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Surviving the Cut

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     i. Lisa

 

 

Ianto touched Lisa’s hand. It had been over two months since Daleks and Cybermen had destroyed Torchwood One, and they were struggling to get back on their feet. Even with the UNIT doctors checking them over and the unexpected reappearance of Torchwood Four’s field medic, they were still in the process of healing. Ironically, it was Ianto who had the most to recover from -- Lisa had been in the process of having her body converted, yes, but stopping it before it did anything permanent had left Ianto with burns on his hands, arms, and torso. The metal pins in Lisa’s body could be removed, the bone pieced back together with relative ease thanks to UNIT’s superior technology. Burns were trickier.

With the help of Dr. Garther, the nastier burns had been mostly healed. However, Ianto would bear the scars for the rest of his life. Lisa didn’t care. She had scars of her own now, and she loved Ianto no matter what. He was hers; he had dragged her from that hell, even though the heated metal implanted in her skin had burned him. (There was some technical reason why it hadn’t burned her as well. One of the UNIT scientists had tried to explain it during the debriefing, but she was too out of it from the drugs to follow.)

“Well,” Robert said. Director Howe, now, since he was the highest ranking official alive. Which wasn’t much, since there were only twenty-eight of them.

Lisa was the second highest ranking person left, and the only thing she’d been in charge of was a tiny group of scientists researching alien coral in the basement. This was possibly the lowest moment in Torchwood’s long history; the organization was being run by researchers and support staff.

“Well,” Robert repeated, sighing. “I hate to do this to you, but I need to you go to Cardiff.”

“Cardiff?” Lisa asked sharply. “Why, exactly, do we need to go to Cardiff?”

“Torchwood Three,” Robert explained. “There’s something wrong, and I don’t trust that Captain Harkness fellow further than I could throw this UNIT truck. I need a leader there who can get those little bastards in line.”

“And you think Lisa can do it?” Ianto asked, not disbelievingly -- Ianto thought she could solve P = NP if she tried, bless his soul. He wasn’t blind to her faults, but he was blind to her limits. He thought she didn’t have any.

“Yes,” Robert said with a dry smile. “Once you’ve wrangled Torchwood scientists, you can handle anything, even those pesky arses.”

“We’re not going,” Lisa said flatly. Robert raised his eyebrows at her, waiting for her to continue. “Ianto needs to be here, with the doctors. For that matter, so do I.” She couldn’t wait until they cleared her for walking without the damn cane. She prayed it was soon. “Send someone else.”

“There is no one else.”

“Send UNIT.”

“You and I both know, Miss Hallett,” the Director snapped, “that UNIT is not an option. If we want Torchwood to be rebuilt as an independent organization, if we wish to remain autonomous and out of someone else’s control, we have to keep everything and everyone in line ourselves. There are twenty-eight of us, Lisa,” he continued softly. “Five have already asked about Retcon pills. We need to recruit, and we need to strengthen our defenses, and most of all, we need to work together. And we can’t do that with a lone wolf leading a bunch of misfits in the middle of no where.”

“We won’t go,” Lisa said stubbornly. “I don’t care what you threaten me with, Director, but I will not put Ianto at risk by packing up our lives and--”

“I’ll go,” Ianto said softly. Lisa turned to him immediately, her eyes trailing down the bandages that sheathed his neck, his shoulders, and most of his torso. He wore a light pajama shirt over them, unbuttoned, so that the various doctors and nurses could check his wounds more easily.

There was steel in her Ianto’s eyes, and he met her gaze with all the strength and determination that made her love him at the forefront. If taking over Three meant that Torchwood would have a change to evolve and grow on its own, under management that knew first hand what fall pride could bring, he would do it.

“They have a very good doctor at Three,” Director Howe said. Lisa would never be able to think of him as just plain Robert again, not after this. “And we’ll send someone every other week to check up.”

“Fine,” Lisa sighed. She wanted to put her foot down, wanted to keep them right where they were, safe in the cocoon UNIT had woven around them, but she knew that Ianto would never stand for it. She’d never forget how it felt, to hear him scream in agony but refuse to let go. He’d dragged her from the rubble, even though it hurt, even though it burned. He loved her so much that he hadn’t even cared.

She just wanted them to be safe. From what she remembered of the office rumors, Captain Harkness was anything but that.

“Torchwood is forever,” she muttered to herself as she grabbed her cane and waited for Ianto to struggle to his feet.

“You either leave your memories or your body,” Director Howe and Ianto echoed together. It was a common saying at One, one that had proven accurate.


           ----

 

The move was more trouble than it was worth. Ianto spent much of the packing with the doctor from Four, working with that alien device she’d brought with her. If Lisa had any energy left at all, she might have found it in her to have misgivings about the mysterious and older Dr. Garther and her convenient burn-fixer, but there was too much to worry about. All she could do was be grateful that Ianto was being healed.

Director Howe had given her files on all of Three’s staff, including the highly colorful and distressingly large one they had on Captain Jarkness. The databases had been mostly destroyed in the Battle, but much of the physical archives had survived, which was where Howe had dug it up. There were large swaths of it missing, but it was coherent enough for her to figure a few things out. Read between the lines. From the UNIT soldiers, Lisa learned that Three, lead by the Captain, had come by and picked the ruins, the scavengers, before taking off again. They hadn’t even checked to see what condition the survivors were in. 

Cold rage shot through her heart when she thought of it. No matter what One’s sins were, there was no excuse for that. The higher ups had made their decisions. People like Ianto and Robert and even Lisa -- they had nothing to do with Hartman’s madness. They didn’t deserve the hell that had been inflicted on them.

