1 September 5192 (Earth Standard Date)
Jack arrived at the main transmat terminal on New Avalon, to find his grandson waiting for him.
Arthur Pendragon, the Once and Future King and Former Director of the Torchwood Institute, was dressed in casual clothing, although he had Excalibur at his side, as was his habit. His blond hair was rumpled as if he’d been running his fingers constantly through it, very much different from the usual calm, collected Star Dragon Arthur usually was.
He had good reason to be upset.
“Grandfather,” he greeted as Jack pulled him into a hug.
“Arthur.” As Jack held his grandson close, he could feel small tremors in his body. He was as upset about the situation as Clint had been, although Clint didn’t know what had taken Phillip away from his family.
If they were lucky, Phillip was still alive. If not…
No, he couldn’t even consider that. Phillip might have been in trouble, but there was no evidence of anything else.
It was the same with Merlin. They had no idea what had taken him away from New Avalon, only what Phillip suspected but not wanted to believe. Jack had to admit it made sense, in a way; but he didn’t want to even consider the idea that Merlin would do such a thing, even to get his mother back.
Jack pulled back slightly, in order to look at Arthur full in the face. “We’re going to find them,” he vowed.
Arthur took a deep breath. “You’re right, of course,” he agreed. “We don’t have enough information yet about what actually happened.” Then his shoulders slumped. “But Grandfather…it’s Merlin…I don’t want to think he’d attempt such a thing.”
“I don’t either. Neither did Phillip, when it came down to it.” He gripped his grandson’s shoulders a bit harder, trying to ground him. “But we have to at least consider that something’s happened to Merlin to take him away from here…and to Phillip, now that he’s been missing.”
“Let’s get to the house,” Arthur said. “I don’t want to talk out in public like this.”
Jack agreed, and together the pair of them left the transmat facility, and out into the city itself.
Camelot was the capitol of New Avalon. It was a very modern city, all chrome, glass, and stone, although not many of the buildings were over five storeys tall. Vehicles travelled along well-kept paved roads, while pedestrian traffic kept to the walkways that not only were on ground level, but connected many of the buildings, usually from the third or fourth floors, their clear walls glittering in the blue-white of the planet’s primary. Off in the distance Jack could make out the governmental building, resembling nothing more than a medieval castle, minarets towering over the rest of the structures around it. Jack knew for a fact that it embarrassed Arthur slightly that the citizens had taken the name of the city to heart and had constructed what amounted to their version of the ancient keep he’d once ruled from, and that had been before he and Merlin had made this place a second home, bringing the first of the Empire’s magical universities here. Merlin would often stay there during the school year, and Arthur would join him later.
Jack also knew that the current governor had tried to step down once Arthur and Merlin had moved there, and had offered the position to Arthur. His grandson had turned it down, saying that once he’d decided to retire from Torchwood, that meant he would be spending his time with his family and not mired in political claptrap. Still, the governor did come to Arthur for advice when they were in residence there, which secretly pleased him even though, in public, he’d often grumble about it.
The immortal had asked Merlin why he’d chartered the school here, and not on the site of the original Avalon – which was still owned by Anwyn, from back during that mess with GenCorp. Merlin had said that there were too many sad memories associated with the place, and that he’d wanted to make a fresh start. Besides, Earth was just a little out of the way of Galactic Centre and he hadn’t wanted to make his students come so far to him at that time.
“How’s Rory?” Jack enquired as they walked. He knew they drew stares: Arthur, with his sword in plain sight; and Jack, dressed somewhat anachronistically and in his usual RAF greatcoat. It wasn’t his original coat; that one had, unfortunately, worn out thousands of years ago. However, Ianto would always somehow find him a replacement when it was time, as well as his familiar Webley revolver, and Jack suspected the Doctor was somehow involved.
It would be his great-grandson’s seventy-eighth birthday next month, and was shaping up to be almost as powerful a wizard as his father. Jack was inordinately proud of him, and he knew for a fact that Ianto spoiled him as often as he could.
“He’s fine,” Arthur answered. “I…I’ve only told him that Merlin’s missing. I don’t want to say much more until we know something that didn’t clash with Torchwood protocol.”
