Lessons in Subterfuge

When they emerged back into the Hub with Eleya clean and bundled up in an enormous towel, Alex knew immediately that Bobby and Owen were up to something. She knew her partner too well, and saw straight through his nonchalant demeanour. Whether Jack noticed was another thing entirely, though, and Alex opted not to say anything, choosing instead to corner Bobby once Jack was out of earshot, and find out what was going on.

Oh, she had a fair idea about it, and by the look of it, so did Ianto. It was probably a good thing that Jack's attention was primarily on Eleya. Otherwise, she had no doubt that he would have quickly cottoned on to what was going on with the two men, and probably hit the roof... literally and figuratively.

He didn't notice, though, and instead headed directly for his office, with Eleya in his arms.

“I'll keep her in my office for now,” Jack called back to them over his shoulder. “It's a bit warmer than out here. Send Gwen and Tosh in with the clothes as soon as they get back.”

He'd barely disappeared from sight before both Ianto and Alex went to confront Bobby and Owen.

“What are you up to, Owen?” Ianto demanded to know, a threatening frown on his face. Owen looked indignant... or, at least, attempted to.

“Who says I'm up to anything? You've got a suspicious mind, Ianto, and I'm offended.”

“Get off your high horse, Owen,” Ianto growled. “You avoided Jack when he brought Eleya back up here. You're being deliberately sneaky. Now tell me what's going on, or I'll go straight to Jack.”

Owen glanced none to subtly at Bobby, who by then was looking equally guilty.

“Bobby?” Alex asked, peering up at her partner. He tried to avoid her gaze, but she was having none of it.

“Alex...” he protested, but she cut him off.

“C'mon, Bobby. You know you can't fool me. Now tell us what's going on.”

Bobby and Owen looked at each other, and Ianto groaned softly.

“Oh, you didn't...”

Owen looked awkward, but didn't hesitate to defend himself and his partner in crime.

“We need to know, Ianto. And that kid is so bloody positive that Jack is her father, there must be something behind it.”

“Owen,” Ianto said wearily. “Did it even occur to you... to either of you... that knowing might only end up hurting them both?”

“Either way, Jack is likely to get hurt,” Bobby pointed out soberly. “But he must want to know for sure, even if he won’t admit it.”

Alex sighed and ran her fingers through her hair.

“He does want to know, and no. He’s not admitting it openly. But he’s scared, too.”

“And if you repeat that, he’ll never forgive any of you,” Ianto put in dryly.

“I can understand that, though,” Owen conceded. “I mean, it’s a bloody awful position to be in. If she isn’t his, then he has to find a way to make her understand that. If she is, he has to decide whether to keep her with him or not. And if he does keep her with him, then he has to face outliving her, just like is going to happen with all of us.”

“But whatever happens, whether he knows the truth one way or another, he still has some hard decisions to make,” Bobby said. Ianto nodded grimly.

“Yes, he does, and he knows it. So whatever results you get, bury them until he asks for them, because this is difficult enough for him without the added pressure from the rest of us.” He grimaced a little. “Not to mention, it’ll be hard enough for him when Gwen decides to start pushing the social conscience agenda.”

“Maybe I should have a little word with Gwen?” Alex suggested, and Owen chuckled darkly in response.

“Trust me, it’s not worth the headache. That woman is Welsh through and through, and once she gets something into her head, there’s no changing her mind. All we can try to do is minimise the damage, and try to keep Jack from losing it at her.”

“You really think we should bury the results?” Bobby wondered. “No matter what they are?”

“Until he asks for it?” Ianto said. “Yes. Absolutely.”

“What if he doesn’t ask for it?” Bobby wondered. Ianto smiled, perhaps a little sadly.

“He will. Give him time, and he will, if for no other reason than his own curiosity won’t allow him to leave it alone. Sooner or later, he’s going to want to know.”

Jack settled Eleya on the couch, wrapped up warmly in the towel.

“Now, just be patient a little longer, and we'll have some clean clothes for you to wear.”

Eleya stared up at him, her eyes shining.