There were twenty-eight survivors. Twenty-eight. Barely a fraction of all the people Lisa had seen everyday, walking the halls, going in and out of the building, working in the archives, the laboratories, the research hub. There were so many dead. Lisa couldn’t even think of it without remembering the bodies strewn about, laying in piles before being organized into endless rows of carefully spaced and labeled white sheets. So many hadn’t survived.

They should have been better prepared. Hartman should have been prepared.

Lisa would do everything in her power to make sure that it didn’t happen again. She had to. Otherwise, she would go mad, drown beneath the images of destruction and death that clouded her brain.

She read the personnel files as the movers she had hired put her life in boxes and crates. Toshiko Sato, rescued from UNIT’s seedier holding cells. Owen Harper, a doctor with a chip on his shoulder so big that Lisa was surprised he didn’t have small planets orbiting his pain. Suzie Costello, whose pysch interviews were missing and whose personnel file showed judicious tampering. In addition, of course, to the legendary Jack Harkness.

Only four people worked the entire Rift? Lisa glanced up in time to shout for the movers to be careful of the dining room table, thank you very much. She returned to her files, fiddling with the plastic grip of her cane. That would have to change, she knew. Ianto was going to be the archivist if he chose to come back to Torchwood again, and she would definitely hire someone to help him with the workload. They could do with a proper support staff and someone to man the tourist shop full-time. Also, depending on which way Harkness jumped, they could do with some more field agents. She’d have a better idea of what needed to be done once she was there, of course, but she had already spoken to Director Howe about her budget for new people.

She checked her watch, snapped Harkness’s file closed, and shoved it in her bag. Ianto would be back from his session soon, and she wanted to smuggle their sex box into the car before the movers got to it. No way was some burly stranger handling their collection of strap-ons, vibrators, and fuzzy handcuffs.


          ----

 

Lisa walked into Torchwood Three like she owned it. She did. She’d let Ianto talk her into visiting a local antique store and buying an ornate swordstick. The shaft was dark wood, polished smooth, and both the base and the handle were silver. Technically, it was illegal to carry one, as it was considered a concealed weapon under the 1988 Offensive Weapons Act. However, Torchwood was outside the government, beyond the police for a reason. Lisa could carry whatever the hell she wanted, as long as she had her Torchwood ID on hand and the stubbornness to cow any police officers who questioned her.

She made an impressive sight, she knew. Ianto had catcalled when she did the usual fashion walk up and down their new hallway. She was wearing the fiercest black pants she owned and a pair of flat leather boots that laced up to her calves. Her shirt was crisp and white, and her makeup was expertly applied. She had a Bluetooth headset in one ear, sleek and professional. She left her arms bare so that they could see the raised pink scars on her arms, left overs from the Battle. Her hand gripped her swordstick tightly; the silver tip made sharp clicking noises against the ground. Lisa liked it. It was solid, dependable. Beautiful.

Her confidence was for nothing. No one had told them that she was coming. As she dealt with Three’s yelling and gun-waving, she made sure that she would remember to clear her schedule for a bit of revenge planning later. Director Howe was an evil bastard, and she was going to make his life hell. Just two weeks ago, he’d been in charge of a small under-department devoted to cross-referencing archive data. He needed to remember his roots before he lost his head in intergalactic politics.

“A new director?” Dr. Harper sneered. She managed to herd all of them up into the conference room. There were crumbs on the table and molding abandoned takeout containers scattered across the room. Somehow, she knew that this place was used for eating and little else. A waste of resources. “You’re bloody joking.”

“No,” she snapped, “I’m not.” She resisted the urge to skewer him with her blade. It wouldn’t do to murder an employee on her first day as the boss. “Sorry, fellas, the orders have come straight from the top.” 

“And if we don’t want some power-hungry One thug coming onto our turf?” Captain Harkness said dangerously. He eyed her cane and her boots with judgement. He thought she was putting on a show for them. Ha.

“Don’t fuck with me, Harkness,” Lisa growled. From what had survived uncensored in his file, she judged that a direct approach would work best. “You think I want to be on your turf, as you called it? You think I want to deal with a bunch of loose canons on the arse-end of nowhere?” She leaned forward, placing both hands on the table. Her scars shifted as she moved. “You think I want to take my boyfriend away from the doctors who saved his life?”

Harkness blinked and eased back a bit, startled. His demeanor changed. He was starting to realize that Lisa was more than just one of Hartman’s suits. “Boyfriend?” he asked, a hint of flirtation in his voice. Antagonistic to flirtatious in less than a second. Surely some kind of record. His shoulders relaxed marginally, and he leaned forward, a suggestive grin on his handsome face.

Gods, the rumors were true, she realized with dread. He was a total man-whore.

“Yes,” she said coldly. She met each of the team’s eyes, lingering on Dr. Harper. He was the one with the dead fiancée. “He saved my life. Stopped them from converting me. One of the doctors has some kind of miracle alien device, which did a lot towards patching him up. He’s-- It was bad.”

She took a deep breath. “Look, I know this isn’t ideal. I don’t want to be here, and you don’t want me here, I get it. But I’m the boss now, and I’m going to be damned if I have to bury another coworker. I’m going to keep you safe, keep you from being overworked, and most of all, I’m going to keep out of your way.” Until she had a chance to study how they worked together, that was. Then it was open season. “Trust me, as soon as Director Howe lets me transfer back to London, I’m out of here.”

“It’s not like we have a choice, is it?” Costello asked snidely. She glared at Lisa suspiciously, unmoved by Lisa’s tale of heroic love.

“Exactly,” Lisa agreed. “Now, Captain Harkness, I believe you know the most about your set up here. Give me the tour.” Her first official order.

“Certainly,” Harkness smiled. It didn’t reach his eyes.

Once Harkness lead her away from the team and into the bowels of the Hub, as he called it, she could speak freely about what she had read in his file.

“I know, by the way,” she said as casually as she could.