Jack didn’t blame Arthur for that. Besides, they really didn’t have a lot of information yet, just a few vague suppositions. “I bet he’s trying to get more out of you though.”
Arthur snorted, “Of course he is. He’s been trying to wheedle more out of me ever since I showed up on our doorstep here completely unexpectedly, so don’t be surprised if he does that with you, too. Grandmother Samara, Grandfather Rhys, and Nicole are here too, and they’re all helping to keep his curiosity under control, but it’s obvious to him that something is really wrong.” He sighed. “Why didn’t I notice? Damnit…Merlin is my mate. I should have checked on him after he’d been out of contact for even a planetary day…”
“How were you supposed to know?” Jack returned. “Arthur, you were on a completely different planet at the time. Hell, Mom, Rhys, Rory and Nicole live here, and they didn’t notice anything. You know how Merlin is, son. He gets tied up in things, and before you know it, it’s been days and you haven’t seen hide nor hair of him, and you have to go and drag him off from whatever hole he’s found to occupy himself in.”
“Goddess, that’s true,” Arthur barked a laugh. “He’d even get lost in the Hoard.”
The Hoard was the nickname for the Torchwood Archives on Hubworld, and Jack had to laugh along. Those tunnels and chambers had been hollowed out of the bedrock of the planet itself, and were a maze that, if one didn’t have a map, one could very easily get lost in. The only person Jack knew that never had done was Ianto, but then he’d been the one to design that labyrinth in the first place.
“Until we know more,” he pointed out, “there’s no need to get completely upset about his being missing. We only have the handful of facts that Phillip had managed to pull together. Plus, we know that he fully intended on contacting the Doctor to help, and he did ask Sabrina to look into things here.”
It was just that it had been four days, and Jack would have thought that Phillip would have been in contact long before now, especially with Clint being pregnant. That didn’t mean that the Doctor’s aim with the TARDIS hadn’t been completely screwed up. They could have ended up anywhere that wasn’t their destination, because the Doctor, despite his many protests, was a shit pilot…
The building where Merlin and Arthur and their family lived in wasn’t that far from the transmat terminal, a three-storey structure made up of flats, one on each floor. The Pendragon-Williams-Songs lived in the topmost flat, where Arthur had access to the roof on the days he wanted to fly. They could have bought their own place, but as Merlin had pointed out they were only there for part of the planetary year, and a house would have been too much to upkeep when they weren’t around to live there.
Still, the flat was large. It might have been a single floor, but it had four bedrooms, a lounge, a large kitchen, den, and an office for Merlin for when he was teaching. For a residence that was only used for a portion of the year, it was very homey, with touches that marked it as very much as somewhere a family lived.
There were pictures all over the place, of every member of what Ianto was fond of calling the Harkness-Jones Horde. Of them all, however, the majority of them were of Arthur and Merlin, along with Rory at various ages. Jack couldn’t help but smile softly. He had what he’d once thought impossible: a large family, one that would have a legacy that would carry on for a very long time.
Jack spun around at the shout, just in time to catch his great-grandson, Rory Pendragon-Song, in his arms for a massive hug. Even though he was seventy-seven – soon to be a year older – in human years, in dragon age that was still a child. There were times when Rory acted quite mature…and this wasn’t one of them, judging from just how hard he was holding on. “It’s going to be okay,” Jack soothed, rubbing a hand up and down his back.
“I know you’ll find him,” Rory whispered. “You and Father…you’ll find him.”
“Count on it.” While Jack couldn’t promise what condition they’d find Merlin in, he would at least do his damnedest to bring Rory’s Dad home.
Reluctantly, Jack pulled away, keeping his hands on his great-grandson’s arms. “Now, your father and I need to talk about a few things that you can’t be around for, okay?”
Rory’s brilliant blue eyes, with their circle of gold around the irises, were glassy with tears and terror. He was so much like his two fathers; tall and broad like Arthur, with Merlin’s black hair and cheekbones. His eyes as well, showing the boy’s connection with both magic and time. He was also the first of the Star Dragons to have been born with two hearts – taking after his other grandfather and father in that respect – and Merlin thought he might also have the ability to regenerate, although no one would know that until much later. A perfect combination of dragon and Time Lord.