It was said almost like a prayer of thanks, as though she was reassuring herself that he was real. Jack felt his stomach roll unpleasantly. She seemed so certain, and he couldn't help but wonder at what trauma had resulted in her mistaking him for her father, whoever he really was.

“I'm not your dada, sweetheart,” he told her gently, stroking her cheek with his thumb. “But I promise you that I'll do my best to find him for you, and get you back where you belong.”

He suspected she didn't understand what he'd just said, because she threw her arms around him with fresh enthusiasm and a squeal of joy. Jack felt tears sting his eyes. He stood by what he'd said to Alex. He just didn't believe he could be responsible for the creation of something so beautiful and precious.

He seated her back on the couch with the penguin stuffed toy for company. Ianto had brought both the penguin and the teddy bear back from the mall, but had taken the bear away for a thorough washing, given that it was just as filthy as Eleya had been. She seemed happy enough cuddling the toy, but her attention was unmistakably on Jack as he sat down and prepared to get some work done.

Minutes ticked by, and Jack became more distracted by the unfortunate overabundance of paperwork. It wasn't until he heard a soft thud that he looked up to find Eleya had conked out on the couch, still cuddling the penguin and tangled up in the fluffy towel. Chuckling, he went over to ensure she was okay.

Sitting on the edge of the couch, Jack reached down to brush loose strands of hair back from Eleya’s face. Her hair was dark in colour, almost black, but there were slivers of silver ran through her hair that made it shine when the light hit it in just the right place. She was unlike anything he had ever come across before, in both appearance and power. He had no doubt that she was responsible for the death of the man in the mall, but instinct told him that she was no threat.

His team was right. She had done what she did... whatever that was... out of self defence and self preservation. It was that simple.

Of course, he knew of races throughout the universe that were renowned for their psychic talents. Top of that list, naturally, were the Time Lords, of which the Doctor really was now the last one. There were the Glayans, the Mendyrians, the Aarethians and the Ynterios. He had no doubt that there were other races out there, and narrowing down which race Eleya belonged to was not going to be easy.

He sighed a little, losing himself in stroking his fingers over her newly washed hair. There was something familiar about the gesture, something that lingered at the very edges of his mind – a memory that hovered just out of his reach. It was frustrating, but the harder he tried to reach for that elusive memory, it only seemed to get farther away. In the end, he gave up, acutely aware of the onset of a headache as a result of his efforts.

“Jack? Are you all right?”

Jack glanced around distractedly as Ianto entered the office.

“Bit of a headache,” he mumbled, rubbing gingerly at the back of his neck.

“Here, let me,” Ianto murmured, crossing over and standing behind Jack to begin massaging his neck and shoulders. Another sigh escaped Jack’s lips, and he gradually began to relax under Ianto’s expert ministrations.

“You are so great at this,” he mumbled, relaxing back into Ianto.

“So I’ve been told,” Ianto said with a smile. Jack uttered a brief chuckle.

“Yeah, by me.”

Silence reigned for a short while before Ianto finally broke it.

“Is she all right?” he asked, peering down at the little girl over Jack’s shoulder.

“I think so,” Jack answered, his own gaze fixed on the child. “I think it all finally just caught up with her. Damn, Ianto, I wish we could understand her, and find out what happened to her.”

“We will. Toshiko will get to work on her translation program when she and Gwen get back, and hopefully within twenty-four hours we’ll be able to understand what she’s saying to us.”

“She expects me to understand her,” Jack said sadly. “I can’t explain to her why I don’t.”

“It’s not your fault, Jack.”

“Then why do I keep getting the feeling that it is?”

Ianto’s hands stilled on Jack’s shoulders, and then the younger man came around and crouched down in front of his lover.

“Do you feel like there’s a possibility that she could be yours? Because you may not want to hear it, Jack, but it needs to be said all the same. She does actually look like you, and I think it’s more than just a fluke.”

Jack couldn’t quite bring himself to look Ianto in the eye as he spoke heavily.

“I was telling Alex before about my two missing years.”

“You mean the years that the Time Agency wiped from your memory?”

“Yes. I can’t help but wonder whether maybe I fathered Eleya during that time. But at the same time...”