“Know what?” Harkness asked. He was a study of mild curiosity, and she wondered, suddenly, how this man had ever conned anyone. He was such an open book, it was shocking. This was the man described in so many agent reports? The one who fooled aliens and humans alike? Torchwood needed better training programs. Five Ways To Spot If Jack Harkness Is Bullshitting You. With an oral exam. Naked.

“I know that you can’t die. Torchwood One had a file.”

Harkness’s hand slid toward the gun holstered at his hip. “Had?”

“I have it now,” she admitted. “And before you ask, it’s the only copy, and almost everyone else who has read it is dead.”

Harkness drew his gun. “That file doesn’t exist. I destroyed it years ago.”

Lisa snorted. “Harkness, this is Torchwood. You think the backups don’t have backups? My boyfriend dabbled with the archives at One; I probably have a better idea of how this works than you do.”

Harkness didn’t waver. He stepped back and raised his weapon. (That’s what she said, the Ianto that lived in her head whispered.) He aimed it at her chest. Head-shots were easy to miss, even at this distance. A bullet fired at the chest had a greater chance of landing somewhere fatal. 

“That’s information that I don’t want in the wrong hands,” Harkness grinned savagely. His expression was full of razors, twisted and broken. He was twisted and broken. He’d been alive for such a long time. Dying and coming back, dying and coming back. Over and over again for at least as long as Torchwood had known of him. “Especially not some desk jockey from One and her boytoy.”

“If you shoot me,” Lisa said steadily, the cold rage back in her chest, “One will know about it. My boyfriend knows where I am right now. He’s been networking with UNIT and various other military and government agencies since the Battle. If I go missing, even for just an hour, he will cash in every favor, call every business card, kick over every rock until he has an army at his back. He will show up at your door and take you for everything you have.”

"Sounds like an interesting guy,” Harkness shrugged. “Who’s to say that we won’t get to him before he knows you’re gone?"

Fury flared over her, brief and fiery. If anyone laid a hand on Ianto’s head, she would rip them apart with her bare hands. “Because he’s been listening in the whole time,” she said instead of the primitive snarl she wanted to unleash. She reached up and tapped her Bluetooth gently. “Say hello, Captain Harkness.” 

He looked at her. She looked back. He may be a hundred years old, a thousand, but by the gods, she was was going run this ship on her own terms. After a moment, he nodded curtly. He wasn’t happy about it, but he conceded for now. She felt the pleasant tingle of success works its way through her body. A handsome man doing as she said? Got her every time.

This wasn’t a complete victory, but it was far from defeat.

 

 

     ii. Ianto

 

 

“And the Hub is alive, Ianto,” Lisa said, waving her fork haphazardly. “Alive. Mainframe is sentient. Harkness says she’s grouchy, even for Toshiko, but I bet you could find some way to sweet talk her into keeping the archives in proper shape.” 

She’d been home for four hours, and she had yet to stop talking. Ianto let her, content to listen to her chatter on about her new employees and the strange building they worked in. His fingers itched to poke at Mainframe, to shift through the boxes collecting dust in the archives, to feel what Lisa described as the heartbeat of the Hub. However, as much as part of him wanted to see what was making Lisa light up brighter than she had since the Battle, another part of him just wanted to find a quiet job somewhere out of the way and never resurface. He couldn’t close his eyes without being back there, in that hell, struggling with Lisa’s limp body, feeling the metal searing into his flesh but being unable to let go, couldn’t let go, because this was Lisa and he had to save her. He’d risk the world for her.

What happened to them still affected Lisa, he knew. She tried to hide it, but it was hard to ignore nightmares that shook the whole bed or the way she kicked aside her swordstick when she walked through the door. The scars on her arms ached. Her leg hurt. She got migraines, terrible migraines, that left her nearly blind from pain. She took pills for it all, but it was never quite enough. Ianto had taken to counting the pills right after she left for work and right before he went to bed. He couldn’t help it. From his contacts, he’d learned that four of the other survivors had committed suicide in the same number of weeks. From twenty-eight to twenty-four, just like that.

Ianto had his own nightmares, his own agonies, his own PTSD symptoms. He woke up screaming more often than not, and he’d taken to putting off sleep for as long as possible, so that he might black out from exhaustion first. He couldn’t imagine wanting to work for them, but he also couldn’t imagine working for anyone else. Torchwood had gotten him young; now it was all he knew. His inactivity was starting to grate on him, but he wasn’t ready to ask to take his position yet. He needed time. At least he had Lisa.

“Harper is a complete prat, of course,” Lisa was saying, “and you’re going to hate him so much. It’ll be amazing. I want to sell tickets.”

“Will I be getting a share of the profits?” Ianto asked mildly, right on cue.

“Of course, love.” Lisa’s shoulders were tight with tension. Her bones were probably bothering her again. Ianto had taken his pain pills just a bit early today; his skin felt oddly electrified, except the parts along his ribs that didn’t quite feel anything at all anymore. He was definitely a bit stoned. They made quite a pair, the two of them. Lisa and Ianto, Torchwood One’s former golden couple.

They were still close. Some how, beyond all odds, they were surviving this, just as they had survived the Battle. They were limping along, but they were getting there, and he wasn’t going to let go for anything. He made his decision.

“How about I start next week, and we find out?” Ianto smiled stiffly.

Lisa stilled, her eyes focused on his. “Are you sure?” she asked, putting down her fork. She reached across the table and placed her fingertips lightly on the back of his hand. He could barely feel her through the gauze and scar tissue.

Ianto nodded. “Julia says I can take the gauze off tomorrow. It’s all mostly healed now, although I can’t make any guarantees for looks.”

“Ianto, don’t be thick,” Lisa said. She heaved herself out of her seat and kissed him across the table. “You’re my handsome Welshman, same as ever.”

