go and have a look now.”

Bobby nodded, though his attention was more on Jack’s office than the young Welshman.

“Ianto, is he all right?”

Ianto glanced towards the closed door of Jack’s office before shrugging slightly.

“He will be. He knows I don’t like it when he put himself deliberately at risk, but at the same time, I know that he doesn’t do it unnecessarily, either. He was right about the artefact. We couldn’t leave it behind. If it turns out to contain a weapon, we need to be able to identify and secure it. If Owen and Gwen hadn’t shown up today, Jack wouldn’t have had a choice except to let the weevils attack him. They’re very much singular focus creatures. We would have been safe to get out of there while they were focused on t… on him.”

“So… if you know he was only doing what had to be done…”

“I accept that his dying often saves our lives, and the lives of others,” Ianto said quietly. “But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And, he doesn’t have a hero complex. What he does have a compulsion to keep the rest of us safe. He’s lost a lot of people over the years, Bobby. I can’t begrudge him the need to protect us whenever he can.”

“Even if it pisses you off?” Bobby asked with a sad smile. Ianto smiled softly in return.

“Especially when it pisses me off. It hurts me to see him get hurt and die, but at least I have the comfort of knowing he’ll come back. If he loses one of us, it’s for keeps. No second chances. Now, excuse me. I’ll go and find you a change of clothes.”

Bobby watched him go, and then looked back to Jack’s office. After a brief contemplation, he made up his mind and headed for the office door to talk to his new boss.

Jack supposed he had no business getting angry or upset. It was an ongoing issue not just between him and Ianto, but between him and the rest of the team, and Bobby and Alex were a part of that now, weren’t they? If anything, he felt he probably should be amused at the way the argument kept playing out. In all honesty, he had really believed that once the entire team knew about his ‘gift’ of immortality, they would be less concerned about him being in dangerous situations, and that they would willingly let him take the biggest risks.

In truth, that was one of the reasons why he hadn’t wanted to let any of them know. Yes, he’d told Gwen that he kept quiet about it in order to stop people freaking out around him, and that was true enough. But there was also a part of him that was desperate to avoid others using him as a human shield. That was what had happened when he was originally recruited to Torchwood, and he’d hated it.

Harkness couldn’t die, just send him. Oh, let Harkness do it, it won’t matter if he’s gutted. Order Harkness to go. A little chemical explosion won’t do him any lasting harm.

Emily Holroyd and Alive fucking Guppy... Those two women would have been the death of him, if he had been able to die permanently. They’d never truly cared for anyone or anything besides each other and the Empire, and he’d never been so glad to see the back of them when he’d gone off to join up for the war in 1914.

So the bitter truth behind his reluctance to share the secret of his immortality with his own team was less a concern that it would freak them out, as it was a fear that they would turn around and abuse it. To say he was surprised that the opposite had happened was a very big understatement. And yes, he remembered with almost painful clarity his resurrection after taking a fifteen storey swan dive, courtesy of Captain John Hart.

Captain, my ass, Jack thought snippily. He remembered with a shudder the searing pain through his back as air rushed back into his lungs, and his eyes snapped open. He was not splayed over the bench, though, but laid out flat on the ground, and his head had been resting on something firm, yet soft. Someone’s thighs, he’d realised as his mind started to creak back into gear. Specifically, Ianto’s thighs. The young man’s face had wavered into focus above his own, warring emotions creasing the handsome features. Worry, fear, irritation...

They’d all been relieved by his revival, but at the same time annoyed by what they saw as an unnecessary risk. After all, he had been the one who had warned them about Hart, and yet he himself had underestimated what his ex-lover was capable of doing.

It had been a very interesting discussion going back to the Hub to confront the rogue Time Agent, and Jack had gotten his first taste of what was to become a regular topic of conversation; conversation being a very, very loose description. More often, it had come down to full blown arguments over the necessity of Jack dying at every apparent opportunity.