He trailed off, looking both confused and distressed.

“What?” Ianto pressed, hoping to get an answer, but at the same time not wanting to push Jack beyond the boundaries of what he could withstand mentally and emotionally.

“I don’t know!” Jack burst out. “I feel like there’s a connection here, but even if there was, look at her! She’s at least three years old, Ianto. The Time Agency only took two years from my memory. I know I didn’t father a child in the year or so before the missing years. She can’t be mine. It’s just not possible.”

Ianto reached up to cup Jack’s cheek, silencing his protests.

“Nothing is impossible, Jack. Just highly improbable. You, of all people, ought to understand that.”

Jack looked away.

“I’m confused, Ianto,” he admitted unhappily. “I don’t know what to do. We have a kid here who is probably a powerful psychic, and we have no real way of identifying which race she belongs to. She thinks I’m her father, for whatever reason... And there’s every possibility that there could be multiple hostiles chasing her. What the hell are we supposed to do with her?”

“I wish I had an answer for you, Jack,” Ianto murmured. “All I can say is that we’ll have to just take this one step at a time. Have you thought about letting Owen run a DNA comparison?”

Jack frowned slightly.

“You mean like the one he’s running right at the moment?”

Ianto blanched.

“You... already know about that?”

The grimly satisfied smile that spread across Jack’s face was mildly unpleasant to look at.

“I didn’t for sure, until now.”

“Damn,” Ianto muttered. “I walked right into that one, didn’t I? Are you angry?”

The smile softened just a little.

“Not really. But he should have just asked me.”

“He... We didn’t think you were ready to consider it,” Ianto admitted. “Look, Jack, the likelihood is that it will just prove what you’ve been saying, that you’re not her father. Once we’ve got that sorted, then we can look at our options for dealing with her.”

Jack looked back to the child sadly.

“What the hell must she have gone through, Ianto? To traumatise her so badly that she latched onto me as her father?”

“You know, it’s probably the pheromones?” Ianto mused.


“Your pheromones,” Ianto reiterated. “And I do not mean anything dirty by that, so get your mind out of the gutter, Captain. Assuming she’s from the 51st century, the same as you, and assuming that her father is human, it may not only be that you look like him. You might also smell like him.”

Jack laughed gruffly.

“That’s just insane enough to make sense. It would explain why she latched onto me instead of you. More than just simple imprinting after all, wasn’t it?”

“Without a doubt,” Ianto said with a wry smile. “You and those bloody pheromones, Jack. Always knew they’d get you into trouble one day.”

Jack laughed openly, and pulled Ianto to him in a fierce hug.

“I love you, Ianto. Don’t ever change.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Ianto murmured, taking great pleasure in the embrace. He smiled as he felt Jack’s lips on his neck, and then his jaw, and finally on his own lips. The two men were momentarily lost in the emotional kiss, until the distinct sound of giggling drew their attention away from each other. Looking around, they were none too surprised to find Eleya had woken up, and was sitting up, still wrapped up in the towel and watching them with visible delight. A smile lit up Jack’s face, and he reached over to ruffle her hair affectionately.

“You didn’t sleep for long, you little monkey.”

Dragging the towel along with her, Eleya crawled over to them and put a hand on each of their shoulders, pushing them towards each other with a childish strength, at the same time making a loud kissing noise. Grinning, Jack pulled her in between them and launched a tickling assault, causing the child to shriek with laughter. Ianto joined in, gratified to hear the joy in the little girl’s voice.

“Just look at you two, the picture of domestic bliss,” a voice said from the doorway, and both men looked up to see Gwen standing there, shopping bags in hand, and Tosh close behind her, similarly loaded. Jack raised an eyebrow at the sight of their haul.

“You only needed to buy a couple of spare outfits.”

“Only a couple?” Gwen retorted. “You don’t know much about looking after children, if you thought that you’d only need a couple of outfits. Then there are pyjamas, underwear… Oh, all sorts of things you’re going to need. And not just clothes, either.”

“We bought a toothbrush and toothpaste,” Tosh said cheerfully, “and bubble bath, powder, and some food that’s suitable for a three year old.”

