The Thing with Feathers That Perches in the Soul
Torchwood has to deal with threats from an alien species and Myfanwy has gone missing. Plus, it is time for Tosh's five-year review by UNIT, and things do not go well. Takes place a few days before Season 2's "Fragments."
Beta: Many, many thanks to paragraphs for the awesome beta!
Warnings: swearing and violence
Tosh woke with a start from a dream of endless falling. All of her dreams had been like that for the past week. Logically, she knew it was just a symptom of her nervousness over her upcoming five-year review with UNIT. One way or another, her life would be changed forever by that meeting. It was only natural to get cold sweats and dream of falling. She just wished the big day would get here already so she could start the rest of her life.
All of that thrashing about had kicked her duvet half onto the floor, and she shivered in her camisole and thin pajama bottoms. She fumbled for her nightstand, almost knocking off her glasses before she managed to grab them and focus on her alarm clock: 4:53 blinked up at her. Just about time to get up anyway.
Her hair was still damp when she entered the Hub about an hour later, yawning widely. A nice cup of Ianto's coffee would help matters enormously. The falling dream must have sapped her energy somewhat, as Tosh was generally a morning person. The Hub itself was still in sleep mode, lights dim and silent. Tosh started up her computer and adjusted the lighting, glancing over at Jack's office. Ianto would still be asleep in the little room under the office, and there was no way she would interrupt that just because she could really do with a cup of coffee.
She yawned again and began to run her usual morning security checks. There was a blip on the screen at 4:22 AM. It did not correspond to any Rift readings. Tosh frowned, and pulled up CCTV feeds. Nothing on any of the entrances to the Hub. Ditto for the garage, the armory, the greenhouse, the kitchen, the med bay, the conference room . . . Tosh sighed, and started inspecting the cells one by one. No, everything and everyone was in place. Still, it was going to bother her until she got it figured out. Maybe Myfanwy startled a rat or something. Although, come to think of it, Tosh had not seen Myfanwy in any of her security sweeps. She was not in her nest now or flying around. Tosh leaned towards the screen. There! Right where the invisible lift joins back up with the Plass. It looked scratched up. Perhaps by pterodactyl claws? How had she managed to escape that way?
"Shit!" Tosh pushed back from her workstation and ran up the steps to Jack's office. There was no help for it now.
"Jack! Ianto!" she yelled, trying to give advance warning. "I think Myfanwy's escaped! I'm coming in there!"
She knelt by the hatch door and yanked it up. The stench was overwhelming. Tosh gagged, and grabbed a kerchief from Jack's desk drawer. She peered through the yellowish smoke, panic rising. The cloud began to dissipate and she quickly clambered down into the chamber.
Ianto was shoved over by a small hole in the wall. Jack was at his back. There was a trail of vomit from the bed to the hole, and Tosh could vividly picture Jack dying and coming back to life countless times, trying to push Ianto towards clean air. She shoved Jack aside, apologizing in her mind, and felt for Ianto's pulse. It was the barest flutter, but before she could breathe a sigh of relief, it stuttered to a stop.
Tosh yanked out her phone and hit the speed dial for Owen. The connection was terrible, and all she could get out was "Hub! Now!" before the phone fizzled and died. A mystery to solve later. For now she focused on getting air into Ianto's lungs and a rhythm established over his heart. Two breaths, thirty chest compressions, cycling through over and over again. Her arms were starting to turn to jelly when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Jack looked weak and wobbly, but he took over the chest compressions with an air of grim determination. A few more rounds, Tosh supplying the breaths, and then Owen clattered down the ladder, clutching the AED. Tosh bit her lip to stop a hysterical sob. Please please please please please, she chanted to herself.
Ianto's body flailed with the shock and Owen sat back on his heels. "His pulse is back. I want to get him to the med bay so I can monitor him and check him over - what the hell happened here?"
The three of them struggled to get Ianto up the narrow ladder. Jack grabbed a blanket off the bed to cover Ianto, not that they all hadn't seen him naked before this. Jack didn't even bother to cover himself, just shook his head in response to Owen's question.
"I don't know. We were asleep. I woke up to a strange noise, and then the haze . . . it shorted out all the electronics in the room; I couldn't get a hold of anyone. It worked so fast. Ianto wouldn't wake up," Jack paused to swallow. Tosh wished she could offer him a sympathetic pat, but her hands were full of Ianto's ankles. Jack cleared his throat. "Anyway. I induced vomiting so I could stay alive long enough to get him some fresh air. I have that hole there in case of airborne attack."
"Good thing you're a paranoid git," Owen grunted. "Though, Tosh, could you run a diagnostic check on the air in the Hub once we get him secured? If any of that gas is still present . . ."
"Definitely," Tosh panted. "Although it may be difficult, as it also seems to be disrupting parts of our technology."
That statement caused a fair amount of discomfort. Tosh started running several scans as Owen hooked Ianto up to various machines. Jack kept getting in his way, and Owen finally threw a spare pair of scrub pants over to him since he wasn't about to leave to put on real clothes.
Tosh frowned at her screen in consternation. Some systems seemed to be working just fine. Others, like the communication lines, showed massive strain. She managed to get a hold of Gwen and convey the gist of the situation, but the comm links were shot and the network connection kept falling off. She was able to get basic security and firewalls for their servers up and running quickly. The analysis of the Hub's current air supply showed definite anomalies, but Tosh had a suspicion that the gas particles that had not wholly dissipated had still dissolved enough that they would be impossible to pin down. To top it off, her gut was twisted with worry over Ianto and her muscles felt like water now that the adrenaline from the early morning CPR was fading away.
The cog door rolled back and Gwen hurried in, swinging a bakery bag and balancing a tray of coffees. "Rhys called ahead to the bakery. Here, Tosh," she handed over a full cup of hot coffee, "you look dead on your feet."
"Thanks, Gwen," she murmured gratefully, helping herself to a large cherry Danish.
"I'm going to check on Ianto. Is there anything you want me to pass along?" Gwen asked, gesturing at the computer screen.
"Nothing definitive as of yet," Tosh said around a mouthful of breakfast. "Though you can tell them that we're most likely not in danger of passing out and dying from toxins in the air."
Gwen paused while walking away. "You know, that is good to know."
Jack was holding Ianto's hand, absently kissing his fingertips as Owen compared slides at the counter. Gwen seldom saw the lines on Jack's face, but worry had etched each one deep. Still, when he heard her footsteps on the stairs into the medical bay, he looked up and gave her a special smile. Jack had a smile reserved for each member of his team, a talent that came in handy when you were sleeping with one of them and didn't want the others to feel jealous. Gwen didn't feel jealous, but she did appreciate having her own special smile. She held up the bakery bag in greeting and was just opening her mouth to speak when all of the machines surrounding Ianto began to blip.
"Back online!" Owen announced, hurrying over to Ianto's side and glancing at the various machines. "Take a step back, Jack, I'm going to take this breathing tube out."
Ianto's eyelids were fluttering open, and he focused on Gwen at the top of the stairs. She gave him her best encouraging smile, but he just looked alarmed. She winced in sympathy as Owen began to thread out the tube. Ianto started to choke, and Jack's hands rubbed his back until the tube was out and the fit passed.
"Jack?" he managed to rasp out.
"Save your breath, Ianto. It's okay now," Jack said soothingly.
"Wha -" Ianto coughed, "wha -"
"We're trying to figure that out, mate," Owen answered. "We definitely got gassed -"
"Speaking of which, Tosh says we're not in danger from any remaining toxins," Gwen stated, finally resuming her walk into the med bay and handing over the bag, "and I have breakfast, if Owen says you can eat it."
Owen sniffed the air. "Owen says you should stop tempting a dead man with his favorite pastry. But yeah, he can eat it in a few minutes."
Ianto allowed Gwen to give him a little hug. "Did Tosh -" he started, and began to cough again. Jack brought him a glass of water, and promptly hopped up onto the bed to slide behind him and support his back. Gwen smiled bemusedly at Ianto's total lack of protest for the public display of affection.
"Did Tosh what? Oh, Owen, would you tell her Ianto's awake?" she asked, and Owen turned to the stairs. "Oi! Tosh! Ianto's alive!"
Gwen shot him an exasperated look, but Tosh came immediately to the top of the stairs.
"I'm so glad you're okay," she directed to Ianto, rather subdued.
"Well, damn, Tosh, you don't sound it," Owen frowned up at her. Tosh blinked her eyes rapidly.
"Tosh? Did something else happen?" Ianto asked, his voice still gritty and uncharacteristically harsh.
Tosh nodded, and the three down below who still had heartbeats felt them stutter in trepidation. "Myfanwy's escaped."
Owen swore, Gwen clapped a hand over her mouth, and Ianto shut his eyes, leaning back against Jack.
"Okay, Tosh, how do we know?" Jack asked.
"She's not on CCTV; her tracker's not working, like a lot of our technology; and there are talon marks at the top of the invisible lift," Tosh paused for breath, "I think she got out in the confusion of the attack."
Ianto's hands tightened on Jack's arms, and Jack glanced down at him, taking in the furrowed brow and lowered lashes.
"Right. Team meeting in ten minutes, conference room. Tosh and Owen, bring whatever info you have on this gas and our mystery assailants; Gwen, contact your copper buddy what's-his-name and see if anyone's reported a large bird of prey picking off their sheep."
The other three nodded and left for their workstations, Gwen giving Ianto a sympathetic pat on the way by. Jack waited until the room had cleared before addressing Ianto.
"We'll find her," he said, running a hand through Ianto's hair. It was sweaty still from sleep and near-death experiences, and curled around his fingertips in a way that Jack privately thought made him look cherubic. Ianto nodded, still looking down, and Jack cupped his chin and turned his head so he could look him in the eye. "I know what you're thinking, and this isn't your fault."
Ianto smiled rather bitterly. "Maybe so, but she is my responsibility."
"Our responsibility," Jack corrected him sharply. "The whole team's. And we're going to find her."
Ianto took a breath. Jack held him in place with his eyes until he nodded. "Okay."
Jack smiled, and kissed him gently. "Okay, then. Now, I say we put some clothes on because as much as I would want to conduct this meeting in your current state of undress, I think Owen would be too distracted."
Ianto smiled back, a natural one this time, and slid off the bed, pulling the blanket around him like a toga. He followed Jack out of the Med Bay and bumped into him when Jack stopped suddenly outside his office. "On second thought, it's a little messy down there; I'll grab some clothes for us and we can change in the locker room."
"Okay, but could you hurry?" Ianto muttered, pulling the makeshift toga tight around him.
Gwen was on the phone at her workstation, eyeing his outfit, and Owen was wearing a definite smirk as he waited for something to print out. At least Tosh was too engrossed to check out his attire. Jack came barreling back with a handful of clothes, and they beat a hasty retreat to the locker room.
Ianto started to get dressed very slowly, muscles achy all over from the morning's excitement. Jack practically threw on his clothes, and then started to pace. Ianto let it go for a few minutes. "Jack, are you all right?" he asked at last, glancing over his shoulder as he buttoned up his shirt.
"What? Oh. Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine." He finally stopped and came over to Ianto. "Here, let me."
Jack's fingers fumbled at the buttons on Ianto's shirt. Ianto assessed him quietly for a moment.
"Jack? I'm okay. You saved me. We're okay."
Jack nodded, swallowing hard and trying to concentrate on the buttons. They were so small and fragile in his large fingers. Ianto caught at his wrist, and Jack had to close his eyes when Ianto pulled it up to his lips and kissed his pulse.
"Jack, look at me." Ianto brought his other arm around and slid his fingers through the hair at the nape of Jack's neck. "Jack."
He opened his eyes. Ianto placed the hand he was still holding over his own heart, and Jack could feel the pulse there, steady and strong. And a little fast, because it was the two of them. Jack pulled him closer with his free arm, and felt it through Ianto's heartbeat. He smiled for the first time in what felt like ages and kissed Ianto's forehead, the tip of his nose, his chin and finally his mouth when Ianto huffed a laugh. Ianto's lips parted, and he deepened the kiss, feeling Ianto's heartbeat flutter beneath his hand as Ianto began to back him up against the wall. He was intensely aware of the reassuring pressure of Ianto's thigh between his legs and Ianto's hand caressing his neck.
The door opened and Owen walked in, looking down at a medical chart in his hands. "Just about ready, then?" he asked, glancing up. "Ah, fuck." He abruptly turned on his heel and marched back out of the room.
Ianto began to laugh rather sheepishly. "I guess we shouldn't keep the good doctor waiting."