“And your my posh Londoner,” Ianto replied. “No matter where we are.”

They stayed like that for a while, until their food was cold and Ianto’s scars started to itch again and Lisa couldn’t hold off from taking her pain medication anymore.


          ----

 

As Lisa said, Harper was a complete prat. Ianto wore a nice suit to his first day at work, but his effort was wasted: the first person he saw was Harper, who immediately grabbed his arm and dragged him to the autopsy room. Ianto was then forced to strip so that the good doctor could examine every scarred and embarrassed inch of him. 

That was how Ianto met Captain Jack Harkness while sitting in a cold medical room, wearing nothing but a pair of boxer briefs.

Harkness, also true to what Lisa had told him, wolf-whistled. “London was holding out on us,” the Captain said, striding down the stairs. “If I’d known everyone at One was so good-looking, I would have dropped by a lot more.”

Ianto stared at him flatly. “Perhaps it was good you didn’t, sir,” he said, conscious of the layers and layers of new scars he had along his torso and arms, thick and discolored. “If you had been visiting at the wrong time, you might have ended up looking like this.” 

There was an awkward silence. Harkness cleared his throat. “I don’t think winding up as a handsome Welshman would be such a bad thing,” he said. He followed it with an overwrought wink. Ianto contemplated being offended but gave it up. He was going to have to get used to this behavior eventually, and he couldn’t be much worse than Rebba from Accounting. 

“...Does that usually work for you?” Ianto asked, genuinely curious. “The cheesy pickup lines?”

“At least he didn’t try the shoe thing on you,” Harper muttered.

Harkness’s shoulders relaxed a bit, and he made a show of looking down at Harper’s feet and then gliding his eyes back up. “Nice shoes, wanna--”

“All right!” Harper shouted, cutting Jack off. “And that concludes your physical, Jones. Go put some clothes on before Captain Horny forgets himself and tries to molest you.”

“Gladly,” Ianto said, sliding off of the autopsy table and picking up his clothes. He straightened to find Harper shaking his head and Harkness blatantly enjoying the view. Ianto dressed himself, keeping his face as impassive as possible. To flee the room would be nothing but a retreat, and if he backed down, especially on his first day, he’d never earned these people’s respect. Everything was a test.

After all, he was the new boy who everyone already knew was fucking the boss.

Once the last button was done up and Ianto had his rolled tie in hand, he turned and took measured steps towards the stairs, aware of two pairs of eyes on him. He brushed past Harkness on his way up.

The man smelled amazing. Whatever he was wearing was incredible, and Ianto could barely resist the urge to turn his head and bury his nose in the crook of Harkness’s neck. He twitched, angling himself towards Harkness before he even registered what he was doing, before his brain even caught up. He recoiled as if he’d been struck.

He hunched his shoulders and took the rest of the stairs as fast as he reasonable could, with as much damaged composer as he could muster. Harkness’s eyes burned across his back, right along the ridges of his spine and the rise of his scars.

Fuck.


          ----

 

The archives were a mess. It was clear that they hadn’t been properly maintained in years, if not decades. Ianto stood in the doorway of the first room and just stared at the stack and stacks of boxes and files and unsorted alien technology that had been left to collect dust. He was going to need either three other people or three more years to sort out this chaos. He sighed and rolled his shoulders, already calculating what he would need to get started.

Paper, obviously. A laptop or two to begin the process of entering the data into Mainframe. More filing cabinets. Coffee -- lots and lots of coffee.

Ianto removed his jacket again and draped it over the nearest box. He rolled up his sleeves. There was no clear starting point, so he just picked an area of the room at random and dove in.

The first box was nothing but moldy files, too worn and disintegrated to be off any use. They were unsalvageable. Ianto hauled the box out to the hallway to get it out of the way. Later, he would find out where the incinerator (standard issue for all Torchwood offices, no matter how small or unusual) was and burn the lot. The second box was full of oddly shaped devices, all of which appeared to be alien in design. Ianto set it aside without picking anything up or touching it. Rule number one at the London office: Don’t poke it if you don’t know what it does.

The third box was labeled. Jewelry, it said. Non-weaponry. Ianto resisted the urge to pop it open and take a look. Until he had the proper safety equipment, he was going to handle everything as little as possible. Back at One, there had been one unlucky archive worker who had touched an object with his bare skin and wound up blue for two months. And that was just most fortunate case Ianto knew of.

There were some interesting things down there, papers and folders full of information Ianto wanted to dive into without heed or organizational framework. He forced himself to stop every hour and take a short break, if only to rub some of Dr. Garther’s ointment on his scars. 

Ianto liked it down there. It was different from One’s archives, far more chaotic and damp, but it was a good kind of different. One was sterile, and while that was fine, Ianto had too many memories tangled in the straight lines and smooth tiles. He couldn’t think of the clean walls and bright lights without remembering his coworkers’ screams, his friends’ pleas for help. He had nightmares about it. He didn’t think that there was going to be a time that he didn’t have them. They were going to be as permanent a part of him as his scars.

“Well, well, well,” a pleasantly familiar voice said, breaking the silence. “I love what you’ve done with the place, Mr. Jones.”

“How kind of you to notice, Director Hallett,” Ianto said, rising to his feet. Lisa looked him over appreciatively; she always had enjoyed getting him dirty. Seeing him with his sleeves rolled up and dirt smeared on his face was probably giving her ideas.

“Oh, Mr. Jones,” Lisa said, advancing on him with slow deliberate steps. “You have no idea the kind of things I notice.”

“You’re a very observant woman,” Ianto swallowed, a warm rush of arousal humming through his veins. “Observant enough to know that there are CCTV cameras watching.”