Jack nodded in resignation, resisting the urge to roll his eyes.

“Okay, okay. Thankyou, ladies. Now, if you’ll leave it all there, Ianto and I will get this little lady sorted out.”

Gwen came forward, though, a reproving look on her face.

“Do you think it’s really appropriate for you to be changing her, Jack? Tosh and I can do it…”

She was reaching out for Eleya as she spoke, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the little girl was visibly cringing away from her, and clinging to Jack with growing distress.

“Gwen, stop,” Ianto warned her. “I don’t think she wants you to touch her.”

“Oh, nonsense,” Gwen retorted. “It’s just for a few minutes. C’mon, love, you come with Aunty Gwen and Aunty Tosh, and we’ll dress you up all nice and pretty. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

“Nai!” Eleya shrieked, and Gwen staggered back a few steps as an invisible force slammed into her, like a sudden wall of impassable air. Jack instantly wrapped his arms around her, and she curled in against him, trembling badly. Ianto eyed the little girl with a mixture of concern and curiosity before turning back to meet Gwen’s shocked stare with a level gaze of his own.

“I warned you, Gwen. Now, I suggest you go before she really gets upset.”

Stunned and shaken, Gwen nodded and hurried from the office without further argument. Tosh hesitated just long enough to give them an apologetic look before backing out and pulling the door closed after her. Ianto waited until they were right away from the door before turning back to observe Jack. He had his arms wrapped around Eleya, cradling her close and humming softly in an effort to soothe her.

Eleya was saying something in between heart-breaking sobs that Ianto couldn’t understand, and Jack was murmuring reassurances to her.

“It’s all right, baby. I know, you didn’t hurt her. It’s okay, I’m not mad.”

“You can understand her?” Ianto asked in surprise as he rejoined them. Jack looked up at him, momentarily startled, before returning his attention to Eleya.

“I guess so. I wasn’t really thinking about it… but yeah. I can understand her. I mean, I couldn’t at first. It just sounded like gibberish to me, but now that I have the chance to just sit quietly with her and listen, I do understand what she’s saying. I still couldn’t tell you what language she’s speaking… or which variation of what language… but I do actually understand her.”

“What’s she saying?” Ianto asked, curiosity overcoming diplomacy.

“She’s apologising,” Jack answered. “She keeps saying she’s sorry, that she didn’t mean to be bad. She said she just didn’t want to be taken away again.”

“Poor love,” Ianto murmured as he sat down on the other side of the distraught child. “It’s not your fault. Gwen had plenty of warning, and chose to ignore it.”

Eleya twisted a little, looking up at Ianto with wide, watery eyes.


Jack’s eyebrows rose in conjunction with Ianto’s when Eleya turned and wrapped her thin arms around the Welshman in a fierce hug. He quickly reciprocated it somewhat awkwardly as the towel had slipped down to leave her almost completely uncovered.

“C’mon, sweetheart,” Jack said gently. “How about we get you dressed in some nice, new clothes?”

Sniffling pitifully, Eleya detached herself from Ianto and crawled off the couch, and allowed Jack to lead her over to the first of the shopping bags.

“All right, let’s see what we’ve got here…” Jack said, emptying the first bag out onto the floor.

“That’s an awful lot of pink,” Ianto commented dryly. Jack grimaced.

“It had to be Gwen who picked out all of this. What about that other bag, Ianto? We could do with putting her in something a little more practical than frilly dresses.”

Smiling wryly, Ianto began to remove individual articles of clothing from the second bag, rather than just dumping them out onto the floor as Jack had done. He went through three more skirts in varying shades of pink before finding a little pair of blue jeans, and a red tee-shirt with a picture of a panda bear on it.

“Now, that’s more like it,” Jack enthused, reaching over to take the tee-shirt and jeans from Ianto. “Are there shoes in there? Eleya, what do you think? Do you like this?”

Ianto rolled his eyes in mock exasperation as Jack skipped from one question to the next, acting much like a big kid. Eleya squealed in delight, and made a grab at the tee-shirt. Jack laughed and hooked it out of her reach.