He started back in on his buttons. Jack fetched one of the ties he had grabbed, and then a different tie at Ianto's raised eyebrow. He would have helped by tucking Ianto's shirttails in, too, but Ianto regretfully shook his head.
Owen glared at them as they rejoined the others in the boardroom, Ianto still straightening his tie.
"So what do we have?" Jack asked briskly, clapping his hands together. "Toshiko?"
Tosh adjusted her glasses. "We are still uncertain as to what the aliens took from the Hub. But judging from the gas they used for their attack, I've narrowed it down to ten species. However, seven of those would not be able to function in Earth's atmosphere with any ease, leaving three. Based on five seconds of uncorrupted CCTV footage, I think we can say that these are Colufaxi. Details are here." She passed around copies of a single piece of paper.
Jack frowned down at it. "Colufaxi? I thought they were usually bounty hunters or some such."
Tosh nodded. "That's what our intelligence says, yes. Which leads to," she took a breath, and said it in a rush, "who were they hunting?"
Jack looked up. Tosh was fiddling with her biro, but Owen and Gwen were gazing back at him with questions in their eyes.
Ianto cleared his throat. "Since they left me and Jack here, and released a killing drug into the environment, I think it's safe to say they were not here to capture any of us."
"Right. Good point," Gwen agreed, eyes clearing. "Do we have anything in the Archives that might be especially good for bounty hunters, then, that they'd be looking to steal?"
Ianto crossed to one of the computers and hit a couple of buttons. "Yes, but as far as I can tell with our systems at half strength like this, they're all still safely stowed in the Archives," Ianto answered.
"Have you been able to do a test on our database of aliens in hiding on Earth, Tosh?" Jack asked.
"They didn't access it."
"Well, then, I guess we have our questions worked out for when we catch them. Tosh," Jack continued, pacing to the screen at the front of the room, "any ideas on how to track them?"
"Not them, precisely, but the gas they used left a Rift signature. Unfortunately, it moves like a gas, so I'm not sure if it's telling me where they are now, or where they've just been."
"Good start, though. Okay, gang, let's split up. Ianto, you're best with Myfanwy. Check out her favorite haunts. Gwen, why don't you go with him. Team Wales can be on Pet Recovery Services." Ianto and Gwen exchanged exasperated looks. "Tosh and I will follow the trail of our saboteurs. Owen -"
"Yeah, yeah. Keep my skin together, stay in the Hub and run some more tests on this gas," Owen interrupted.
"You say that like it's a bad thing," Jack said, slightly hurt.
"Of course not. I get to play with gas, you lot are going to be slogging through dinosaur shit and hunting homicidal aliens."
About twenty minutes later, Jack stopped the SUV on a small street not too far from the Hub. "Really, Tosh? Here?"
Tosh frowned down at her screen. "That's what it looks like."
"High quality linens, it is then. At least we can take comfort from our potential murderers having good taste. I know I will, when I rip them limb from limb." He gave Tosh a rather feral grin as he held the door for 'Bertram's Fine Bedclothes' wide open for her.
The interior of the shop did not look like it had been attacked by a marauding band of aliens. An elegant arrangement of pajamas and robes greeted them on the right side of the door, and tasteful bedroom displays dotted the showcase floor. Jack's eyes lit on a bed decked out in deep red sheets, duvet and pillows.
"Back left corner," Tosh whispered, tugging on his arm.
"Okay," he whispered back, dragging his eyes from the bed.
A salesman stepped out in front of them before they'd taken three steps. "Sir, Madam, welcome to Bertram's," he said with an obsequious smile.
Jack pasted on his own bright smile. "Lovely place you have here. The missus and I were just talking about getting a new bed, weren't we honey?" he cooed, drawing Tosh close and kissing the top of her head.
"Um, yes. I like the ones over there," Tosh said, nodding towards the back left corner. "May we check them out?"
"Ah! The Master's Lair. That is a popular bed today; why, I had four people test it just this morning," the salesman informed them as he led them over.
"Did you now?" Jack asked with forced good cheer.
"Oh yes indeed! And quite pleased with it, I can assure you! Why -" He was interrupted by a phone ringing from the shop office. "Would you excuse me for a moment, please? Make yourself comfortable!" He hurried away.
Jack sat down gingerly on the bed and gave it an experimental bounce. "Hmm, not too bad. But I'm renaming it the Harkness-Sato Love Cave." He laid back and patted the mattress coyly. "Come here, Sugar Lips."
Tosh rolled her eyes, but climbed up on the bed and flopped down beside him, frowning at her PDA. "This is weird."
"I think it's quite comfortable."
"A little too soft for my tastes, but to get back to why we're actually here," she slid closer to him to share the PDA, "this says the gas was right here. It looks like it's still here. But no one has passed out or gotten sick."
"True. But I think I've solved our problem," Jack said, staring at the ceiling.
"What, just like that?" Tosh asked, startled.
"Yup. Look." He pointed up. At the vent.
"Brilliant, Jack! I wonder what's on the other side!" Tosh rolled off the bed as the salesman came back over.
"So, what did you think of -"
"Oh, we're going to pass for now, but could you tell me, do you share a ventilation system with the shop next door?" Tosh interrupted.
"Are you from the Health Department? Because I have been complaining about that foul butchers' shop for years and -"
"Butchers'?" Tosh and Jack exchanged interested glances.
"We're not from the Health Department, but I will take a king-sized set of those deep red sheets from the front of the store," Jack continued, getting to his feet. "And thanks for your help!"
"Oh. Oh, this is foul," Tosh had to cover her mouth to prevent herself from gagging. The butchers' shop had definitely been visited by the aliens. Jack leaned down and felt the pulses of the two butchers, and settled back on his heels with a sigh. Dead and cold. His eyes roamed the walls of the back room. It looked like the Colufaxians had made off with several haunches of beef and large sections of ribs. Sausages, pigs' ears and chickens still hung in their places. Tosh was absorbed in her PDA, but her eye kept twitching, and Jack cursed at himself for being insensitive.
"Here, Tosh, let's go out into the alley and see if they left that way. We can get Gwen to hand the butchers over to the police," he said, rising up again.
Tosh shot him a grateful look as they ducked out the back. The alley was empty, except for a large skip - and a perfectly circular scorch mark.
"Finally!" Tosh breathed.
"Don't tell me you were starting to doubt technology?" Jack teased her.
"Not precisely, but it is nice to get a little solid evidence that they were actually here," Tosh replied. "I'll run a scan and see what I can find out."
Jack nodded and started his own walking scan of the back alley area. It appeared as though the Colufaxians traveled to this area from the Hub, loaded up on meat, and then took off in their pod to their base ship. But why? And where was the base ship? A glint of metal caught Jack's eye, and he bent to get a closer look.
"Tosh? Your scan picking up on a fairground, by any chance?" he called over to her, fingering the shiny token.
Tosh glanced up, startled. "It's not giving me a location at all! I'm getting something else weird, though. Come take a look. . ."
Over on the other side of Cardiff, Ianto and Gwen were canvassing a section of warehouses. Ianto clutched a whistle and gave it a few experimental tweets as they peered down alleys and scanned the ground for scat. Gwen was absently nibbling at the dark chocolate they had brought along for Myfanwy. Thus far, they had seen nothing to lead them to believe she was in this area.
When Ianto stumbled over a pebble and cursed under his breath, Gwen slipped her hand into his and squeezed. They didn't let go. The wind was picking up, its whistle competing with Ianto's as they made it to the end of the row of warehouses. Gwen peered around the last corner, and just caught movement at the end of the building.
"Ianto, I saw something!" she gasped out, starting to run. They pelted along through the weeds and debris at the side of the building, but when they made it to the end, there was no sign of Myfanwy. Farther down the line of warehouses there was a flash of blue and orange.
Ianto frowned, catching his breath. "Gwen, I think that was a person."
Gwen sighed, and wiped her slightly sticky hands on her denims. One of the chocolates had melted. "I think you're right. Look." She pointed to the ground in front of them. The end of a cigarette was still turning to ash. "Maybe he was a dealer or something. Nice out of the way place for it."
Ianto kicked at the butt. "Come on. If she's still in Cardiff, she may have headed for Bute Park."
Gwen slipped an arm around his waist as they headed back to her car. Instead of pulling away, Ianto draped an arm across her shoulders. Gwen smiled, even as a fist of worry closed round her heart. She hadn't realized how important Myfanwy was to Ianto, and he'd been through so much that morning already.
Bute Park was fairly empty on such an overcast weekday. Gwen hoped the rain would continue to hold off for awhile yet. They had only been walking through the park for ten minutes when Gwen caught sight of a familiar orange jacket. She slid her arm through Ianto's and whispered, "About twenty paces to your right and slightly behind us. Recognize him?"
Ianto knelt to dig a phantom pebble out of his shoe. "Orange jacket from the warehouse," he hissed back.
"Precisely. Look, the path splits ahead. You take the lower, I'll take the upper, and let's see which one of us he follows!" Gwen said excitedly.
Ianto hesitated. "Our comms still aren't working. Why don't we stay together and just jump him?"
"Because I'm curious? We can jump him where the paths meet up again, if you want," Gwen conceded graciously.
Ianto tugged his shoe back on. "Alright, but let's be quick about this."
They split up, Ianto taking the lower, Gwen the upper. The man in the orange jacket did not even hesitate before following Gwen. Gwen glanced through the trees at Ianto. He had seen. She sped up her pace to keep time with him. The path curved slightly ahead. They should be able to reach the clump of bushes where the paths converged before Orange Jacket caught up to her. Gwen started to run as soon as she was around the curve. She slammed smack into Ianto.
"Change of plans, Gwen," he said hurriedly, tugging her off the path and into the bushes.
"What? Why?" she glanced back over her shoulder. Orange Jacket was still out of view.
"Did you notice the other four men with your little stalker? Come on, get down."
Gwen sank down beside him in the dead leaves. "Another four?"
"They were farther back," Ianto whispered, "and my guess is they're military of some kind."
Gwen's eyes widened. "Why on earth is the military tailing me?"
Ianto shook his head. "I don't know, but I never would have seen them if we hadn't split up. They're good."
"Here they come," Gwen hissed.
Four men in dark suits, wearing identical short-trimmed haircuts and walking with identical stiff-legged strides, joined Orange Jacket where the paths converged. Gwen frowned. Ianto was right; their demeanor was definitely military, and they were carrying. She strained her ears to catch what they were saying. She caught "Cooper" and "Harkness" (she and Ianto glanced at each other, and moved incrementally closer to the edge of the shrubbery) and references to someone named "Harvey." Orange Jacket threw his hands up in disgust, and the men split up. None made his way to the bushes, and after a few moments, the sounds of the men moving away began to fade.
Gwen sat up slowly. "The military is following me, and interested in Jack."
Ianto's mobile chose that moment to go off, thankfully on vibrate. "It's Jack." He motioned Gwen closer to hear the conversation, not wanting to risk speakerphone just yet.
"I think you two should head back to the Hub," Jack's voice was saying. "We don't think you're going to have much luck finding Myfanwy at the usual places."
"Why's that?" Ianto frowned into the phone. "You have some idea of where she is?"
"Kind of. Just get back here."
Gwen and Ianto exchanged glances. "Jack, we may have a slight problem," she said. "You wouldn't happen to know anyone with the name of Harvey in any branch of the military, would you?"
"Harvey? Not off the top of my head. Why?"
"His goons are following Gwen around," Ianto answered succinctly.
"Huh. Okay, well, be careful. Do you need back-up?"
Gwen shook her head. "No. We may be a little slow getting back, is all."
"Be careful," Jack repeated. "I need my little Welsh laverbreads to get here safe and sound. We'll talk Myfanwy and Colufaxians then."
"See you soon. And Jack," Ianto added, "you call us your little Welsh laverbreads ever again, and that's the only thing you'll be eating for a month."
Gwen grinned at him.
Gwen and Ianto made their way into the Hub via the invisible lift thirty minutes later, Gwen still picking dead leaves out of her hair. They'd had a couple of tight moments, but were fairly certain they had avoided detection from Orange Jacket and the men in dark suits.
"Oi! Team Wales is back!" Owen called out towards Tosh's workstation as they descended.
"Good," Jack answered, glancing up from looking over Tosh's shoulder. "Everyone over here; Tosh has show-and-tell." He stepped back, letting the other three get a closer look at Tosh's screen, and gave Ianto's shoulders a reassuring squeeze.