Lisa leaned in, drawing her lips close to the edge of his ear. “I disabled them,” she whispered. Ianto reached up, gripped the sides of her face, and turned her so that he could kiss her. They fucked right there, in the middle of the day, surrounded by decaying paper and misfiled artifacts.

Midday shags. Another benefit of sleeping with the boss.


          ----

 

“You’re doing good,” Dr. Garther said two weeks later, drawing back and looking at him with a critical eye. The alien device was in her hand, humming slightly as it powered down. She looked out of place here, in Ianto and Lisa’s flat, standing in the middle of their kitchen. Owen had refused to let her into the Hub for the examination, and Lisa hadn’t pushed it very hard. She was busy enough showing Ruth the ropes and keeping Jack in line.

“I’m glad,” Ianto said, pulling on his shirt. It seemed like half his time since Canary Wharf was spent stripping for various medical personnel.

“Your girlfriend offered me a job,” Julia said abruptly. Ianto blinked.

“Okay…?” he said slowly. “Are you going to come work with us then?”

“Of course not!” Julia exclaimed. “I’m only on loan, remember? And besides, I’d rather tear out my own fingernails than work with Harper again.”

“So you’ve met him?” Ianto asked with a smirk.

“Unfortunately,” Julia sighed. “Once, right before Four went off the grid. He was a bloody nightmare. Showed up drunk to the meeting. Fuck, I wanted to kill him right there.”

“I know the feeling,” Ianto said, thinking to all the times in the past three weeks that he wanted nothing more than to kick the bastard doctor off a pier. Lisa was slowly hiring more people, starting with the young woman she’d found to hire for their front of a tourist shop. Harper hadn’t stopped grumbling about “all the bloody paperwork, Jesus Christ, why does an office girl need a fucking physical, seriously.” Lisa had only shut him up by threatening to hire Nurse Shaw from the local hospital as his personal aide. Harper was terrified of her and had taken his complaining somewhere Lisa wouldn’t hear him and follow through.

There were eight Torchwood Three employees now, up from the four of before. Harper, Tosh, Costello, and Harkness were still there, of course, with the additions of Ianto and Lisa, but now they had Ruth Turner in the tourist office and Jake Jones (no relation) helping Ianto out down in the archives. Lisa was hunting for another field agent, since neither of them trusted Suzie as far as they could throw Jack’s ego.

“I just thought I’d let you know that I did consider it,” Julia said regretfully. “I love my team at Four, but it’s a bit...hard to work there sometimes. Stuff. However, I wouldn’t leave them permanently for the world.”

Ianto thought of his team at One. “I understand,” he said softly. Death was the what had ripped them apart, after all. Death and human stupidity.

“Anyway,” the doctor said, clearing her throat. She brushed a strand of hair from her face, causing her gray hairs to glint in in the afternoon light. “I don’t think you’ll need to see much more of me after this month. I’ll still come by every once in a while, but now it’s time to let your body to its own work.”

“Are you going back to Four?” Ianto inquired. He stood and began to putter around the kitchen, making her favorite tea. 

“Yeah, as soon as possible.” She packed away her device and her other supplies into her kit and then took a grateful seat. “I’ll leave you my actual number so that you can phone me if anything comes up.”

“Thank you,” Ianto said sincerely. He didn’t ask why she was using a different mobile while working with UNIT and the rest of Torchwood. He suspected it had something to do with why Four had disappeared. Some things, he knew, were best left alone.

“Maybe I should steal you to Four instead,” Julia said after taking a slow sip of Ianto’s tea. “Vadiraj would never let you go if you decided to be our full-time barista.”

“I think Lisa would have something to say about that,” Ianto said with a smirk. Julia laughed. Over the weeks, the two of them had gotten to know each other fairly well. Their personalities were very similar, and they had the same sense of humor. There were times that Ianto wished that she was his mother, instead of the actual mother he had. He kept those thoughts to himself.

“Oh,” Julia said, putting down her teacup, “I nearly forgot!” She reached into her purse and dug around until she found her mobile. “I saw the oddest thing today on the way over.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah,” she said. She flipped through her phone and then held it out to him. “It’s looked like a pterodactyl. Flew right over my car.”

“A pterodactyl?” Ianto asked incredulously. He looked at the grainy camera phone picture. Sure enough, the blurry dark mass did look a bit like one of the plaster dinosaurs he and Lisa had seen at that museum in London.

“The Rift must have dropped it off,” Ianto said with a sigh. “Fuck. Today was supposed to be my day off.” He looked sharply at the doctor.

“Not my problem!” Julia protested. She jumped to her feet and began gathering her things. “I’m off. If I leave now, I can get back to Four before dawn.”

Ianto immediately began trying to calculate what kind of radius that meant. The debate of what had happened to Torchwood Four was still going strong. Harper had placed bets on Bermuda, while Tosh had decided on Scotland. Lisa thought that they were maybe in Ireland or France or something. Somewhere not where they were supposed to be, obviously.

“Goodbye,” Julia whispered as she hugged Ianto farewell. “I’ll see you again in a month or two. Check in with Harper if you notice anything weird, and for God’s sake, man, don’t be a stranger. Email me or something.”

“Yes, Mum,” Ianto said, rolling his eyes. He hugged her back and then escorted her out to the elevator.

“Have fun with the pterodactyl!” she called as the elevator doors closed. “Don’t get eaten!”

“I’ll try,” Ianto said to himself. He turned around and went back inside to find his mobile. Perhaps someone besides Ruth and Jake would be manning the Hub and he could just foist the job off on the people actually working today.

 

 

     iii. Jack

 

 

Jack had to admit that getting the call was a pleasant surprise. Ever since their meeting, Ianto Jones had been avoiding him. It was clear that his attraction to Jack unsettled him. Damn twenty-first century labels and social values and all that. Jack was getting so tired of treading carefully around monogamists and heterosexuals. Why couldn’t anyone in this era just loosen up and have some fun?