Jack glanced over Rory’s shoulder to see his granddaughter, Nicole Jones-Coulson, standing beside Arthur, her own expression very worried. He met her two-pupiled gaze, which always looked a bit stern even when she was overcome with other emotions, one web-fingered hand fluttering around the collar of her blouse in a helpless manner. Jack guessed then that she must have discovered that her own father was also missing; Phillip might not have been related to her by blood, but she’d accepted her biological father’s mate with open arms and considered herself Phillip’s daughter as well as Clint’s.
Samara and Rhys were there as well. When his mother had married his long-time friend, Jack had been ecstatic. It had been a near-perfect union in many ways; Rhys had come to New Avalon to work in Logistics for the school, and Merlin had been pleased as punch to let him take over. Now a robust one-hundred thirteen years old, Rhys had quite happily retired over fifteen years ago, the greater lifespans in this time benefiting him greatly.
Now, he and Jack’s Mom had their own family, and it had been such a surprise when Jack had gotten a sister out of their mating.
Rory looked as if he wanted to argue with being banished from the conversation, but Samara stepped forward, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Come on,” she urged. “We’re not Torchwood and there are things we can’t know.”
“But Gran…” he whined.
“It’s going to be okay, kiddo,” Nicole stepped in.
“No, it’s not!” Rory exclaimed, his pale face going a little red in his anger.
“Rory,” Arthur cut into what would most likely have become a full-blown strop, “Your Uncle Phillip is missing as well. She understands.”
Rory’s face fell, and he nodded. “I’m sorry, Nicole.”
She managed to dredge up a wan smile. “It’s fine, Rory. Believe me, I wish we could stay, but the sooner we leave Arthur and Granddad to discuss what they’re going to do, the sooner they can get to work bringing our Dads back.”
“Mom,” Jack suggested, “why don’t you and Rhys pack bags for Nicole and Rory and go and stay with Clint and Lisa on Hubworld? I’m sure they’d both love the company.”
“That’s a great idea,” Samara agreed.
“But we have classes – “
“And you think you’ll both be able to concentrate?” Arthur asked. “Go and get a few things, Rory. Staying with Uncle Clint and Aunt Lisa would be best.”
“Besides,” Jack added, “if you’re both on Hubworld, you’ll get the news faster than if you stay here.”
That seemed to decide things for Rory, who left the room in a rush. Nicole followed a bit more slowly, but not before receiving her own hug from her grandfather. Samara and Rhys followed, Rhys patting Jack’s shoulder in solidarity. “I know you’ll bring ‘em back,” he murmured confidently as he left the room.
Jack was grateful for the support.
Arthur seemed to lose a bit more of the tension that had been evident in his stiff shoulders and back. “That was a good idea. I’ll feel better if Rory is with family, and I can arrange to have him off classes for the time being.”
“You go and do that, and I’ll help the pair of them get ready.”
Arthur nodded, taking out his personal comm and asking to speak to the headmaster of the university. Jack left him to it, moving deeper into the flat toward Rory’s room.
His great-grandson’s room was just as cluttered as any teenage boy’s would have been, even with a neat freak father like Merlin was; Arthur was a bit more lax in his housekeeping duties, and he’d often said that, as long as he knew where everything was, a little bit of a mess never hurt anyone. Merlin had often teased his mate about it being a throwback to their first life together, when Merlin had been Arthur’s servant and, as King, could order him to clean up after him. Arthur would simply roll his eyes, at which Merlin would call him names that might have been insulting to anyone else but, for them, were extremely affectionate.
Jack had often wondered just how Merlin had come up with the term clotpole and then decided not to ask, for the sake of his peace of mind.
Rory was stuffing something into a large bag as Rhys supervised, and from the shape Jack figured it was shirts. Ianto would have been all over their great-grandson for treating clothing like that, but the immortal decided not to say anything about it, and apparently his father-by-marriage thought the same thing, since he was simply sitting there in silent support.