"The good news first," Tosh decided. "I think I know what happened with Myfanwy, and where we can find her." Ianto began to smile. "The bad news is I think the Colufaxians took her and are holding her on their ship which, as far as Owen and I can tell, is remaining stationary at the old fair grounds."
Ianto's face fell, and Gwen frowned. "Why would they take her?" Gwen asked. "And how does Owen know the ship hasn't left?" Ianto added.
"Does it matter why?" Owen snorted. "And I know because while you lot were out bed hopping and rolling in leaves, I was hard at work researching the gas."
Ianto raised his eyebrows at Jack and mouthed, "Bed hopping?" but turned back to Owen, "So you've been able to pinpoint the source of the gas, then?"
"Yes, I am just that brilliant."
"Well, Tosh helped. You see this heat map?" Owen tapped Tosh's screen. "Uh, Tosh, could you -" Tosh hit a button, and a heat map was displayed on the screen. "Thanks for that. See this red area here?" His finger circled an area of the map just outside Cardiff. "The heat signature is not for carbon-based life forms, so I tested it against Tosh's preliminary findings on the gas, and we had a match. Also, this spurt of purple? Energy source for their ship. Only thing is, the gas is obscuring what I think should be massive heat signatures, from the yellow bleeding around the edges. My assessment? There's a shitload of aliens in that field."
Owen stepped back and crossed his arms. Jack clapped him on the back. "Good work, Owen."
Owen preened, just a little.
"Tosh and I tracked the Rift signature, and found that the Colufaxians were stealing meat. Which makes sense if Myfanwy's not the only pet to go missing. Tosh," Jack continued, laying a hand on her shoulder, "found traces of Myfanwy's signature outside the butcher's shop. Add that with the fun fair token I found there and this heat signature business, and I think it's safe to say the Colufaxians are holding Myfanwy, and an unknown number of others, at the fairgrounds."
"Right, let's go there," Ianto said decisively, already moving back towards the doors. "What weapons do we want?"
"Steady there, tiger," Jack laid a hand on his arm. "First tell me about the men who were following you."
Owen looked up interestedly. "You were being followed? By military types, perchance?"
"I wasn't," Ianto answered, "but Gwen was. How did you know they were military? Were you followed somewhere, Owen?"
Owen nodded. "I went out to look around the invisible lift and get readings. Three big blokes followed me all over the Plass. They were definitely tracking me; took me twenty minutes to shake them and get back into the Hub."
"I don't get it!" Gwen burst out. "Why? And why me and Owen and not the rest of you lot?"
"Are you sure you don't recognize the name Harvey, Jack?" Ianto asked him.
Jack shook his head. "Dated a rodeo rider by the name of Harvey oh, sixty years ago, but other than that..."
Ianto gave him an amused look. "Rodeo rider? Well, that explains -"
"Oi!" Owen cut him off. "Plan, anyone?"
Jack cleared his throat. "Right! Gwen and I can head over to the fairgrounds and get a better idea of what we're going to be dealing with here. You three, we really need a way of combating that gas. Tosh, how's our CCTV coverage now? Enough of it back online?" Tosh nodded mutely, and Jack turned to Ianto. "Ianto, you can monitor me and Gwen from here. Tosh and Owen, work your magic - and Owen, don't leave the Hub."
"How come Gwen gets to go? She's being followed, too!" Owen protested.
"And she'll have a dashing captain to protect her wee head," Jack answered, ignoring the exasperated looks from the rest of his team.
The main line rang loudly then, and all five of them jumped, just a little. Ianto strode over to the phone, glanced down at the caller ID, and answered, "Torchwood Three, Jones speaking."
He glanced across to the other four, still clustered around Tosh's workstation, and gestured her over. "UNIT," he whispered, passing her the receiver.
Tosh frowned, and spoke her name into the phone. She was silent for a minute or so. Then, "But that's not until the 17th. Today is the 14th."
Jack glanced down at Tosh's desk calendar. Sure enough, the 17th was marked in red as the day for her five-year review by UNIT. Trust UNIT to mess up something so important.
"Well, of course I understand, but we're rather busy here today. And my appointment's for the 17th." Tosh was starting to sound annoyed now. Gwen shot a worried look at Jack.
"I couldn't -" Tosh started, and got cut off. "But don't you see -" she tried again. Jack walked over to stand by her, and she shook her head at him. "You say it will only take an hour? Fine, then, I'll meet you in the Plass in ten minutes." She hung up rather forcefully. "Fuck it!"
"All right there, Tosh?" Owen asked, eyeing her warily.
"No, I'm not all right, Owen! UNIT is moving up my appointment. I have to go in ten minutes." Tosh ran a hand irritably through her hair. "Could they have chosen a worse time?"
"At least it will only be an hour," Gwen said conciliatorily.
Jack pulled Tosh into a hug, "And you won't have to worry about it anymore," he whispered into her ear.
She gave him a tight smile. "You're right. You're right. I'll be back in an hour. I'll see you all then."
Ianto kissed her forehead. "You'll be okay. And Jack and Gwen will have reconnaissance for us to go over when you get back."
Gwen gave her a quick hug. "Good luck, Tosh."
"Kick 'em in the nuts, Tosh," Owen said, patting her arm.
"Thanks, everyone. Back soon! And Gwen and Owen, be careful!" Jack waved as she rode the invisible lift up and out.
"Right. Tosh will be fine. Let's get some data for her to play with when she gets back. Gwen, you're with me. Ianto's monitoring. And Owen -"
"Let me guess - weapons of gas destruction?" Owen interrupted.
"Right in one. Let's go, gang."
Tosh waited nervously on the Plass, taking deep breaths. You have nothing to worry about, she told herself. This is just a formality. A large dark SUV pulled up to the curb, and a woman even shorter than herself stepped out. Bright red stiletto heels contrasted with her long dark coat, buttoned up, and her clunky black-framed glasses, a little too large to be retro and chic. Then she opened her mouth.
"Dr. Sato? I am Inspector Madelyn Cleo with UNIT. Please, do get in, and we can have you back here in a jiffy." She gestured to the interior of the SUV. Tosh had to give herself a mental shake. The woman's voice sounded like honey poured over sex. Tosh climbed into the backseat, and Cleo slid in next to her, sitting too close in spite of the spaciousness of the vehicle. Her perfume was heavy on the jasmine, and several spices Tosh could not identify by name but immediately made her think of sex on a deserted island. In full sunlight, with the surf lapping at their feet. She swallowed. This was going to be a very long hour.
Ianto glanced over at the CCTV footage of the Plass. "Tosh is safely away," he called over to Owen. He got a grunt in return. Ianto sighed. Owen had his hands full with the gas situation, and Jack and Gwen had not made it to the fairgrounds yet. His mobile rang. Rhys.
"Hello, Rhys." The phone blipped again. "Oh, could you hold on a moment? That's Gwen. Gwen? Is there a problem?"
"Yeah, listen, Ianto, I think those men are following Rhys, too," Gwen's voice sounded harried and close to panic.
"Okay, he's on the other line, hold on a second -" Ianto fumbled with the buttons, and then both Rhys and Gwen were speaking in his ear.
"Ianto, mate, I don't want Gwen to know I called -"
"Rhys Williams, you were to stay put and sit tight; I'll take care of it!"
"Oi, Gwen, I'm not a three-year-old!"
"Look, Rhys, these men are dangerous -"
"You don't know that! You said you didn't know what they were there for!"
"It doesn't take Scotland Yard to figure out they must be up to no good! Now you stay put; I'm -"
"What, you're coming here? No you're not; you're off with Captain America, no time for -"
"Don't you finish that thought, Rhys Williams! Not another word!"
There was finally a pause in the conversation. "May I suggest something?" Ianto asked diffidently.
"Oh, sorry, Ianto-love. What were you going to say?" Gwen sounded a little breathless, and Ianto could picture her rushing behind Jack, trying to keep up.
"Why don't I go to Rhys and bring him back here; no one's tailing me," he volunteered. "Where are you, Rhys?"
"Ianto, mate, you don't have to do that; I'm sure you're busy."
"It's for our own protection, too, Rhys. You know an awful lot about us."
He let those words sink in.
"I'm at a chips shop around the corner from Harwoods," Rhys answered finally. "Chomp the Chip, aquamarine awning."
"Stay there, I can be there in ten minutes."
"Thank you, Ianto," Gwen said gratefully. "Do as Ianto says, won't you, Rhys?"
"I said I would! See you soon, Ianto." Rhys's line went dead.
"Everything else all right for you?" Ianto asked Gwen.
"Yeah. I'll tell Jack not to expect back-up from you for about twenty minutes, okay?"
Ianto was already shrugging into his coat. "Yup. Be careful."
Ianto leaned over the railing in the Med Bay. "Owen, Rhys is being followed, too. I'm going to bring him back here; Jack and Gwen are apprised of the situation."
"Groovy," Owen responded absently. Ianto grabbed his keys and left him to his gassy experimentation.
Half an hour later, the ringing of the main line broke Owen's concentration. He cursed under his breath, then yelled as the ringing continued, "Ianto! Could you fucking answer the phone?!"
There was no response from the other man, and he dragged himself, cursing and grumbling, over to the phone. A goofy picture of Rhys popped up on the display and Owen abruptly stopped cursing.
"Rhys? Why are you calling this number?" Owen barked into the phone.
"Well I wouldn't, yeah?" Rhys also sounded annoyed, with an undercurrent of what Owen would guess to be fear. "But Ianto's late, and I can't raise him on his mobile and I thought you might know -"
"Hold on, Ianto's not there yet? He left half an hour ago. Give me a second, Rhys." Owen pulled out his own mobile and tried Ianto's number. It didn't even ring. Heart sinking, he hurried over to Tosh's workstation and started the security trace that should pinpoint Ianto's location. If he had had any breath to hold, he would have been holding it then. Finally a blip appeared on the screen. "Rhys? Where are you?"
"Chip shop by Harwoods. Have you found Ianto?"
"Yeah, and he's on the whole other side of town. Right. Stay put for two more minutes; our tech took a beating this morning, but I'm going to try to trace him from the Hub to Harwoods on CCTV and see what happened."
"Okay, but you know, I could just make my way over there myself."
"Look, Gwen would incinerate me if anything happened to you, so just sit tight for two more minutes."
He ignored Rhys's muttered grumblings and started pulling up CCTV. There was Ianto, exiting the Tourist Information Centre and getting into his car. Owen frowned at the footage. Didn't look like anyone was following him. He fast-forwarded to Ianto parking his car one street over from Harwoods. A small child stumbled into him and fell down on the pavement. Ianto leaned down to help and the little tyke sprayed something full into his face. "Fuck me dead," Owen gasped. They used a little kid! He swore again in shock as four men appeared out of the alley behind the chip shop, picked up Ianto, and stuffed him into the back of an SUV. Those had been UNIT soldiers, complete with little red berets.
Owen fumbled open his phone and hit the first speed dial. Tosh's line didn't ring either. Fuck fuck fuck. He hit the second speed dial.
"Little busy here, Owen," Jack's voice came out in a whisper.
"Well, I hope you're wrapping it up, because we have a serious problem here. UNIT has kidnapped Tosh and Ianto."
"Ianto went to get Rhys, and they used a little kid, sprayed him with something. I can't raise either him or Tosh on their mobiles, but," and he hit another button on Tosh's computer, "according to Tosh's tracking system, they're in roughly the same place, and alive."
Owen could hear Gwen mumbling something to Jack on the other end before Jack got back on the line. "Okay, Owen, we're pretty sure the Colufaxians aren't going anywhere for the next few hours. We'll head back to the Hub and figure out a way to get our people back from UNIT. We'll pick up Rhys on the way."
"Good; I'll tell him. Can you tell if Myfanwy is there, by any chance?"
"We think so, yeah. It's a little bizarre -" Static fuzz cut out the rest, and Owen heard a couple of dull thwacks.
"Jack? Jack?! Gwen?!" Owen was sure he could hear Gwen's wordless battle roar through the static, but then the phone cut out entirely. Swearing, he hit his fourth speed dial. Gwen's phone rang on and on. "Fuck."
He glanced back over at the main phone, still off the hook with Rhys on the other end. "Listen Rhys, we have a bit of a complicated situation. I'm going to help you get here, all right? Keep your phone on and stay on the main thoroughfares."
"Good, the chip shop staff's been giving me the stink-eye."
Owen pulled up the live CCTV-feed for the street outside Harwoods. "Right, you at Chomp the Chip? Ianto's car is right around the corner."
"Am I taking his car? I could take a lorry from Harwoods."