Ianto had made it very clear that he wanted nothing of Captain Jack Harkness’s fun. He was in a devoted relationship with the lovely Lisa, even though she was now his boss. He wasn’t as stuffy as he pretended to be. Jack had shamelessly turned on the CCTV cameras down in the archives on more than one occasion, just to seem them go at it. Of course, now that they had hired Jake, the couple had found a more discreet location for their liaisons. Jack had yet to figure out what blind spot they were using. It was all very frustrating. 

Since Ianto had been playing this game of Pretend Captain Harkness Doesn’t Exist, Jack was very surprised to look at his buzzing mobile and see Ianto’s caller ID. He answered it with a grin, ignoring the curious look Tosh gave him.

“Well, well,” he purred. “What have we here?”

“Don’t,” Ianto said warningly. “This is a purely professional call, Captain Harkness.”

“I’m definitely a pro,” Jack leered. Tosh hit him lightly with her map, laughing as silently as she could.

“Lisa says that you’re to help me with something that’s come up,” Ianto said. He sounded like he was grinding his teeth together. “And don’t follow that with another horrendous innuendo.”

“What is it?” Jack asked, switching from flirtatious to serious. They had split up for tonight’s weevil hunting, Owen and Lisa in one car and Jack and Tosh in the other. Suzie was back at the Hub, running their comms. Ruth and Jake were probably down in the archives, doing Ianto’s bidding.

“Just get over here as soon as you can,” Ianto said shortly. “I’ll text you the location. Bring some nets.” He hung up.

Jack started the SUV again and tossed his mobile to Toshiko. “I guess we’ve got a new mission, eh? Ianto.

“Jack, play nice,” Tosh admonished. He grinned at her and winked.

“Don’t I always?”


          ----

 

They followed the directions Tosh pulled up on her laptop to the old warehouse district. Ianto was waiting for them off to the side. He was in jeans, Jack noted. And a studded belt. He looked like a rent boy.

It was giving him ideas.

“I thought it was your day off,” Tosh said as they got out of the SUV. “What are you doing out in the field?”

“It was my day off,” Ianto answered, giving Tosh a small smile. “But I got a tip, and well. Here we are.”

“So, what’re we hunting?” Jack asked. He opened the back and pulled out his favorite big gun. He brought it along from time to time just to see Lisa roll her eyes and sigh like a tired school teacher. It was delightful, almost as good as the scolding he’d get after shooting something with it.

“A Pteranodon,” Ianto said promptly, pulling out his phone. He displayed a series of pictures for the other two to see. “I think the Rift must have brought it through within the past week or so.”

“Probably during the spike on Thursday,” Tosh murmured, mind flying. “There was a lot of stuff that probably slipped by while we were weevil-wrangling.”

“Let’s just get this dinosaur out of the way before we worry about that,” Jack said. He motioned for Tosh and Ianto to take the nets. Ianto eyed the giant gun suspiciously; Jack had no intention of actually using it, not unless he had too, but Ianto didn’t know that.

“Still overcompensating, I see,” he said dryly.

“Hey now,” Jack said, narrowing his eyes. “And here I thought you wanted to be professional.”

“You’re not bringing that with you,” Ianto said firmly. “Get the tranquilizers instead.”

“It’s a dinosaur,” Jack argued just to be stubborn. “What the hell else are we going to do with it?”

Ianto gave him a look. “This is not up for debate. Lisa gave orders that this creature be brought in alive. So that’s what we’re going to do.”

He and Ianto stared at each other for a long moment. Tosh cleared her throat awkwardly.

“I’ll get the tranqs then, okay?” she said with false brightness. Jack shook his head and loaded his gun back into the SUV. While he could appreciate the way their new Golden Couple did everything on the same page, to a certain extent, it was still annoying to deal with at times. If he called Lisa right now and asked her about it, she would back Ianto up, no matter if she had given the orders or not. They were like one person, those two, and it drove Jack up the wall. In more ways than one.

It wasn’t just the intimacy of what they had, the way they filled in each other’s gaps. It was the unity. Torchwood One hadn’t just sent them a new leader and an archivist. They had sent them a team, one that had limited need for outsiders. Jack was supposed to be second in command. Yet Ianto, who was not supposed to be in the command structure at all, had just overridden Jack’s orders in front of Tosh. And Jack couldn’t do a damn thing about it.

This is why he hated this century. Relationships were so sticky and clingy. Messy. In his day, the fact that Lisa and Ianto were fucking wouldn’t even enter into their thought processes at work. The compartmentalization was much better for this sort of thing. No one played favorites based on who was shagging, at least, not overtly.

That all being said, Jack still wanted to see what it would be like in bed with the two of them. Lisa Hallett and Ianto Jones. Beautiful, the both of them. Not in-spite of their scars, and not because of them either. They just were.

Jack resolved to have a chat with Lisa about it later. Not the threesome idea, because he had already made it plain to both of them that he would be onboard with that. He just needed to remind the two of them that, yes, there needed to be some pretense of professionalism at work.

Gods, Jack never thought that there would be a day when he was the one giving that speech instead of receiving it. 

“Which warehouse is it in?” Jack asked. He untangled one of the nets and checked that he still had his revolver with him.

“That one,” Ianto said, waving to the building behind him. “What should our plan of attack be?”

“Go in, distract the flying lizard, and then tranq him,” Jack said. “Easy as pie.” 

“This is going to go terribly wrong,” Ianto predicted under his breath. Jack ignored him.


          ----

 

They got lucky. Apparently, the pteranodon had some kind of soft spot for dark chocolate, and Ianto, ever the prepared one, had a few bars of it in his pocket. 