And now, there was Bobby Goren and Alex Eames. Bobby had surprised him first whilst they had been in New York, with showing a dogged determination not to let him sacrifice himself to the Grysliaak. Jack had to admit that he appreciated that more than he had the words to say. Even after learning about his immortality, Bobby had been determined not only to protect himself and Ianto – and he had nearly died trying to save Ianto at one point – but also to protect Jack. Jack was still trying to work out exactly what he’d done, and when, to earn that sort of loyalty and friendship that early on from the big detective.

But then, on top of that, there was Alex. That, even more so than Bobby, was a tremendous surprise. She knew he couldn’t die permanently. She’d seen him resurrect twice now – once in a hotel room in New York City, and once in the TARDIS. And yet, down in the sewers, she’d been genuinely horrified at the idea of letting the weevils attack him.

Jack sighed and gave up any pretence of work, choosing instead to bury his face in his hands.

Did they really all believe he was happy to give his life up so easily? That he considered his life to be so expendable? He wasn’t sure what hurt the worst – the thought that they believed he considered himself expendable like that, even for the sake of his team; or that he just didn’t care. Because in reality, neither option was true. He didn’t consider himself expendable, and he did care – perhaps just a little too much.

“Excuse me, Jack?”

Slowly, Jack raised his head to find Bobby hovering in the doorway, looking torn between wanting to come in, and wanting to give the Captain his privacy. Biting back a desire to give the other man the brush in favour of having some time to himself, Jack instead waved him into the office.

“Come in, Bobby. Have a seat.”

Bobby stepped inside, carefully closing the door behind him. He didn’t sit, though, and Jack watched in amusement as the former detective began to pace the expanse of the office.

“I... I just wanted to apologise.”

Jack couldn’t help but feel surprised, and intrigued.

“Apologise for what?”

“For what I said, about you having a need to sacrifice yourself. It’s none of my business. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything, and especially not in front of anyone else.”

Jack blinked, amazed at the way the tension literally bled out of him in response to Bobby’s quiet and sincere apology. He sat back slowly, regarding Bobby with renewed interest.

“Bobby, quit pacing and sit down. I’m not going to bite. At least, not while we’re both smelling like the sewer.”

A wry smile touched Bobby’s lips, and he settled himself somewhat awkwardly into a chair on the other side of the desk. Jack watched him with a bright, curious gaze.

“No, it wasn’t the right time or place to say anything, and I appreciate the apology. But you’re wrong when you say it’s none of your business. You’re a part of my team now, and therefore it is your business. If anything, I should be grateful that you actually give enough of a damn about me to call me on it.”

An odd look flickered in Bobby’s eyes, as though he’d just been confronted by a surprising realisation.

“I do care,” he admitted, sounding a little astonished by his own admission. “Alex and I both do. You gave us a new chance at life, Jack. I know that sounds cliché, but you did. I... I guess I just want to know that you aren’t taking your own life for granted. I know you say you can’t die permanently, and that the Doctor said the same. But nothing is ever absolute, and even though you’d probably welcome a permanent death... because God knows, I can’t imagine what it must be like to have lived for so long, and through so much... it doesn’t change the fact that losing you would cripple us. And every time you die, we all feel that little hint of panic. We all wonder if you’re going to come back this time. That’s what I felt each time I watched the Grysliaak kill you, so I can only imagine what Ianto must go through every time.”

At the mention of Ianto, Jack’s expression darkened just a little. Bobby, however, held his hands up defensively.

“I know, you’re going to say I’m out of line bringing Ianto into it, and you’re right. But I didn’t mention him for the reasons you’re probably assuming. He doesn’t believe you take your own life for granted, and he accepts that you do what you honestly believe you have to do. He doesn’t like it, but he accepts it. I don’t know about the others. I just know that Alex and I have a way to go before we’re going to get to that point, so the next time we’re in a situation where you feel you need to put yourself in the firing line like that, if we open our mouths and say the wrong thing, please remember that it’s only because we care about you.”