Owen paused. He'd been thinking Rhys would have to hotwire the car, but a lorry might come in handy. "Do you have any that don't have Harwoods painted on the side?"
"Got a new one in yesterday; hasn't been modified yet."
"Good. Take that one." Owen scanned the footage. "Okay, leave out the front door and stay on the left side of the street."
Half an hour later, Rhys was at the Tourist Information Centre.
"Williams, Rhys Williams. License to evade stalkers," he announced with a grin, hopping off the invisible lift as it ground to a halt. "Where's my darling wife? I want to regale her with the story of how I feinted and dodged my way through the mean streets of Cardiff."
Owen poked his head around Tosh's workstation. "Er, about Gwen..."
Rhys's smile slipped and fell off his face. "What happened?" he whispered, and Owen was uncomfortably reminded of when he used to deal with human patients and their families; of crushing hope with just a few choice words.
"Sit down, Rhys."
Rhys took it better than he thought he would, Owen was surprised to note. Of course, Rhys had been bracing himself for something like this from the time Gwen had been a copper. Her time with Torchwood had only increased his vigilance. When Owen finished speaking, Rhys looked him in the eye.
"You realize, of course, that I am helping you get them out." Owen nodded mutely. "Right. Now. You say we need to get Tosh and Ianto back first? Then that is what we'll do. What are our options?"
Owen chewed his biro absently as he thought. "We have a...friend...in UNIT with considerable influence. We could ask her for help, but how they've gone about doing this, blatantly holding Tosh and covertly tailing the rest of us, makes me think that asking for her help might make things worse." He took a deep breath. "Which leaves breaking into a secure UNIT facility all by ourselves."
Rhys assessed him quietly for a moment. "Well. Do we have any secret weapons?"
Owen grinned. It was one of his nastiest smirks, and Rhys looked at him a bit askance.
"Something like that. I don't need to breathe." He ignored Rhys's confused look and plowed on. "But I think we're going to have to approach this a little differently. I've been working all day on a way to combat the Colufaxians, and I think we're going to need UNIT's manpower. So we have to get our people, and convince them to fight with us." Rhys gave him a skeptical look.
"Why would they want to do that? They're taking you all prisoner!"
"Ah, but they don't realize that there's a horde of aliens in our hometown, and they've already killed two Welsh citizens." Crap, should have left that bit out; Rhys had turned stark white with worry. "And, I have a way of stopping them, as long as we have enough help," he added hurriedly.
"Right then. What do we do?"
Owen chewed absently on his biro. "We want to go right to the top. We don't have time to try to convince the gate keeper, a junior officer and so on and so forth. We'll sneak in, find whoever's in charge and I'll show them this gas and tell them what the Colufaxians are planning to do."
Rhys swallowed. "Do you think they'll go for it?"
"Of course! It's foolproof. I'll have you know I am King of Foolproof Plans."
Rhys gave him a skeptical look. "I could drive a lorry through your so-called plan. But as we're just wasting time here, let's get on it."
Tosh tugged at her jacket as she followed the Inspector through the corridors of UNIT's base in Cardiff. She'd relinquished her keys, cell phone, PDA and gun at the metal detector. They were currently residing in a locked drawer a few floors beneath her, and she keenly felt their loss. Not that she would need her gun for an interview, but still. It was the principle of the thing. Tosh slipped her hand inside her pocket. At least they hadn't searched her, just trusted her to hand over anything dangerous. She had a couple sample bottles containing various kinds of alien goo, a tiny signal-jammer disguised by a tube of lipstick, a post-it note from Owen that said, "I Owe Tosh £8 million," and half a pack of gum in her jacket pockets. Inspector Cleo finally stopped outside an interrogation room, and Tosh's stomach started to do flip flops. The Inspector held the door open for her, and Tosh reluctantly entered.
"Ms. Sato. Please do have a seat." The Inspector gestured to the chair on the far side of the table. Tosh had to take a deep breath before sitting. The room was much too small.
"I am Inspector Cleo with Oversight and Internal Relations for UNIT. You have been called here to review your involvement with Torchwood Three, as stipulated in the terms of your release from UNIT custody five years ago. An additional interview will be conducted with Captain Harkness, as your custodian for that time. Do you understand?" Her voice was throaty and rich, but Tosh was beginning to feel the walls close in around her. She just managed to nod her head.
"Now. According to your file," she flipped open the file and smoothed down the top sheet, blood red fingernails shining glossily despite the institutional lighting, "you have had your once-monthly phone call with your family, right on schedule, every month for the past five years. You had one supervised visit the first year, two the next, and from the third year on, you have had three unsupervised visits with family members per year. Is that correct?"
Tosh nodded again, still tense, running through her head several unsanctioned contacts that she and Jack had worked to cover-up.
"Let's discuss your duties at Torchwood Three, shall we? You are the Technician, yes?" She didn't wait for Tosh's response, but plowed on. "You research alien tech, on occasion fix it or modify it with our own technology. You are also heavily involved with security for Torchwood Three, a duty you share with one," and her eyes flicked down to the file, though Tosh could tell she had no need to check, "Ianto Jones. The two of you create false identities, fake websites, and doctored CCTV footage. Mr. Jones also dispenses retcon and disposes of dead bodies. Except, of course, when he is indisposed himself."
Tosh's heart beat faster. She did not like where Cleo was going with this, and Cleo could tell, judging by her rather predatory little smile.
"Ms. Sato. Are you aware that UNIT has been searching for a certain Dr. Tanizaki for well over a year?"
Tosh's heart plummeted down to her shoes. Cleo kept going. "Dr. Tanizaki, as I believe you know, was quite renowned as a cyber engineer. UNIT had been monitoring his work for a couple of years before, suddenly, he disappeared. His body was never 100% identified, though a paper and cyber trail both deposited him at the bottom of a hill outside of Osaka, victim of a hit and run car accident. Certain supervisors at UNIT, however, were not satisfied with this explanation. Then, just this morning, the answer fell right into our laps."
Bile was rising in Tosh's throat, and she gripped her hands together under the table. Her eyes darted to the door. They had passed at least a dozen UNIT soldiers in the corridor. She forced her breathing to even out. Inspector Cleo watched her silently, eyes glittering.
"We have, of course," she continued, "been preparing for your review by monitoring Torchwood Three. Especially the two of you in charge of so-called security. This morning, we finally cracked into your servers."
Fuck the Colufaxians! Tosh's brain took up the chant. Fuck the Colufaxians! Fuck the Colufaxians!
"Imagine our surprise when we found that Dr. Tanizaki had, in fact, traveled to Cardiff. To see Torchwood Three. And who covered up his disappearance? Why, Ms. Sato," she smirked, and leaned across the little table, "that would be you."
Tosh fixed her with the best blank face she could muster at the moment, even as her mind screamed at her. Inspector Cleo opened up a second folder and pulled out a printout.
"This is your official report, signed off by Captain Harkness, arranging for a body matching Dr. Tanizaki's description to be found in Osaka. His flight itinerary, hotel reservations and several restaurant charges on his credit card were all wiped. By you, approved by Harkness. A liberal smattering of retcon was applied to members of the hospitality industry in Cardiff, administered by Harkness."
Tosh's mind had gone entirely numb. How long had the security system been completely down this morning? Two hours, perhaps, but it was enough time. The door opened, and Tosh started violently. A tall, cadaverously thin man in an ugly brown suit slipped inside the room and just stood, staring across the table at her. Inspector Cleo acknowledged his presence with a nod, and then resumed her questioning.
"I am curious, Ms. Sato - where was Mr. Jones in all of this? Whose decision was it to lay the blame for a man's murder squarely at your feet?" She paused, and rather theatrically tapped a finger against her chin. The ugly thin man cleared his throat harshly. "You know what I think?" he said in a raspy voice. "I think there is some reason why Harkness would want to shift the blame to you instead of sharing it around."
Tosh just glared at him. It was the only thing she could think to do right then. Well, other than attacking them both with her bare fists, and that wouldn't really solve anything.
"Let me be frank, Ms. Sato," the man continued. "You do not have a good reputation with UNIT. You have no allies here. However, you are still small potatoes. If you were to assist us in detaining someone who is truly a threat, why, we may be able to show you some leniency." He added a condescending smile, and Tosh snapped.
"You are a fool," she spit out. "And I don't have time for you. We are under attack, right now, from an alien threat. You are preventing me from doing my job, and throwing completely groundless accusations at Jack -"
The thin man cut her off abruptly. "Save it, Ms. Sato. Do you really expect the noble Captain Harkness to swoop in to your rescue? Forget it. We will get him and he won't be able to talk his way out of it." He strode over to the door and banged sharply on the little window. A beret-ed soldier immediately opened it for him. "Bring Jones in now. Room 612."
Tosh cataloged the room number in her head as he strode back over to her. "I'm going to do you a favor, Ms. Sato. I'll give you two hours to think about how much you want to be free. I know you think Harkness will support you. But he's going to be preoccupied. When push comes to shove, he'll sacrifice you." And he reached into Inspector Cleo's folder and threw something onto the table as he left, the door clicking shut behind him.
Tosh took a deep breath and turned Cleo's "evidence" over. It was a photo from Ianto's flat. Jack and Ianto were stretched out on the settee, fully dressed but rumpled. Jack was lying on top of Ianto, and the camera had caught the expression on his face as he looked down at the other man. Tosh blinked water from her eyes, aware that Cleo was still watching her. She knew Jack wouldn't give up on her no matter that he was in love with Ianto. What preyed on her mind was what, exactly, the thin man was planning to do to Ianto to get at Jack. Her previous experience with UNIT leant her to believe that matters of rights or legality would not enter the picture. If the thin man wanted to question Ianto, he would take him, and she had no way to get a warning message to Ianto. She stifled her worry. "I'm not very impressed with your friend," she said rather coldly to Inspector Cleo.
Cleo barked a startled laugh. It sounded practically orgasmic. "Inspector Harvey has his rough edges, true." All mirth left her expression as she looked Tosh in the eye. "He's been looking for a way to discredit Harkness for years. And no, I don't know why and I don't care that it seems to be a personal vendetta," she continued as Tosh opened her mouth to question why. "Regardless of the motivation, this business with the scientist Tanizaki raises a load of red flags. Ms. Sato, from what I've seen, Harvey has a perfectly legitimate case. You want to help your Captain? You need to give me something to work with. Tit for tat."
Tosh blinked and tried not to blush. "What if I said that he prevented Tanizaki from spreading cyberman technology to the rest of the world?"
"That would be a very good thing, indeed. But Ms. Sato? From here it looks like murder." She sighed. "You have to understand. Harkness gets away with everything: enlisting you, running operations UNIT wants to run, racking up an unbelievable expense account, although it has gotten better in the past two years," she said, "and then there is the matter of his relationship with a junior officer. That's particularly aggravating, as that sort of thing is denied UNIT officers."
Tosh's mind raced. "Inspector Cleo. The way Jack runs Torchwood is," she paused, thinking, "it's that he gets the people who are most well-suited for the job. And, to be perfectly frank, he understand aliens better than UNIT does; their motivations, how to handle them, how to protect Earth from the nasty ones. Sometimes, yes, it gets expensive. But it would be even more expensive with a massive UNIT base to do his job. As far as his relationship goes," and her voice hardened, "that's none of your business. They work well together. That's all that needs to concern you."
Inspector Cleo eyed her quietly for a full minute before abruptly rising. "We shall see." She laid her hand on the doorknob. "Remember, Ms. Sato. Inspector Harvey will be back here in two hours." The door closed with a snick behind her.
Tosh swallowed and rubbed her sweaty palms on her denims. Now was the time for thinking up great escapes. She had boasted before that no cell could contain her. It was time to put that to the test.
Ianto came to in a small interrogation room. There was just himself, his chair, a table, one other chair, and a glass of water. Nothing else. He wasn't cuffed or shackled in any way, but his gun, comm link and mobile were also missing. He leaned forward to sniff the water (utterly odorless) and felt a strange chafing on his wrist. There was a bubble of dried blood on his inner left wrist. Apparently someone felt he should be shooting up drugs and had taken matters into their own hands. He took one step towards the door before it opened, admitting a tall thin man wearing a horrendous brown suit. He caught a glimpse of several armed guards in the hallway before the man shut the door.
"Have a seat, Mr. Jones." He sat down himself and placed a thick folder on the table.
Ianto weighed his options, and sat.
"I'm Inspector Harvey of Oversight and Internal Relations for UNIT. How are you feeling?" he asked solicitously.
"Abducted and drugged up," Ianto answered smoothly. "Is this your new policy regarding Torchwood? It leaves much to be desired."