“Uh-uh, sweetheart. Singlet first. I don’t want you catching a cold. Ianto?”

Ianto handed him a singlet and pair of underpants from one of the other bags, barely hiding a smirk as he did so. Jack caught the amused look, and spoke with a touch of indignation.

“What? What’s so funny?”

“You,” Ianto said with a short laugh. “Don’t worry, Jack, I’m not trying to make fun of you, and I didn’t mean funny as in joke-funny. I just never quite pictured you as domestic as this before now.”

Jack grunted.

“That’s because I don’t do domestic.”

“And yet, you’re taking to this like a natural.”

Jack paused in his actions, his breath freezing in his throat as he realised the truth of Ianto’s words. When he’d held up the underpants, Eleya had automatically taken hold of his shoulders to steady herself in what had seemed to be a familiar and practised gesture. He had then proceeded to dress her with an ease that was almost disturbing.

“I…” he stammered, momentarily thrown. “I… It’s just dressing her, Ianto. It’s hardly rocket science!”

Ianto uttered a short laugh.

“Oh, Jack, you have no idea. I have three nephews, all of whom I have babysat for at some time or other, and I can tell you right now that I would much rather face a weevil than have to get them dressed in the mornings. It might not be rocket science, but it’s no less difficult. Little people have a tendency to squirm, you see, especially when they’re in the company of people they’re not entirely familiar with. Now, either this little girl is phenomenally well behaved – which, in itself is something of a miracle given the circumstances – or there really is a connection between the two of you that you don’t know about, or don’t remember.”

Jack’s jaw tightened slightly. So they were back to that again.

“Is there a jumper in one of these bags? I don’t want her wandering around in just a tee-shirt. She’ll get sick. Assuming she is from the 51st century, she’s probably been inoculated against everything from Chicken Pox and Measles to Pancreatic Cancer, but they never did manage to beat the common Cold.”

Ianto decided not to press the issue. Jack was still dragging his feet over deciding whether he wanted to know the results of the DNA tests Owen was running… and damn, didn’t he want to be a proverbial fly on the wall when Jack hauled Owen’s scrawny arse into his office to have it out with him over that little act of insubordination.

He dug into yet another bag – Gwen and Tosh must have bought up shares in the local children’s wear store – and found not only a light blue fleecy lined hoodie top, but also a pair of thick socks and sneakers. He passed them to Jack, who wasted no time in getting the items onto the little girl. Once she was fully dressed, Jack drew back to look at her critically.

“Not bad,” he decided finally. “We might have to exchange the pink clothes, though.”

“Gwen will be disappointed,” Ianto pointed out amusedly.

“Nai pink!” Eleya stated loudly, and Jack chuckled.

“She has spoken.”

“She has, indeed,” Ianto agreed with a grin.

Eleya was looking down at herself awkwardly, trying to see what the new clothes looked like. Still smiling broadly, Ianto took her gently by the shoulders and turned her towards the glass wall, where she was able to see her own reflection.

“There you go. See how gorgeous you look?”

Eleya stared at her reflection wonderingly for nearly a minute before spinning around and hugging Ianto ferociously. Before he had a chance to recover from the surprise tackle, Eleya had already let go of him and charged over to Jack, launching herself into his waiting arms.

“Dada,” she said happily, locking her arms around his neck. Jack winced just a little, dreading the coming disappointment when he would have to try and explain to her that he was not her daddy. Maybe, by then, they will have found her real father, and it would work out all right for everyone. And yet, he felt an odd twinge of unhappiness and jealousy at the thought of her calling someone else ‘Dada’.

“All right,” Jack said, standing up and lifting her with him. “Let’s go out and see the others, and talk about what we’re going to do with you, little monkey.”

The rest of the team was already assembled in the boardroom, waiting on Jack and Ianto to arrive with Eleya. While Tosh and Alex both grinned at the adorable sight of the little girl in Jack’s arms, Gwen frowned just slightly.

“I thought you might have put one of the dresses on her.”

“They’re all very lovely, Gwen,” Ianto said in an effort to appease her, “but not terribly practical for the Hub.”