“Lisa likes it,” he shrugged, as if that explained everything. And yeah, it did. Jack wondered what it felt like to be so wrapped up in someone. He’d seen it before, with Rose and the Doctor, and with a few other people in various times and spaces, but it always caught his curiosity. He had a hard time imagining it. That kind of closeness was scary; it wasn’t a one night stand or a quick two year marriage before fucking off to fake your own death. It was emotional quicksand.

“Kinky,” Jack grinned. He allowed himself to imagine it for a moment before bringing himself back to the present. If Lisa caught him flirting with her man again, she was liable to stab him with that damn swordstick of hers, and not in a sexy way. 

Once the pteranodon was safely squeezed into the back of the SUV, they climbed in and went back to the hub. Ianto and Tosh both sat in the front with Jack, tangled together in the passenger seat to give their new houseguest some room. Jack imagined them together as well, the three of them all squashed together, the three of them plus Lisa, the four of them plus Suzie. It was an orgy, and Jack loved it.

Unfortunately, it was all just a fantasy. He’d tried suggesting team-building orgies before, but Owen had threatened to shoot him for the mental images and Suzie had looked at him like she wanted to skin him alive and then look at the pieces under a microscope. She still hadn’t forgiven him for letting Lisa demote her. He’d argued against it, but it was out of his hands.

They gave the pteranodon another dose of sedatives and left it in the SUV for the time being. Ianto was sent ahead to summon Ruth and Jake to help them get it through to the Hub. It should have taken him six minutes, tops, but time stretched on and on and on….

Something was wrong.

Jack exchanged worried glances with Toshiko. He pressed his fingers to his comms and tried to get a hold of his people. “Hello?” he called loudly. “Anyone there? Ruth? Jake? Ianto? Suzie?” 

There was no answer.

“Shit,” Jack swore. The whole thing felt wrong, almost like it had when Alex-- 

Shit,” he swore louder. He drew his gun and nodded for Tosh to do the same. She looked at him with wide, frightened eyes, but she did it. Together, they quickly went through the garage entrance and into part of the subbasement. The stairs creaked, but there wasn’t anything they could do about it. They didn’t have time to go around the long way to the archives and then up from there. Jack went as slowly as he could bring himself to, edging up and making sure to keep his body between the possible danger and Tosh.

There was a sobbing sound coming from the main part of the Hub. Jack glanced at Tosh and then away, signaling her to go right. He went right. They eased up to the main level and took in the scene. 

Ruth was crumbled on the ground, blood pooling around her corpse. That ridiculous graphic t-shirt she wore at least once a week was stained red. Jake was pressed against the wall, staring at her. He was crying. He wasn’t field agent material; Jack had argued with Lisa about hiring him. She’d been stubborn though; said that they needed a support crew as well as foot soldiers. 

Lisa stood by Owen’s desk, her eyes narrow and focused. Her face was an emotionless mask, and her hands were rock steady. She had her swordstick in hand, the blade unsheathed. 

And standing in the middle of the Hub with a wicked knife in one hand and the Resurrection Gauntlet on the other, was Suzie. She had the knife pressed against Ianto’s jawline, and the glove wrapped around his throat. Ianto’s eyes were locked on Lisa, although they flickered to Jack when he moved into view.

“Stay where you are, Jack,” Suzie ordered. “You too, Tosh.” 

“Suzie, what are you doing?” Jack asked as calmly as he could. There was blood running down Ianto’s neck, staining his t-shirt. Jack couldn’t tell if it was Ianto’s blood or someone else’s. He didn’t see Owen at all. 

“I’m doing what I can,” Suzie said. She glanced down at Ruth’s body. “I’m doing what I can so that I can fix people. So that no one else has to die.”

“Why did you kill her?” Jack pressed. “She was just a girl. She minded the tourist shop, for God’s sake.”

“What choice do I have?!” Suzie demanded. “Fucking Director Lisa nosing about. Not minding her fucking business. It was so much easier when you were in charge,” she laughed. “You don’t give a shit what we do as long as we put up with your sexual harassment.”

“Look,” Lisa said, drawing Suzie’s attention back to herself. Suzie tightened her grip on Ianto’s throat, making the metal of the glove pop. Ianto let out a very low whine, which he cut off immediately. He’d been hurt, somehow, but from the angle he was at and with Suzie’s hair and jacket and all of the obstructions, Jack couldn’t make out how. “Look, Co--Suzie. Suzie, please, just let Ianto go, and we can do something, we can work something out.”

“No,” Suzie said. “No, don’t even try. Don’t pretend you give a damn about us. We’re just shitty Torchwood Three to you, rubbish-men of the fucking universe. The only person you care about is the guy you’re fucking. Being here is a chore for you. You’re just counting down the days until you can go back to your posh London life. Anyone with half an eye can see that.” Suzie sneered. A tear tracked down her face, but she ignored it.

“That’s not true,” Lisa insisted. Her gaze flickered down to Ianto. “Please, let him go.” I can’t lose him went unsaid, but everyone could hear it. It didn’t do her any favors with Suzie.

“Suzie, don’t do this,” Jack said, keeping his voice soft. “Whatever you’re going through, we can fix this. We can help you, all right?”

“Oh, shut up, Jack!” Suzie shouted. “You can’t fix anything; you can’t even fix yourself! I wanted to do something, I wanted to help people, but all I get is shit! That’s all this place is, all we fucking get -- alien shit.”

“What is it about the glove?” Jack asked. He carefully kept his eyes off of Tosh as Suzie turned to look at him again. Lisa was stuck in plain view, holding her damn swordstick like a dagger. Owen was AWOL. Jake was a sobbing mess, and Ruth was dead. Tosh, however, was slowly getting into a position where she could take Suzie down without harming Ianto.