Harvey spread his hands on the table and shrugged guilelessly. "Mr. Jones. I just want to have a talk with you. I had to be sure I could trust you."
Ianto gave him a small smile. "I have been told that I am very trustworthy."
Harvey nodded seriously. "I'm sure. You realize, of course, that, because of the company you keep, we had to take certain measures."
His smile deepened, grew nastier, rougher. "I would trust Ms. Sato with my life. Her integrity is unimpeachable."
"Oh, Mr. Jones," Harvey sighed, "I am not here about Ms. Sato. She is not the real prize here."
Ianto looked back at the other man, trying to hide his confusion. He could tell from his heart rhythm that whatever drugs were newly arrived in his system were starting to set to work.
"So. Mr. Jones," Harvey bared his teeth in a smile, "I'll get right to the point. Would you care to offer an explanation for these?"
The photographs spilled out across the table when he threw the file down. Ianto tried to control a wince, but the drugs made him sluggish. All of the photographs depicted him with Jack in rather compromising situations. More than a few were in Ianto's flat, half-naked bodies entwined on the bed, the settee, the floor, the kitchen table. . .
"I need to invest in heavier curtains? Your telephoto lens has gotten quite a workout? You need to join a support group for your porn addiction?"
Harvey slammed his hand down on the stack of photos, on one of the more naked photos of a man (quite obviously Jack) straddling another man (quite obviously himself). The look on Jack's face was open and vulnerable and gloriously happy. Ianto burned with anger that others had seen that look. That look was Jack's gift to him alone.
"Mr. Jones, do you still not appreciate your situation? Torchwood is a cesspool of ethics violations. A commanding officer taking advantage of the support staff is just the tip of the iceberg -"
"There's no advantage being taken. This is not what you think," he gritted out.
Harvey shook his head. "Mr. Jones. Captain Harkness is a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen. Added to that, he is careless with government equipment and money and he cannot control his employees - Ms. Sato being the prime example." He leaned across the table to emphasize his point. "Captain Jack Harkness is piloting a sinking ship. You would do well to cut your losses and join with us."
Perhaps it was the combination of drugs that made Ianto say what he said next.
"I'm in love with him. Are you so stupid you saw this photo," he plucked another one from the stack, Jack's arm around him and their heads close together as they walked back from the cinema on a chilly night in a rare public display of affection, "and didn't realize that I would always choose him over anything you could offer?"
Harvey sat back, a smugly satisfied expression on his face. "No. But it is good to have confirmation of these things. Taylor," he called, rapping his knuckles on the door, "go call Inspector Cleo. Mr. Jones is ready to tell us the truth."
Ianto was soaked with sweat. Inspector Cleo was relentless in her questioning. Thankfully, she didn't know all the right questions to ask to get him to crucify himself. Whatever they had managed to hack from Torchwood's servers that morning had not included information on Lisa. The Tanizaki situation, however, was taking all his skill at partial truth-telling. He was reasonably sure he had managed to deflect the blame from Tosh or Jack in Inspector Cleo's mind since, after all, they had neither killed Tanizaki nor asked him to come to Cardiff in the first place. Inspector Harvey was harder to read. The man obviously had it in for Jack, but even after an hour of questioning, Ianto couldn't tell if it was personal or just a general distaste for Torchwood.
Inspector Harvey had asked no questions of Ianto the whole time Inspector Cleo was in the room, and other than a peremptory, "Bind the prisoner," to the guards, he had spoken no other words to Ianto. The predatory gleam in his eye as Ianto struggled to answer questions, though, had been quite unnerving. Finally, Inspector Cleo pushed back her chair, and she and Harvey held a heated conference by the door. Ianto blinked at them, wishing he could figure out a way to use their personal dislike of each other to his own advantage. Wishing, also, that he could turn his brain to the task of figuring out a way to get out and get to Tosh. He started violently when Harvey slammed his hand on the table yet again.
"You are a fool, Mr. Jones. I know you are covering for him somehow. The man's an incompetent, arrogant ass and we will take him down. You, too."
Ianto looked back at him with an unnatural calm. "You insult him again and I will destroy you. That's a promise, not a threat."
Harvey flushed an angry red. "It's your own funeral." He turned on his heel and left. Inspector Cleo watched him go, then turned to Ianto.
"That was probably not the wisest thing to say," she said wryly.
Ianto shrugged his shoulders as much as his bindings allowed. "It was the truth. He saw to that."
"Have a care with him. He'll be back." And she, too, left him alone, tied to the chair. Ianto smirked to himself. They hadn't even left a guard in the room with him. Idiots.
The simple act of shutting a door will convince many prisoners that they are trapped; locked away until their captors return. But the longer Tosh sat in her chair in the interrogation room, the more she was convinced that she had not hear the telltale thunk of a lock when the door had snicked closed. There was one way to tell for sure. She crossed over to the door and looked out the little observation window. There was just one guard, pacing the corridor. In less than a minute, he would be at the far end of the corridor. Tosh glanced up at smoke detector. She was fairly sure there was a camera in there. Well, she could certainly handle one camera. She pulled out her lipstick, feeling very Sydney Bristow-like, and surreptitiously hit a button in the bottom of the tube. She now had fifteen seconds while the signal was jammed. She turned the handle of the door, and let out a sigh of relief when it opened. She hurried down the opposite end of the corridor from where her guard had disappeared.
Tosh poked her head carefully around the corner. Still clear; good. UNIT was obviously not expecting trouble from within. She flitted to the stairs marked "EXIT" and found another piece of good luck: no special locks on the door. There was also a window in the door when she made it to the sixth floor. Unfortunately her luck had run out. She could make out two large guards pacing the corridor. She chewed her lip, debating her options, when one guard disappeared around the far corner and did not reappear. Her odds weren't going to get any better than that. As the second guard stepped close to her door, she slammed it open with as much force as she could muster. The guard's forehead made a dull thwack against the glass, and he crumpled to the floor. A scuff of shoes from the end of the corridor alerted her to the presence of the returning guard, and she crouched, fishing for the downed man's firearm, then smoothly pivoted, taking aim . . . on Ianto. They gaped at each other, then Tosh broke into a wide smile and Ianto swept her close into one of his rare and awkward hugs.
He cleared his throat, releasing her. "Come on; let's deposit this one back in my cell with the other."
They each grabbed an arm and started dragging him back down the corridor.
"I was so worried they would get to you," Tosh whispered. "How did you escape?"
"I have a lot of practice getting out of bindings; it's one of Jack's favorite - sorry," he blushed. "They gave me some kind of truth serum; I didn't recognize it. It's a real bugger trying to beat."
Tosh gave him a small smile as she kicked the door to 612 open. "They didn't even bother binding me. Or checking my pockets."
Ianto raised his brow. "I think we should make them regret that. What do you have with you?"
"Remember that goopy green stuff that got into Gwen's hair last week? Well, I was wearing this jacket, and I still have a sample in my pocket!"
Ianto frowned. "It's corrosive with certain materials, right? I was a little worried for Gwen's hair. I love how it feels. Dammit, sorry."
Tosh shrugged. "That's okay. Anyhow, I was thinking, we have two guns now, plus the goop. You probably didn't get to see the layout downstairs. There's a big courtyard we'll have to cross; I bet the goop with one of the guns would make quite a distraction." She smiled broadly. "What do you think?"
"Your smile is like sunshine. And you're brilliant."
Tosh beamed bright enough to light up the whole building.
Owen hunkered down in an alley across from UNIT's Cardiff headquarters. He glanced down at the PDA in his hand. The Tosh and Ianto blips were now together, and he smiled to himself.
"Alpha-Bravo-Scrum, over," sounded from his hip.
"What did I say about codes, Rhys?" They'd had to bust out some old walkie-talkies from Tosh's scrap heap, as the comm links were still down and Owen wasn't sure if either of their mobiles had been hacked. Rhys was all too excited about the low-tech gear, in Owen's opinion.
"My codename is Prop. Over."
Owen sighed irritably. "Fine. Prop. I'm ready, are you?"
"Copy that, Hooker. Ready and waiting."
Owen rolled his eyes. "Then get going."
"I am! This is Prop, signing off."
Headlights appeared around the corner and Owen tensed, watching. Rhys pulled up to the guardhouse and stopped. A UNIT soldier stepped out of the guardhouse and Rhys leaned far out the window. Owen could just hear their conversation from his hiding place.
"Hallo, mate!" Rhys's voice dripped with false cheer. "Lovely evening!"
Owen rolled his eyes as he edged along the stone wall. It was a gray, drizzly evening and had been a gray, drizzly day. The UNIT guard grunted. "What you got there?"
"Toilet paper!" Rhys announced, beaming. It had been his idea; after all, everyone (except for Owen) needed toilet paper. The UNIT guard clearly thought so, too.
"Right, then. I just need to inspect the back, and then you pull in and to the right, and we'll get someone to unload."
Rhys nodded, and got out to help the guard go over Torchwood's entire stash of Tesco brand toilet paper. Owen grinned to himself as he slipped by them and into the shadows of the courtyard. Ianto was going to flay him dead when he found out how Owen had depleted their toilet paper stash. He ducked into a doorway and checked his PDA for Tosh and Ianto one more time. He blinked. They were -
"Owen?" An incredulous female voice sounded from his left. "What are you doing here?"
Owen sighed. So much for the heroic entrance. "Getting you out, and getting some allies, hopefully."
"Allies? I'd rather eat my tie. Oh, my God, I'd rather eat my tie!"
Owen squinted into the dark. "All right there, Ianto?"
"Ianto's had a little run-in with the truth." Tosh sounded amused. "Now, why do we need allies?"
"Jack and Gwen, and Myfanwy, are being held by the Colufaxians. We need to break into their spaceship," Owen said hurriedly. "Rhys just provided me with a distraction to get in here, so who's - oi, Ianto, where are you going?"
He reached out and grabbed at Ianto's sleeve. "Jack, Gwen and Myfanwy are prisoners? I'm going to get them out," Ianto retorted. "You can have a nice little meeting with UNIT if you want."
"Ianto, come on, let's hear him out," Tosh said with a placating gesture.
Ianto shrugged irritably. "Okay. Owen, you have one minute. And this had better be a better plan than your usual."
Owen paused, and looked at Tosh. "Honest assessment, huh? I could have done without." He turned back to Ianto. "Look, mate, I've been looking into this gas. They use it whenever they use their technology. Launching their ship will require enough gas to wipe out Cardiff. Ergo, we have to stop them. And get our people and pterodactyl back. To do that, we need to completely surround that ship because there are a shitload of aliens on it and I don't know who the hell they all are." Owen crossed his arms and waited.
"All right," Ianto said begrudgingly. "There's going to be a very loud disruption in the far corner of the courtyard in," he glanced down, "two minutes. That will get you some attention."
Owen grunted. "Not how I was originally planning to do this, but this means I don't have to go wandering through the building, looking for the ones in charge. You two join Rhys at the lorry," and he nodded over to the right, where Rhys was parking for the toilet paper delivery, "and I'll talk to UNIT."
"You want to deal with a woman named Cleo," Tosh whispered, reaching for Ianto's hand.
"And a piece of shit named Harvey," Ianto added.
Owen chuckled to himself. "I have to ask, Ianto, because I may never get another chance. Best shag of your life?"
Ianto gave him an unreadable look. "Jack, of course. In his room, the night you died."
Owen closed his mouth with a snap as they went running through the shadows to Rhys and the lorry. They just made it over when a series of popping noises, followed by several loud bangs, issued from the far corner of the courtyard. UNIT soldiers appeared along railings, guns trained on the empty space below.
Tosh's jaw dropped as Owen casually sauntered forward, twirling a sealed vial of gold smoke in his hand. "No need to panic, you lot. I'm here for your leaders. Where are Cleo and Harvey? Tell them Torchwood wants a word."
Harvey pushed a soldier out of his way and stepped into the edge of the light in the courtyard. "I am Inspector Harvey. What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Owen gave him a flat look. "What am I doing? I'm saving Cardiff. You, on the other hand..."
"And just what does Cardiff need saving from this time?" Harvey interrupted.
"Oh, just a band of thieves from very far away who will gas us all when they leave this planet," Owen answered, raising the vial suggestively.
"How convenient for you, Dr. Harper! 'Band of thieves from very far away' - please! We're not children. This is obviously another one of Jack Harkness's attempts to seize power."
Harvey, Owen decided, was an annoying twat.
Ianto stepped out of the shadows. "What if I told you that this band of aliens broke into our base this morning and tried to kill us?"