“Well, I suppose that’s fair enough,” Gwen conceded, if somewhat reluctantly. Jack walked around and took his seat at the head of the table, settling Eleya carefully on his lap. She curled in against him, thin arms clutching him around his chest, and watching the rest of them through a mop of silvery black hair.

“We need to decide what to do about this little one.”

Gwen was on her feet so fast that it left all their heads spinning.

“I have a suggestion about that, Jack.”

“Here we go,” Ianto muttered in a low enough voice that only Jack was able to hear. Jack resisted the urge to react, and instead kept his eyes carefully trained on her.

“What suggestion do you have, Gwen?”

“Well, I’ve spoken to Rhys, and he agreed that we could take her in for the time being.”

Jack’s eyebrows shot up.

“We? As in, you and he?”

“Well, yes. The Hub is no place for a child, Jack.”

“I’m fully aware of that, Gwen,” Jack said in a deceptively calm voice, “and I had no intention of keeping her down here. What I want to know is what makes you think that you’re the right person to take care of her?”

Gwen blinked at him in surprise, as though she honestly hadn’t expected him to argue with her.

“Well… Rhys and I have babysat loads of times for our nieces and nephews… and you know we’ll be thinking about starting a family when we get married…”

“So you thought you’d practise on Eleya.”

Gwen had the decency to look abashed, but nor did she back down.

“Jack, do you really think it’s a good idea for you to be looking after her? Think about it for a moment. She thinks that you’re her father. Do you really think you should be encouraging that?”

Jack’s expression altered fractionally, and he looked down at Eleya with a fresh hint of uncertainty. Ianto saw it, and felt a rush of anger towards Gwen. Before he could speak up to defend his lover, though, Bobby beat him to it.

“Actually, I think it would do more harm to Eleya to separate her from Jack. She’s a scared little girl, and she needs security and comfort.”

Gwen opened her mouth to protest that she and Rhys could easily provide that, but again Bobby beat her to the punch.

“Regardless of who her father really is, she’s obviously already been separated from him once in what I’d guess were particularly traumatic circumstances. Taking her away from Jack now, no matter what the reason, would only result in traumatising her all over again.”

“Not to mention,” Owen piped up, “that kid is capable of seriously kicking arse, and we’ve seen what can happen when she’s upset or frightened.”

“Very eloquent, Owen,” Ianto said dryly. “You are right, though. And Gwen, you know what happened when you tried to take her away from Jack just to get her dressed. How do you think she’s going to react if you try to take her away from him completely?”

By then, Gwen was starting to look distinctly uncomfortable.

“I wasn’t talking permanently,” she protested. “I just thought maybe for nighttimes, and a bit of time during the day! And besides, once we find out where she’s from, we can get her home again, and that’ll be the end of it. Won’t it?”

Jack glanced fleetingly at Bobby and Alex, and though he said nothing, they were able to read the look in his eyes all too well. It clearly said ‘see what I mean?’ And from the looks on their faces, they did.

“Gwen,” Jack said in a quiet voice, but she cut in over the top of him once more.

“Jack, it isn’t healthy for you to be looking after her! Surely you can see that? Please, I’m just trying to do what’s best for both you and Eleya!”

The tension in Jack’s expression faded a little at her sincere tone, and he nodded.

“I know, Gwen, and I appreciate it. But the answer is no. I can’t allow you and Rhys to take Eleya, for your sakes as well as hers. It isn’t about emotional attachment, it’s about ensuring everyone’s safety. Ours, Eleya’s and the public’s. Things happen when this little girl gets upset and frightened, so my priority is making sure she doesn’t get upset or frightened. And it seems the best way to do that is to keep her with me.”

For several long, tense seconds, it seemed that Gwen was gearing herself up to keep arguing with Jack. Abruptly, though, she gave up and backed down, sitting back in her seat with a thud. Jack nodded, quietly relieved to have won that argument – even if he suspected she wasn't quite finished with him over it yet. For now, though, he had the upper hand.

“All right, moving on. Owen, the tests you and Bobby are running. When will you have the results?”