Despite the apparent sincerity of Bobby’s words, Jack couldn’t help feeling as though he was being manipulated in some way. Still, looking at the other man... a man who looked considerably older than him, and yet was far, far younger... Jack couldn’t help but be touched. He’d seen the Doctor inspire that sort of loyalty in just about everyone whose life he changed for the better, and even in some whose lives he hadn’t made better at all. It was a little humbling to think that he was now inspiring a similar loyalty in his own team.

“I don’t take anything for granted, Bobby,” he answered finally, in a sombre tone of voice. “Above and beyond anything else, I do not take my own life for granted. I admit that I did once upon a time, long ago... Decades before you were even born... But I’m beyond that pettiness now. I am not happy about continuously dying, except as a means to save others, and I’m not just talking about my immediate team. I’m talking about anyone. If someone is in danger, and my dying will save their life, then that’s what I’ll do. I am not trying to be a martyr. Believe me, I’d rather not die, because ninety-nine percent of the time, it bloody hurts! Sometimes, though, there just isn’t any other way. Today, in the sewers, for example. If Owen and Gwen hadn’t arrived when they did, I would have had two choices, and one of those choices could all too easily have resulted in you, Alex or Ianto getting killed. Or maybe even all three of you. There is a very good reason why we don’t go on solo hunts for weevils. Even I try to avoid that, if I can. I have a tendency to get very badly clawed if I try to hunt for weevils on my own, and even Ianto only has so much patience when it comes to stitching up both me and my shirts.”

Bobby smiled and chuckled, acutely aware of how much that probably irritated the meticulous young Welshman. Jack smiled as well, almost wistfully.

“Torchwood has rules to abide by, Bobby. Some are similar to the rules you operated under as a cop in the NYPD. Some you’ll find are very different, and you’ll learn them as you go. As I said yesterday to you and Alex, you’ll make mistakes. That’s okay. Just make sure you learn from those mistakes. Now, I have rules, too. One of them is that I ask you to accept my judgement. If you want to call me on something, fine. I’ll welcome it, but not when we’re in the middle of a potentially life threatening situation. Sometimes, taking just two minutes to argue over options is all it’ll take to get everyone killed. If I say I have to put myself in the firing line to keep the rest of you from getting killed, I need you to accept that I’m not just saying that for the hell of it. It might sound like it, but I really don’t mean it like that.”

“I understand,” Bobby murmured. “And again, I’m sorry.”

Jack raised an eyebrow at him, a hard glint appearing in his eyes.

“I hope that’s the last time you’re going to apologise for that, Detective Goren.”

Bobby opened his mouth to speak, but the words seemed to catch in his throat. For a split second, Bobby Goren managed to do a pretty damned good impersonation of a fish, with his mouth opening and closing a few times. Then, finally, he recovered and grinned wryly.

“Yes. That was the last time.”

A wide, relieved grin broke out across Jack’s face.

“Good. You can learn on the run. That’s very good, Bobby. And for the record, you and Alex did fine today.”

If anything, Bobby looked incredulous at that.

“Fine? We didn’t do anything, Jack. We just followed you and Ianto into the sewers.”

“Exactly,” Jack confirmed. “You followed, and you didn’t argue or complain. Well, no more than Ianto and I complained, at least. That counts for more than you realise.”

“It wasn’t all that bad,” Bobby admitted. “No worse than the dumpster diving we had to do back home, at any rate.”

Jack chuckled, and got to his feet, indicating for Bobby to stand up as well.

“Well, I’d like to say that going into the sewers is only an occasional thing for us, but...”

“Murphy’s Law,” Bobby concluded. “The worst possible things end up in the worst possible places.”

“Exactly,” Jack agreed. “But we got it this time, whatever it is, so let’s go get cleaned up... because sewer chic really does not go well with my pheromones, and the girls ought to be done by now... and then we can work out exactly what it is that the weevils were so hell-bent on guarding.”

Bobby nodded in wordless agreement, and followed Jack out of his office and into the lower levels of the Hub.

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