Harvey did a quite comical double-take. "You're supposed to be in your cell!"
"I didn't want to stay there," Ianto answered calmly. "Look. We could have left with you none the wiser. We obviously need to work together on this. The Colufaxians are real, and they can kill us all. Are you with us?"
Inspector Cleo joined Harvey in the light. "It's true that you cannot lie, Jones. That doesn't mean we have to trust you. Why do you want our help?"
Ianto couldn't help himself. "They have Jack and Gwen," he said with obvious frustration. "And they could kill us all."
Cleo smiled grimly and turned to Harvey. "We should go with them."
Harvey gaped at her. "Join with Torchwood; are you insane?"
"There is a threat to the city of Cardiff," she responded patiently. "Besides. Don't you want Harkness to owe you a favor?"
Owen could literally see Harvey weigh the options in his mind.
"All right, then. We will temporarily allow a squad to accompany you to the Colufaxians' ship. But Jones - and Sato - stay here."
"Not a chance, Harvey. A, we need them and b, I don't like you. I'm not leaving my team here." Owen fixed him with his best 'I will fuck your shit up' look. Harvey's lip curled in a sneer. And that was when Rhys stepped forward.
"What part of 'we're all going to die' don't you understand, yeah? Tosh and Ianto are best at dealing with aliens. These are aliens. So they come with us. Now let's get going!"
Harvey stared at him. "Who the hell are you?"
"I drove the lorry," he answered, hooking his thumb over his shoulder to point out the lorry, "and I'm married to Gwen."
"Ms. Sato," Inspector Cleo called out suddenly. "What is your opinion on all this?"
Tosh sighed and joined the others in the light. "That we're wasting time."
Cleo assessed her quietly for a minute, then nodded. "All right. Dryson, get your squad together and bring gas masks. Miller, your squad will follow as reserve, also with gas masks. We leave in ten."
She turned on her heel and strode purposefully back into the building. Harvey followed after her, spluttering with rage. Owen, Ianto and Rhys converged on Tosh.
"Way to go, Tosh!" Owen exclaimed. "You just bossed around Madame Sexy Voice. She could make a killing with a 900 number."
Tosh gave him a disgusted look. "I did not boss her around. We need to be on our toes; she's definitely not helping us out of the kindness of her heart."
Ianto nodded. "We do have to be careful. And I think she has a thing for you."
Tosh rolled her eyes, even as her heart thudded painfully loud in her chest.
The lead Colufaxian tightened its grip on Gwen's upper arm. That would definitely leave a bruise. She tried to take a deep breath around the gag in her mouth, attempting to clear the fog from her head. One minute she and Jack had been on the phone with Owen and his distressing news, and the next they had been ambushed by a group of Colufaxians. They looked nothing like she had pictured. If not for the purple tone of their skin and a sixth finger on each hand, they could have passed for humans. Another Colufaxian kept pace beside her, and four more dragged Jack's dead weight behind them. Gwen was fairly certain that Jack was dead as opposed to unconscious. The six fingers holding her gave a vicious tug, and then they were up over the threshold and into the inner hold of the ship.
Gwen gasped, eyes widening as she tilted her head up, and up. Cages were stacked, one on top of another, all the way to the ceiling - perhaps four floors. And in each cage resided a creature. The variety was astounding. The smell was atrocious. The complete lack of sound was . . . totally unnatural. Gwen dug her heels in as her captor dragged her forward, stopping outside an empty cage in the bottom layer about one-third of the way through the chamber. She was unceremoniously thrown in, and stumbled to the far side before she could catch herself. All six Colufaxians hoisted Jack's dead body and heaved him into the cage next to hers. The doors clanged shut, and with that ringing clap, all sound rushed in. Gwen fell to her knees, screaming through her gag.
Whistles, grunts, bleating, shrieking, moaning, scraping, wretching - and so loud! There were thousands of aliens in the hold, and they were all protesting their imprisonment. Gwen felt real concern for the state of her ears. She fell from her knees to the ground, and pulled her knees in tight to her chest. Desperation made her movements jerky, and she took two ragged breaths to calm down. Tosh had taught her this move, on a day during Jack's leave so many months ago, but they'd had whiskey to loosen their muscles and no expectations. Slowly, slowly, Gwen pulled her arms down and rolled back through them. There was just enough give in the Colufaxian bindings for her to fit. She clawed at the gag in her mouth, hurriedly tearing strips, rolling them into balls, and stuffing her ears.
It helped. Enough, at least, that she could turn her attention to her surroundings. The Colufaxians had left. In her desperation for relief, she had not even noticed. In the neighboring cage to her left, Jack still lay where he'd been thrown. To her right, five bright, perfectly round eyes blinked in unison, tracking her movements. They were all attached to the same creature via tentacle-like appendages. Bright purple tentacle-like appendages. She blinked back at it with her two rounded eyes. Five-Eyes spread its lips in a semblance of a smile, wriggled its frog-like body, and abruptly launched itself at the bars separating their cages.
Gwen leapt back, swearing, banging against the opposite side of her cage. Those teeth were fucking huge, and nasty, with greenish ichor dripping and splatting on the floor of the creature's cell. Gwen jumped when a hand grabbed her wrist through the bars, and she turned fast enough to cause whiplash.
"Oh, Jack, thank God!" she exclaimed, relieved. He just stared back at her, patting his ears, and she hurriedly tore up the rest of her gag for him.
Jack looked around as he stuffed his ears. "Ship's like the TARDIS," he muttered to himself.
Gwen was staring at his lips, frowning. "Never mind," he mouthed to her. He held up his wrist-strapped arm and raised his eyebrows. Gwen frowned. "I don't think that's going to work," she yelled, enunciating carefully.
Jack waggled his eyebrows, and slid out a lock pick that had been pressed between the strap and his skin and threw a grin in Gwen's direction. One minute later, they were both outside the cage doors. The shrieks of all the other captives died out the moment their doors closed shut behind them.
"Thank God for that," Gwen sighed, tugging out her makeshift earplugs. "Jack, what the hell is all this? It's like an alien Noah's Ark!"
"I think the end purpose is closer to '101 Dalmatians,' actually," he replied, looking around. "Oh, wow, you see that blue one with the fairy wings?" he exclaimed, turning Gwen around to face a small cage. "Its undiluted blood is the strongest love potion in three galaxies!"
Gwen wrinkled her nose. "That's kind of depressing and disgusting."
"It is indeed. Good thing some of us do not need to exsanguinate fairies to get people to fall wildly in love with us. Did you notice Myfanwy on our way in, by any chance?"
"No, but I think most of the flying creatures are in that direction," she answered, pointing to what looked like a grouping of taller, narrower cages. They took off for the far right corner of the enclosure. Gwen could not help but stare at all of creatures they passed. She had thought she was getting used to encountering alien life forms, but this . . . collection . . . was something else entirely. There were tiny crustacean-like beasts crawling all over each other in one pen. Each time one's claw came into contact with another's back shell, a bright purple flame sparked and another of the beasts gobbled it down. Another pen held a massive, red-furred creature that looked shockingly like Elmo from "Sesame Street." As they passed, the Elmo doppelganger opened its mouth wide. An identical creature formed out of its tongue, opened its mouth wide, creating another, and on and on. Gwen counted six by the time they rounded a corner, and Jack stopped short. She slammed smack into his back.
"Ouch! Jack, what is it?"
"I know that one," he whispered back. Gwen peered around Jack's shoulder. A golden-furred humanoid alien was stretched out in the cell in front of them. Its back was to them, and Gwen could not tell if it was male or female, young or old.
"Is this someone we should try to break out? Or avoid?" Gwen asked, watching with fascination as the alien's lion-like ears twitched.
Jack looked down at her. "We're not exactly equipped to deal with an alien influx of this magnitude," he said, gesturing around the enclosure.
"But surely we're not going to leave them! The Colufaxians have already proven to be ruthless. We have to do something!"
"I agree. But I don't think we can do something like absorb them into Earth culture at this point. You saw the Gorx. Can you imagine her in London?" Jack shook his head. "And I want to get out of here as soon as possible and get to Tosh and Ianto. Maybe Steve can help us." He crouched in front of the door to Steve's cell and examined the lock. "Steve's a pilot; we ran into each other - literally, almost - during a race on this planet that had six moons. Very strange weather patterns . . . long story short, Steve here won the race. Amazing pilot."
"His name is Steve?" Gwen asked incredulously.
"Steve's not a he or a she. The Richten . . . well, they're not androgynous as we would think of it, either, actually," he said, taking out his pick once again and setting to work. "They take political correctness to a whole new level. There's no he's, she's, it's, questioning's or anything else, and their bodies reflect it. Everyone is their name. They finally had to agree on using "you," "they" and "we" after this incident with pudding - ask me about it later," he grunted as the lock sprang open in his hand.
Gwen shook her head, bemused. You learn something new every day. She reached out and pulled Steve's door open, the sounds of all the other prisoners enveloping them in a wave. Steve woke with a start, toes twitching along with the ears, then turned and faced Jack and Gwen. Jack raised his hand in greeting and beckoned Steve out. "Quieter out here, Steve."
Gwen wasn't sure if Steve heard, but Steve moved fluidly across the space of the cell and stopped in front of Jack. Gwen had to shut her mouth to keep from gaping. She had never seen anyone move with such grace before. Steve wrapped wiry arms around Jack's body in a hug, and Jack laughed delightedly, returning the hug. "Good to see you too, Steve."
Gwen shut the door with a clang, and Steve released Jack and pulled her into a hug. Gwen returned it willingly. Steve's golden fur was softer than a rabbit's between her fingers and when they pulled away, she could see that Steve had the anatomy of a doll: nonexistent.
"What are you doing here, Agent?" Steve asked, and Gwen felt her heart warm by the melodious quality of Steve's voice.
"Breaking out," Jack answered with a grin. "This is one of my partners, Gwen Cooper," he continued, pulling Gwen under his arm, "and I go by Captain Jack Harkness here. We're looking for our pterodactyl. Myfanwy."
Steve took it in stride. "All right, then. Lead the way."
Myfanwy opened her beak in what Gwen assumed was a rather loud squawk when they finally reached her cage, thankfully on the bottom of the stack. Gwen rooted through her pockets for the last of the dark chocolate Ianto had given her earlier that day as Jack set to work on the lock. She looked up when Steve tugged on her arm.
"Gwen? That alien two cages over, with dark green markings? That is a very dangerous creature."
Gwen squinted at the tiny alien. "You mean that little thing? What does he do?"
Steve raised a brow at her use of the pronoun, and Gwen felt her cheeks heat a bit. "I mean, what does the alien do?"
Steve smiled slightly. "The R'gtyn are highly electricized. They shoot waves of electricity, like a flamethrower; do you know flamethrowers here?"
Gwen nodded. "Well, we'll leave the R'gtyn," she stumbled over the strange name, "alone then, yeah?"
Steve frowned. "And these others?" A wave of the arm indicated the entire enclosure.
"Jack and I were discussing that, actually. I think we need the rest of our team to figure out how to get everyone home -" Gwen cut off abruptly as Jack pulled the door open for Myfanwy. Myfanwy staggered out, so much less graceful on the ground, and Gwen hurriedly proffered her some of the dark chocolate. Steve watched, fascinated, as Myfanwy delicately picked the chocolate out of Gwen's hand and rolled it down her beak. Jack shut the cage door with a clang.
"Okay, gang, I think we're going to need to get out of here to send a message back to the Hub -"
He was cut off by the appearance of four Colufaxians rounding the corner and stopping dead in their tracks. Prisoners and captors alike froze for a split second, and then all hell broke loose. Myfanwy let out an angry cry and charged, flapping her wings in the narrow aisle between cages and getting just enough air to knock two of the Colufaxians down. The other two trained their lasers on Gwen and Steve, and Jack leapt at Gwen, hand coming up to cover her mouth as laser and gas were both fired. "Duck, Steve!" he yelled back to the golden-furred alien.
Jack and Gwen hit the ground and rolled up against the bank of cages. Gwen peered frantically around for Steve, but there was no golden fur in sight. The R'gtyn cage, however, was sporting a nice-sized hole, and Gwen gasped as the tiny alien hopped out, aimed at the closest Colufaxian, and let loose. The electric current sizzled the purple alien where it stood, and the smell of burnt flesh filled the hold. The R'gtyn turned to face the next Colufaxian, and Gwen tugged Jack to his feet. "We have got to get out of here! Myfanwy! Here girl!"