“Should have most of them by this afternoon,” Owen confirmed. Jack looked from one man to the other piercingly.

“And does that include the DNA comparison that you're running on the blood samples you took from both Eleya and me?”

For nearly a minute, Owen achieved a remarkably good impression of a guppy. Bobby, however, recovered from the surprise somewhat faster and answered with a single nod, opting for honesty.

“That will take a little longer. The results should be ready early tomorrow morning.”

Jack was slightly mollified by Bobby's honesty. But only slightly.

“Fine. And next time, ask me first.” He ran his hand gently over Eleya's hair, and she hummed contentedly into his chest. “I guess that's all we can do for now.”

“So what now?” Alex wondered. “Business as usual?”

Jack smiled faintly.

“Well, I don't know about anyone else, but I'm hungry. Ianto...?”

“I'll order in breakfast,” Ianto offered, and Jack smiled in gratitude.

“Great. Thankyou. Now, everyone, back to work. Gwen, I want you to go through protocols and procedures with Alex. Tosh? Would you be able to take Eleya for a few minutes? I need to have a little chat with Bobby and Owen.”

The two men exchanged rueful looks, and promptly sat back down again. Tosh smiled and walked over to the Captain.

“If she'll come with me.” She leaned over a little so that she was closer to eye level with the little girl. “Eleya? Would you like to come and help me for a few minutes?”

Eleya stared at Tosh thoughtfully before looking back up at Jack.


“It's okay,” he assured her. “Go with Aunty Tosh so I can talk to Uncle Bobby and Uncle Owen.”

Seemingly reassured, Eleya extracted herself from Jack's embrace and slid to the floor. She took Tosh's hand and allowed the young woman to lead her from the boardroom.

“Oh, that isn't half gonna piss off Gwen,” Owen retorted with a short laugh once they were gone. Jack couldn't resist a small smile, knowing full well that Owen was right. It would piss off Gwen to see that Eleya had willingly gone with Toshiko. Then, he reminded himself of why he had held back his medic, and one of his newest recruits, and the smile slid off his face.

“I just want to know the answer to one question,” he told them coolly. “Why?”

It was Bobby who spoke and, showing that he'd learnt his lesson, he did not offer an apology.

“It seemed the logical thing to do, Jack. Eleya really does believe that you're her father, and the truth is that there is a resemblance...”

“Just a coincidence,” Jack said dismissively. Bobby nodded.

“So you say. In which case, wouldn't you prefer to know for certain, and have all doubt eliminated?”

Jack looked piercingly from Bobby to Owen.

“That's the only reason? You didn't do it to satisfy your own curiosity?”

Both men looked mildly uncomfortable, and this time it was Owen's turn to confess.

“Of course we're bloody curious, Jack. We're human aren't we? But that doesn't automatically mean that we weren't considering you first. I'm still a doctor above and beyond everything else, and you ought to know I wouldn't let anyone else see the results ahead of you, so quit acting like such a bloody prat.”

For all of about ten seconds, Jack's face looked positively thunderous. But then, the anger melted away and he sighed and nodded.

“You're right, and I'm sorry. This whole situation just has me on edge. But please, both of you – next time, come and ask me first. Don't go behind my back.”

They murmured assent and, at Jack's waved dismissal, got up to leave.

“By the way,” Owen asked, turning back at the door to look at Jack. “Just how did you know, anyway? Did Ianto spill the beans?”

“Owen,” Jack said chidingly, as though he was speaking to a child, “this is you we're talking about. I would have been surprised if you hadn't done it. Now go. Get back to work.”

Again exchanging wry looks, the two men exited the office to go back to work. Jack watched them go, unsure whether to be amused or annoyed. He was going to have to be careful. The last thing he needed was for Bobby to be influenced by Owen, and any hopes he had that it might be the other way around were slim at the very best. Owen was far too stubborn to ever change.

He was still smiling wryly to himself when Ianto came back into the boardroom.

“Something amusing? Ianto queried. Jack shook his head.

“Not really. Food ordered?”

“Should be here in half an hour. I noticed you appear to have left Owen and Bobby relatively intact.”