Jack leaned against the door jamb, just watching the younger man, content to wait him out to say anything. He met Rhys’ eyes, and his former teammate nodded in response.
Finally, Rory must not have been able to wait any longer, because he blurted, “And you can’t tell me anything about what happened to Dad?” Then he added, “And Uncle Phillip?”
“Sorry, kiddo,” Jack replied. He hated keeping secrets from family, but this was Torchwood, and there were still laws on the books that said disseminating such information was a treasonous act…even if it was to family. Once upon a time, even letting civilians into the secret of Ianto being a dragon had been included in those laws, but that had changed after that mess with the Cybermen in New York. It hadn’t stopped Ianto from sharing with those people he absolutely trusted, but the then-people in charge had respected Ianto’s freedom to inform certain folks.
It was even worse with Director Level events…and this was such a thing. Jack really couldn’t even tell his mate, but then he’d long ago given Ianto the Director codes simply because the dragon might as well have been co-Director, only Ianto had only ever insisted on his titles being Second and Head Archivist. He’d claimed it was because he wanted to respect Jack’s position, which was sweet in a way, but that hadn’t stopped him from gradually reading Ianto in on a lot of things that any other Second wouldn’t have known.
“Torchwood’s like that,” Rhys replied. “Been in it long enough myself to know there’s secrets within secrets, and your Great-Granddad can’t say a thing about it. But he would if he could.”
Rory sighed. “I get it…I really do. But can I say that Torchwood stinks?”
Jack had to laugh. “You wouldn’t be wrong at that.”
That got him a faint smile. “I know you and Father will do everything you can.”
“Too right they will,” Rhys affirmed.
The immortal was touched by that simple, honest, faith. There were days when he wasn’t certain he deserved that sort of thing, and today one was one of those. He only had the information that Phillip had left, and that was from four days ago. It was out of date, and there was only one way to get new information. It was a good thing that Phillip had set that into motion before he’d disappeared. Jack had just wished he’d waited for that to pan out before haring off to the Library with the Doctor.
Jack moved into the room, and began helping Rory get his things together, trying to break the tension by telling the rather outlandish story about the time the young dragon’s parents had nearly caused a diplomatic incident when they’d been children, and how Anwyn and Ianto had had to chase them all over the place in order to fix their messes, all the while Merlin kept using his magic to jinx things.
Rory was actually laughing by the time he’d packed and back out into the lounge, where Nicole, Samara, and Arthur were waiting. Nicole was looking a little better, and Jack assumed that his mother and Arthur had done what they could to encourage her as well.
“You’re going to need to look after your Dad,” Jack told her. “You know the stress isn’t going to be good for the baby.”
She nodded. “I understand. It’s going to be hard…but I’ll do my best. Is Skylar at his theatre group?”
“He is, and Clint hasn’t told him yet. You’re going need to help him with that, too, sweetheart, when he does do it.”
“I will.” Nicole closed her eyes, letting out a long breath. “Goddess. This is such a mess…”
“It is, but we’re going to fix it.”
Jack had no idea where the certainty in his voice was coming from. They really had no idea what was going to happen when they eventually caught up with Phillip and Merlin. Hell, they needed to know before they really could do anything.
But his family had confidence in him, to make things right. He could even see it in Arthur, as he fussed over Rory and then kissed his son’s forehead, earning himself a strident, “Dad!” from the younger dragon. Arthur ruffled Rory’s unruly hair, saying, “You should head out. I already called Clint, and he’s waiting for you all at his house.”
“Call us as soon as you hear anything,” Rory commanded, looking at both of the elder adults in the room.
“We will,” Arthur promised.
And with that, they were gone, heading toward the transmat station. Jack was glad that Merlin had insisted that the city install one; he would have hated to put the pair of them on a ship to send them to Hubworld. It also allowed him to move quickly, instead of having to wait, even though the transmat system had almost fallen out of favour now that the Human Empire was simply too large to support it.
As soon as the door had closed after them, Jack was saying, “I know you and I are going to have to head out to the Library, but the first thing we should do is confirm Merlin’s movements before he vanished. Phillip didn’t have time to check into too much before he left, but I’m sure by now that Sabrina will have discovered something...”