Jack whistled sharply, and Myfanwy left off attacking her two opponents and flew to them. The R'gtyn advanced on the final Colufaxians next, and Gwen and Jack wordlessly agreed to run in the opposite direction, Myfanwy trailing them.
"Did you see where Steve went?" Jack asked her as they ducked down another aisle. She shook her head. "This direction is a logical guess," she started, and skidded to a halt.
"Fuck," she whispered under her breath. At least a dozen Colufaxians were arranged shoulder to shoulder in front of them, blocking the way. Just over her shoulder, Myfanwy shrieked her outrage.
On the other side of Cardiff, Inspector Cleo led her squad over to Tosh, Owen, Ianto and Rhys. She had changed out of her heels and skirt and was in the same riot gear as the UNIT soldiers. "Right. Introductions. Captain Dryson, Torchwood. Torchwood, Captain Dryson." She snapped her fingers, and suddenly a tall woman appeared at her side. Rhys jumped back with a muffled oath. "And this is Lieutenant Morgan. She's the one who's been tailing Captain Harkness."
"You took all those pictures, Lieutenant?" Ianto asked. Lt. Morgan glanced at his clenched fists and had the grace to look a little embarrassed. Tosh shot him a sympathetic look before asking to see the cloaking device.
"This is truly amazing technology!" she enthused. "Though I doubt it will work around the Colufaxians, because of their gas."
"We don't need to be invisible," Owen snorted. "just stealthy. Come on, let's get going."
Tosh, Ianto, Rhys and Owen climbed into the UNIT lorry with the squad, Ianto sitting as far from Inspector Cleo and Lt. Morgan as possible.
"So, um," Rhys looked around at all the guns and equipment as the lorry pulled out of the courtyard, "do we have an attack plan or such?"
"Tosh and I need to get to the control room to stop the ship from taking off," Owen answered. "The rest of you need to get to Jack, Gwen and Myfanwy, without accidentally setting free a whole bunch of aliens we know nothing about."
"That's what we want to accomplish, Dr. Harper," Inspector Cleo said dryly. "But that hardly constitutes a plan."
Ianto chuckled, and then looked angry at himself for having found Cleo's comment amusing. She gave him a wry look and turned to Rhys. "Mr. Williams, when we arrive at the fairgrounds, Lt. Morgan will do a perimeter scan. When we have reconnaissance from her, we'll divide the squad. One group will maintain the perimeter, including watching the lorry. Half of the remaining will accompany Dr. Harper and Ms. Sato on their mission, and the other half will accompany Mr. Jones and myself to free the rest of Torchwood. You may, of course, decide for yourself which group to join."
"I'm going with you to get Gwen," Rhys said, thumping his fist on his knee.
"Very good." Inspector Cleo gave him a tight smile, and then took a deep breath. "I think we need to clear the air here. It was not UNIT's intention to persecute Torchwood. Obviously, we have been monitoring Ms. Sato in preparation for her review, but the, ah, monitoring, of Captain Harkness, which had an unfortunate side effect on you, Mr. Jones," she inclined her head towards Ianto, "was not, strictly speaking, properly authorized. When certain information came to light this morning, we did feel justified in monitoring the rest of you. Although it has not helped matters."
Rhys frowned and poked Owen in the ribs. "Was that an apology?"
Owen grunted. "The closest UNIT gets to one, at any rate."
Inspector Cleo shot him an exasperated look, then sighed. "It's off the record, too."
"Lovely," Ianto muttered. "When will the drugs fade from my system? Was it your idea? Because I am still really angry about that. Not angry enough that I won't watch your back in there, but still fucking furious. How we are - it's private - you just -" He pursed his lips together, trying to shut up.
"The drugs weren't my idea," she said quietly.
They lapsed into silence, until Owen cleared his throat. "Tosh, I brought some findings with me, perhaps we can go over?"
"Yes," she agreed quickly, and the two of them bent their heads together. A couple of UNIT soldiers moved through the rocking lorry to help Torchwood get outfitted in vests and helmets. Rhys looked down at his UNIT-issued firearm with a quizzical frown. Ianto reached over, took it from him, and quietly pointed out the safety and explained the blowback. Twenty minutes later, they waited in tense silence at the fairgrounds for Lt. Morgan to complete her circuit.
Rhys was staring back down the road. "Er, anyone expecting company?" he asked diffidently.
Inspector Cleo turned and peered into the gloom. The approaching lorry flashed its lights three times. "That would be our back-up," she answered.
"Already? Is that normal?" Rhys asked.
Inspector Cleo hesitated. "Everything is fine, Mr. Williams."
The lorry pulled up next to them and cut its engine. Owen pulled Rhys closer. "They should be nearby, in case we need them, but not right on our arses, to provide more coverage. I have a feeling this is just Harvey's attempt to undermine Cleo's authority," he said quietly.
"Harvey's a right twat," Ianto agreed, not bothering to keep his own voice quiet.
The man in question stepped down from the second lorry. "I have brought reinforcements," he announced unnecessarily. Tosh could practically feel Ianto raise his eyebrows at Harvey's version of riot gear. She had to agree; Ianto could pull off the flak jacket over a three-piece suit, but Harvey was nearly swimming in his.
Inspector Cleo frowned at him. "And you'll be driving over to the other side of the field to set up camp, I assume?"
"Ah, yes. Of course. Captain Miller!" he barked. "Take your squad to the other side of the ship and be prepared for any eventuality."
"Rather vague," Rhys murmured to Owen, and Owen snorted loudly.
Harvey scowled at him, then turned back to Inspector Cleo. "I have decided that I will be of most use observing this operation from the front lines."
Inspector Cleo gave him a level look. "Very well."
Ianto turned his back, disgusted, and looked back towards the ship. It was tiny and rocket-shaped, and glowed a dull silver in the moonlight. Tosh had assured them all that it would most likely be bigger on the inside. It rested on its side in the middle of the fairgrounds, and he itched to get going. He could see no Colufaxians outside the ship, but there was a disembodied head floating towards him. As he stared, a shoulder and leg from the knee down also appeared. "Lt. Morgan's cloaking device is failing," he called over his shoulder to the others.
She joined them a moment later. "Inspector Cleo, Inspector Harvey, Captain Dryson - permission to report?"
Owen rolled his eyes, but Inspector Cleo nodded impatiently.
"Set-up looks fairly basic. Control Room/Cockpit appears to be at the front of the ship. There's a small door on the other side of the ship. I counted three armed Colufaxians through the windows. Main entrance to the ship is on this side; you can just see the door there," she pointed behind her and everyone craned their necks to see through the dark, "and there are no guards outside of the ship. Technology is being severely hampered. My comm link failed completely, and the cloaking device wavered in and out."
"Excellent work, Lieutenant!" Harvey boomed, clapping a hand on her shoulder. "Captain Dryson, you will -"
"Ahem," Inspector Cleo cleared her throat pointedly. "I have given the assignments already, Inspector." She didn't wait for a response. "Captain Dryson, take four men and escort Ms. Sato and Dr. Harper to the control room. Lt. Morgan, you have four others to hold the perimeter. The rest of you are with me."
Owen turned to Rhys and punched him in the shoulder. "Stick with Ianto, mate; he'll keep you alive."
"You know, I'm a little touched by that," Ianto said, smirking slightly. Owen threw him a mock salute and Tosh squeezed his arm as they went trotting off behind Captain Dryson.
Harvey gave him a cold smile. "Well, Jones. Shall we?"
Ianto ignored him and fell in next to Rhys as the rest of them made their way to the other entrance.
Owen and Tosh slid on their bellies through the grass behind their UNIT escort. "Of course we get the entrance with the windows," Owen muttered, and Tosh had to smile. Captain Dryson's fist suddenly shot up in front of them, and they both froze. Tosh could just make out a purple humanoid alien cross in that window. As soon as it passed out of sight, Cpt. Dryson beckoned them forward once more. They stood up in the shadows of the space ship and huddled together.
"Right. Time for the gas masks." Everyone except for Owen pulled theirs on. "So Jones and Jones are going to start a fire a couple meters out. When they open the door to investigate, we jump them," Cpt. Dryson whispered. "That all right with Torchwood?"
"Sweet and to the point. I like it," Owen answered softly. "Tosh?"
Tosh nodded. "Let's be quick about it."
Jones and Jones were, indeed, fast fire starters, and in no time at all, the door banged open and two Colufaxians descended a ladder to the ground. Owen and Tosh darted in behind them and scrambled up the ladder. Cpt. Dryson and the final Jones ambushed the two Colufaxians and dragged their unconscious bodies under the shadows cast by the ship.
Owen poked his head up. There were still three Colufaxians gathered around the controls. Being as quiet as he possibly could, he rolled onto the floor and pulled his tranq gun. Tosh poked her head up behind him and raised her own gun. It was really too easy, Tosh thought with a frown, as Owen got off two shots and she got one. Where were all the other Colufaxians? She sprinted to the control panel as Cpt. Dryson and one of the Jones' followed them up the ladder.
"Oh, no! Owen, look!" She pointed to a security camera set in a giant warehouse, full of dozens and dozens of captive alien species. There, in the far corner, were Jack, Gwen and Myfanwy, surrounded by a swarm of Colufaxians.
Meanwhile, Ianto, Rhys, the two Inspectors, and their UNIT escort entered the space ship by the simple expedient of prying the door open with a crowbar. Rhys's eyes widened to the size of saucers. It was much bigger on the inside! Row upon row of cages stretched in front of them, stacked one on top of the other. And coming from the far corner -
"Ianto, that sounds like your pet pterodactyl."
"Yes it does!" Ianto agreed. "Inspector, I think -"
"You're not in charge here, Jones," Harvey interrupted him with a hiss. "Our best bet is to cause a diversion!"
And before anyone could stop him, he shot out the control panel on the wall.
"You fucking imbecile!" Ianto yelled, and this time, it was not just the drugs talking. The hold plunged into darkness, the cage doors sprung open, and noise enveloped them. Ianto grabbed for Rhys's elbow. "Stay with me!" he bellowed into the other man's ear. Rhys nodded and tightened his grip on his firearm. A herd of ankle-high pink alien rodents skittered past them, and then came the big ones. Harvey squeaked and turned to the door, but was cut off by a giant blue paw. Rhys felt his lunch threaten to come back up as Harvey's head rolled one way, his body another, and blood spurted all over the back wall. Ianto chivvied him further from the door, swept up Inspector Cleo with his other arm, and pointed them in the direction of, just barely discernible, a shriek that could be a dinosaur.
On the far side of the warehouse, Jack caught sight of Steve's golden fur seconds before they were plunged into complete darkness. He grabbed Gwen's hand and reached up blindly. Steve caught his hand, and suddenly they were all three leaping through the air, above the heads of the Colufaxians. Myfanwy shrieked again and took off after them. They landed in a heap in the next aisle.
"What the hell's going on?" Gwen gasped. "Steve, did you free everyone? Oh my God, Jack, that's a bloody unicorn!"
"Don't be silly, Gwen. There's no such things as unicorns," Jack said as a shining white, horned horse cantered by them. "That was a Jox."
"And the Jox is moving in the direction of the exit," Steve added. "We should follow. And someone else must have freed the aliens, Gwen. It was not you?"
Gwen shook her head. "Jack, do you suppose...?"
"This is the work of Team Torchwood? I doubt it; we're usually a tad more organized, don't you think?"
Gwen did not get a chance to respond as a large orange furred alien appeared in front of them, grinned, and promptly exploded, filling the air with smoke, blood and orange fur. When the air cleared enough for her to see, Steve and Myfanwy were gone and Jack was dead from a piece of cage puncturing his chest. Gwen grimaced, yanked out the bar, and dragged him into the relative safety of the nearest open cage to come back to life.
"Yeah, Jack," she answered at last. "Our fuck-ups are not usually quite this colorful," she agreed, absently flicking a piece of orange fur off his forehead.
Two aisles over, Ianto, Rhys and Inspector Cleo stumbled upon two UNIT soldiers desperately fighting off a horde of clittering, clattering knee-high yellow scorpion-like aliens. Rhys let out a very un-manly shriek when one of the scorpions stabbed its stinger dead-center into the gut of the taller of the two soldiers. The soldier collapsed, sliding off the stinger. Ianto sprung forward and fired into the horde as Inspector Cleo pulled the other soldier, wounded in the thigh, back behind them. Bits of yellow shell from the scorpion creatures rained down on them. The UNIT soldier was moaning and bleeding in equal amount; at least Rhys thought so - he couldn't hear anything except the sound of the gunfire. He could just see the wounded man's mouth contorting with each moan of pain, and Inspector Cleo's face, barking orders at him. He stared at her stupidly until a bloody handprint smacked his cheek. Noise returned in a rush.