“I was feeling merciful.”

Ianto snorted derisively.

“Of course you were. Eleya also seems quite happy with Tosh, although Gwen doesn't seem terribly impressed.”

“Gwen's problem is that she doesn't understand the concept of subtle. Eleya will warm up to her, but she can't expect it to happen instantly. I think Eleya trusts Tosh because Tosh was there with you when you found her.”

Ianto nodded slowly.

“That does make sense. Jack...”

“What is it, Ianto?”

“Well, I was wondering... and please don't bite my head off for saying it, but I think it does need to be said. You're so certain that you aren't Eleya's father, but what if you are? Have you thought about what you'll do then?”

A haunted look flickered oh so briefly across Jack's face, and then it was gone.

“You mean besides ret-conning her and sending her as far away as possible?”

“I don't believe you mean that,” Ianto admonished him softly. Jack raised an eyebrow.

“Are you so sure about that?”

Ianto sighed audibly.

“Yes, I am, and I'll tell you why.”

Jack sat back in his seat and watched Ianto in mild amusement.

“Go ahead. I'm waiting.”

“Because I know you, Jack, and I know how important family is to you. If… If by some chance she does turn out to be yours, then I can’t see you sending her away, especially considering what she appears to be capable of. And if she is as highly psychic as we suspect, then you know damn well that ret-con is not going to work on her.”

“It doesn’t matter, Ianto. She’s not mine. She can’t be mine. It isn’t possible, or probable.”

Ianto walked around and pulled a chair around close to Jack, taking the other man’s hands in his own.

“What are you really worried about? Talk to me, Jack.”

Jack stared down at their linked hands, feeling just a little bit frightened and a little bit sick.

“I have this blank spot in my life,” he admitted finally. “Two whole years, Ianto. It terrifies me to think about it, because I know how much can happen in two years.”

“And this whole mystery with Eleya has just brought all of that insecurity to the surface again, hasn’t it?” Ianto murmured, leaning in close to press a tender kiss to the top of Jack’s head.

“What scares me is how close I feel to that little girl out there. It’s only been a few hours, but I already love her like she was mine. How is that even possible?”

“She loves you, and trusts you completely, Jack,” Ianto told him gently. “You’d have to be utterly heartless not to respond to that.” Ianto paused, staring at Jack’s bowed head in sudden shocked realisation. “You’re not scared that Eleya will turn out to be your daughter. You’re scared that she won’t.”

Jack looked up at Ianto slowly, and though he wasn’t actually in tears, Ianto suspected that he wasn’t too far off it.

“Either way, I don’t know what to do.”

Ianto pulled Jack into his embrace, then, hugging him close.

“We’ll work it out together, when we have to.”

Kathy Swanson sat at her desk in her office, turning the strange leather strap over and over in her hands. She had no idea what it was, or what it did. In fact, all she knew was that the only other one like it that she’d ever seen was strapped to the wrist of Captain Jack Harkness.

Instinct told her not to mess with it, that it was no toy and God only knew what might happen if she started playing around with it. Curiosity was a powerful influence, though, and it didn’t take much to give in and flip open the leather cover.

Her breath escaped in a rush as she found herself staring at what looked very much like a miniature computer. It was unlike anything she had ever seen before, and that little voice that had previously whispered at her to leave it alone began to shout. Again, curiosity won out, and she ran her fingers over the surface of the gadget, feeling the tiny buttons and sleek, cool metal with a growing sense of wonder.

Was this what Jack Harkness wore all the time? If it was... and she whole-heartedly believed that it was... then what was it, and where the hell did he get one from?

Someone shouted out from across the other side of the room, startling her out of her reverie. She sat up sharply and her fingers, still resting against the silvery metal panel, bumped one of the tiny buttons. She quickly closed the cover of the strap as one of her colleagues headed towards her desk, unaware of the tiny blue light that had begun to flash steadily on the panel.

Dropping the strap on her desk, she rose out of her chair to greet her colleague, the strange device already relegated to the back of her mind for the time being. And all the while, it continued to beep softly, like a beacon signalling to an unknown destination.

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