"Wake up, Mr. Williams! Wake up, you damn fool!" she bellowed, her voice cutting through the shrieks of the aliens, the soldier moaning under her bloody hands, Ianto firing wildly in front of them.
Rhys worked his jaw - she had a very forceful hand - and stepped over them to join Ianto. His brain shut down over what seemed like hours working through the warehouse. Each step was an uphill battle. Not every alien was violent, but they were all panicked and trying to escape. Somewhere along the way, Rhys twisted his ankle painfully, but Ianto managed to keep him relatively unscathed and after awhile, even Inspector Cleo shot him an approving look at the ease with which he handled his gun. She was near frantic with worry over her soldiers, but except for the first two, they found not a one.
Tosh finally found them when they were cornered by a large slug-like alien. She calmly reached out and scratched it between its antennae, and the slug promptly let them pass. Rhys had never been more overjoyed to see someone in his life and wrapped her into a bear hug before she could even get a word out.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, a little flustered. "It's good to see you, too, Rhys," she said, awkwardly patting him on his back. She turned to Ianto as soon as she was back on the ground. "I left Owen to finish up with the engine - listen, I think we've found Myfanwy, but she's stuck behind some collapsed cages. We'll all have to put our backs into it to get her out."
Ianto nodded, relieved. "And any word on Jack and Gwen?"
Tosh bit her lip. "Well, kind of. I think I've pinpointed their DNA with the Colufaxians' cataloging system. They seem to be in one space, but Jack is, um, indisposed," she threw a glance at Inspector Cleo, and hurriedly continued, "at the moment. They're on the opposite side as Myfanwy. She's one aisle over."
Ianto looked out over the chaos of the warehouse and sighed. "Okay. Pterodactyl first. Then the humans."
An hour later, Jack stumbled down another aisle, Gwen on his heels. He reached back and gripped her hand tight in his. They had not encountered Steve or Myfanwy again, and the only real door they had come across had been guarded by a hulking blue alien, covered in blood and guts. Smoke chased them round another corner, and sudden morning sunlight beamed in from a hole in the side of the ship. "Jack!" Gwen gasped beside him, and he gave her hand a squeeze. Just a few more steps to go.
They emerged into a bright dawn sun, blinking at the contrast. UNIT officers swarmed the campground, red berets bobbing up and down as they chased after escaped aliens and fleeing Colufaxians. And there, on the far side of the campground, Owen, Tosh and Rhys were gathered around an agitated Myfanwy. Jack's heart swelled with pride even as a niggling doubt crept in. Where was Ianto?
Gwen spotted them, and uttering a wordless cry, she dropped Jack's hand, dodged several tiny Garthods and one very large Mlex, and threw herself at Rhys. He buried his face in her hair as Tosh and Owen exchanged relieved glances. Tosh spotted Jack making his way to them and flashed him a smile.
"Tosh, where's Ianto?" He tried to keep his voice calm as he pulled her into a bone-crushing hug. Owen reached around the Cooper-Williams Love Fest and patted his arm reassuringly.
"Relax, Jack, he led Inspector Cleo and her band of Merry Men back in to hunt for you and any survivors from their initial entrance. I'm sure he'll be out in a few minutes."
Gwen looked up, smile falling from her face as her horrified eyes met Jack's. "Not by the blue alien, surely?" she whispered.
Jack was already turning, shoving three aliens of questionable origin out of his way as he made a beeline back to the hole. Gwen was close behind him, calling over her shoulder at the others to follow.
The smoke Jack and Gwen had been fleeing earlier was now pouring from the door, obscuring their vision. A short woman emerged, coughing and gasping. Jack didn't even spare her a glance. He could hear Tosh calling to the woman, asking after Ianto, but she could not reply.
Jack barreled past her, and was flung twenty feet back by an enormous burst of hot air. He landed rather unceremoniously on his rump, and scrabbled immediately back to his feet. The source of the air burst, a stocky turquoise alien (a Rex Botrice, his brain supplied) stepped through the door. It was followed by a tall man in a familiar pin-striped suit, dragging the body of a bulky UNIT soldier.
Jack's heart stuttered, flipped, and then began to run. He crossed the space between them in less than five strides, holding out his arms. Ianto met his gaze, mouth working uselessly, before he cleared his throat.
"Lt. Jones needs Owen's attention," he finally got out, still staring at Jack. Jack had completely forgotten that he was covered in bits of orange fur, not to mention random smears of blood and brain matter and ash. Owen rushed forward and lowered Lt. Jones to the ground and finally, finally Jack could pull Ianto into his arms and assure himself that he was alive and (relatively) unharmed. Later, after the drugs had completely left his system, Ianto would firmly deny that there were any tears shed on either side, but right then, Jack cried from relief as he held Ianto close, smelled his sweat and exhaustion, patted him down to check for injuries. Satisfied at last, Jack pulled back just far enough so he could kiss him. It was supposed to be a life affirming type of kiss, short and reassuring, but Ianto's lips parted under his and Jack lost himself in the sensation of Ianto's mouth, in the breathing in and out. He kept one arm circling Ianto's waist, anchoring himself to Ianto, and one hand behind Ianto's head, anchoring Ianto to him.
"I bought us new sheets," Jack murmured when they finally broke for air.
Ianto gave a startled little chuckle. "That's all you have to say? You bought new sheets?"
Jack grinned back. "They're very high thread count. And red is your color."
"Did you pick out curtains while you were at it?"
"Nah, you can get the curtains," Jack smiled again and ran his thumb over Ianto's dirt-smudged cheek. Ianto closed his eyes into the touch, and Jack's heart caught in his throat. Again, dammit. "Let's go now."
Ianto opened his eyes. "Lots of clean-up to do here."
Jack frowned. "Two hours of sorting. UNIT is swarming the place; they can deal. Then I'm taking you home. No objections."
Ianto gave him a small smile. "Yes, Sir."
Inspector Cleo rocked back on her heels, taking in the closeness, though she couldn't make out the murmurs of the two men. Here was Harvey's proof, in the flesh, that Captain Harkness was involved with his employee. Well, Harvey was no longer with them. And Jones had just saved her life. She scrubbed a hand through her hair. This was going to be the debriefing from Hell.
Torchwood stayed at the site for the next four hours, instead of two. Steve was found, alive, and was convinced to pilot the ship back through the Rift, once Tosh determined the next opening and after the missing aliens could be rounded up by UNIT and the hole in the side of the ship patched. That had been the work of the R'gtyn, of course. Only two Colufaxians survived the freeing of their captives, and Steve claimed them for the ship. Gwen was a little taken aback at the ferocious gleam in the gentle alien's eyes, but Jack readily handed them over. Owen nodded his approval, and had a very productive conversation with Steve about the modifications he and Tosh had made to the Colufaxian engine design to prevent the mass killing of the entire city of Cardiff. Tosh pulled Jack aside, and after a whispered conversation, he took Inspector Cleo by the elbow for a talk. Everyone pretended to ignore the handing over of two files, one bulging with photos. Before they left, Inspector Cleo stopped Tosh to tell her that she had officially passed her UNIT review and could now do as she pleased.
"And what you please is to have a bath, a meal, a snooze and a hot date with the Inspector, am I right?" Owen teased her as they all tumbled into one of UNIT's spare lorries for the ride back to the Hub. Tosh blushed.
"You're just jealous, Owen," she mumbled, fighting a yawn.
"Maybe a little," he agreed.
Tosh blushed again, but smiled as she stared out the window.
The Next Morning
Tosh wiped her sweaty palms on her skirt, and then frowned down at her lap. Now she had wrinkles. Maybe she should have worn her denims after all. Or black trousers. Those would hide stains. She realized she was nattering on in her head and winced. The cog door rolled back, clanking and whistling loudly, and she fumbled and almost dropped her glasses before gently placing them next to her monitor and turning towards the door.
Jack and Ianto were laughing at some private joke as they entered the Hub, and Tosh was gladdened to see them both looking so rested and . . . content, she realized with a start. Then grimaced, thinking of what she had to say.
Ianto spotted her first. "Good morning, Tosh," he said, draping Jack's coat over his arm. "I was about to start the first pot of the day. Fancy a cup?"
She nodded wordlessly, cleared her throat and managed a, "Yes, thank you."
"Bit keen, aren't you, Toshiko," Jack smiled at her as he sauntered over. "It's not even 7:00."
Tosh took a deep breath. "I wanted to talk to you, privately."
Jack grinned delightedly. "Hey, Ianto!" he called towards the kitchen. "Make sure you knock before joining us! Sexy Sato wants to have her wicked way with me!"
"I'll be fliming it!" Ianto called back.
Tosh gave a small smile. "It's kind of important."
Jack's smile faded, and he nodded gravely. "Right, then. Shall we?" He proffered his arm, and they did not speak again until he was seated behind his desk and Tosh perched at the edge of a chair in front. She took several more deep breaths, to the point where Jack was starting to look at her with a fair amount of concern.
"I've decided to stay at Torchwood," she got out in a rush. Jack began to grin. "I passed my review - well, we strong-armed them into it," she continued, "but you already knew that part. What I wanted to say was, um, Jack," she paused, swallowed, "I'd like to take some time off. Maybe a month."
"Go for it." Jack's eyes twinkled at her, encouraging.
"I'm thinking about traveling," she started.
"Invigorating." Jack's smile was spreading across his whole face.
"And then I'm thinking about sitting in one place, doing nothing, for an entire week!"
"You really must!" Jack agreed. They grinned goofily at each other for a few moments, then Tosh settled back in her chair.
"You sure I can go away for that long?"
"Tosh," Jack began, "you deserve this. You have given me whatever I have asked of you. I want to give you something back. We'll take a week, get everything here in order, and then you have your break. Go wild."
Tosh left the Hub at 7:00 that night, early for her, and decided to walk back home. She was just passing a flower stall when Inspector Cleo stepped out from the shadows. "Good evening, Ms. Sato."
Tosh's pulse quickened, entirely involuntarily. "Inspector," she returned, inclining her head, quite proud that her voice did not tremble.
Cleo laid a hand on her arm. "Madelyn," she said in her throaty purr.
"Madelyn," Tosh returned, tasting the name on her tongue. Madelyn just looked back at her expectantly, and Tosh finally remembered her courtesies. "You can call me Toshiko. Or Tosh."
Madelyn released her arm and looked out at the street. Tosh fumbled for something to say. "So, how is the clean-up going?"
Madelyn humph-ed, and even that sounded insanely sexy. "It's a disaster. With Harvey gone, there's no one but me to take the blame - and I'm going to have to present our findings to headquarters in a few days. It will not go over well." She took a deep breath, and Tosh stared, fascinated at the way her collarbone hollowed with the shrug of her shoulders. "I've been considering leaving UNIT for awhile now."
Tosh blinked. "You're leaving UNIT? What will you do?"
Madelyn's lips curved into a small smile. "Are you concerned for my welfare, Toshiko?"
Tosh felt a blush creep up her neck. "You're a good Inspector. Very thorough. I'm sure you'll be grand at someplace other than UNIT."
Madelyn cut her eyes at her. "Hmmm. Praise from Torchwood?"
"Well, praise from me, at any rate," she mumbled.
Madelyn touched her arm again. "Thank you, Toshiko."
Their eyes met. "You're welcome," Tosh whispered finally.
"I do have an apology I'd like to make on Harvey's behalf. Apparently he tried to join Torchwood several times in the 80s and 90s, and was rejected. I think he'd been trying to look for a way to bring you lot down for awhile now, and going after your Captain Harkness through yourself and Mr. Jones was a viable option to him."
Tosh inclined her head, mutely. There was not much point in holding a grudge against a dead man, in her opinion. She fumbled for a change of topic. "Will you be staying in London, if you leave UNIT?"
Madelyn smiled again. "I was actually thinking about Cardiff. As a place to work. And live. Do you like it here, Toshiko?"
Tosh nodded. "Cardiff is . . . well, it's my home. I belong here. Though I'm going on a trip. For a bit."
"Just a bit?"
Tosh nodded again, and couldn't keep the smile from her face. "Just a bit."
Madelyn smiled back. "Then I'll see you again."
Tosh took a firm grip of her courage. "There's a nice Greek place one block over. If you want, we could get dinner and I could tell you some things about Cardiff."
Madelyn slipped her arm through Tosh's. "I would like that."