“It’s life,” Suzie said. She tightened her gloved hand again. “It stops death. It could cure everything, if I figure it out. That’s what I’ve been doing, you see.” She smiled. “While everyone else is fucking around, fucking each other, I work. You try to figure out how to get up the boss’s skirt while I figure out what makes this thing tick.”

Dread pooled in Jack’s stomach. “Have you-- Have you killed anyone else?”

Suzie’s mouth twisted. “Yeah,” she said, as if it were obvious. Maybe it was. How much had Jack missed while being distracted by Ianto, by Lisa, by his own foolishness? “I started with bees and cats and dogs and rats, but it’s not quite the same. Humans are so much more complicated.”

“Suzie--” Jack started to say, but then Lisa shouted something, and Tosh fired her gun, and Jack was left staring as Suzie went down with a low grunt, taking Ianto with her. Lisa sprung forward, dropping the sheath part of her swordstick but keeping the blade. She moved too fast to register her limp. Tosh made a soft, broken sound, but she kept her gun in hand like a pro and approached with caution. Jake sobbed, but that was hardly a change. Poor kid.

Lisa dragged Suzie off of Ianto, shoving her aside. She bent and checked Ianto’s pulse. Jack was close enough to hear what she was saying, and it was-- 

It was enough to make him regret all the things he’d been thinking about them. Between what happened to him and being left behind and lose everyone, Jack had allowed himself to become a little sour around the edges. Jealous. But hearing Lisa plead with Ianto to just open your eyes, please, please baby, are you okay? Don’t go, don’t go, don’t go -- it was an experience he hope to never repeat.

Jack went to Suzie. Tosh was already there, stripping off her sweater and using it to staunch the blood. She hadn’t killed her; Suzie was still alive. Jack bent and pried the fucking gauntlet off of her hand, taking it and throwing the thing across the room. He kicked aside Suzie’s knife.

Beside them, Ianto finally stirred. He groaned feebly and tried to get up. Lisa pressed him gently back down, and Jack had to look away again. There was too much emotion in her eyes. 

“Where the hell is Owen?” Jack demanded. He turned to Jake. “Well?” 

“He’s--He’s--” the boy stuttered. “S-sorry, S-suzie st-stabbed him.”

“Where is he?”

“A-a-autopsy,” he said.

Jack motioned for Tosh to keep Suzie contained and then ran down to the railing. He leaned over just long enough to register Owen’s body and the blood. He took a step back and then vaulted over and down into the autopsy room. He checked Owen’s pulse and breathing. 

Owen flinched back into consciousness when Jack probed the area around the wound. He was still alive, and it didn’t look like the knife had done any damage to anything extremely vital. Still, he had lost a lot of blood, Jack didn’t know what had happened to Ianto, and Ruth was dead. They needed medical help, now. They needed to sort everything out.

They needed to help Suzie.

 

 

     iv. Lisa again

 

 

Within two days of Ianto being admitted into the hospital with a minor cut on his neck and a strange weakness in his muscles, Dr. Garther showed up with wild hair and a furious expression on her face. 

“I just left you!” she scolded as she did her own check on her patient. It didn’t matter that half of the doctors in Cardiff had looked him over, or that Owen had limped in from his room down the hall and had a go as well. She insisted on doing her own exam anyway. Lisa didn’t argue. If she figured out something that the others hadn’t, Lisa didn’t care if she did the exam naked.

“As I thought,” Dr. Garther said after a moment. “That glove thing is a nasty piece of work. From everything you’ve said and what I’m seeing here, it was draining his life force.” 

“What?” Jack asked sharply from the corner. He and Lisa had been on rough ground for the past few days: He wanted to help Suzie with psychiatrists and medication; Lisa wanted to shoot her for murdering one of her people and trying to kill a few more. However, they were going to compromise. Soon Flat Holm would have a new inhabitant. It was better than a cell next to Janet the pet weevil and safer than a prison sentence on trumped up charges.

“There were no indications that it was capable of that,” Jack continued.

“Four has encountered something similar,” Dr. Garther said calmly. “Your Suzie probably didn’t even realize what she was doing. Where is she, by the way?”

“At the Hub,” Lisa answered. “Once she was patched enough that she wouldn’t die, we sent her back and set Tosh and Jake to watch her. I’m going to go check on them in a minute. There are still some questions we need to wrap up, and then we’ll send her out to a facility we have.”

Dr. Garther looked at her shrewd eyes. “A facility?”

“For people affected by alien devices and encounters,” Jack explained vaguely. “My idea.”

“I see,” Dr. Garther said. She glanced between them and sighed. “I can’t believe I’m going to do this,” she muttered to herself.

“Julia,” Ianto said groggily. “Don’t, if you don’t want to--”

“Oh, shush, you stupid brat,” the doctor said with a roll of her eyes. She turned to Lisa. “I accept. I’ll move to Cardiff and clean up after your Rift and patch you all up again when King Harper decides that he’s too much of a prat to practice medicine on living people.” 

“Glad to have you,” Lisa said smoothly. “If you come back to the Hub, we can get started on your paperwork?” Before Ianto gets better, and you change your mind, Lisa added to herself. Dr. Garther nodded and they left together, her familiar swordstick tapping against the tiles. Lisa, however, motioned for the doctor to go on without her and stopped to eavesdrop. 

“What are you still doing here, Jack?” she heard Ianto ask hoarsely. Gods, he sounded terrible.

“This,” she heard Jack say, and then there was a wet sound like two people kissing. She almost leaned over to peer through the cracked door, just to see, but she didn’t. There was a pause, a long pause, which almost broke her resolve to stay hidden, but she held firm.

“What was that?” Ianto demanded. He sounded...better than he had before. A lot better. Lisa suddenly had an idea about what Jack had done. After all, there were all kind of rumors noted in his file. What if immortality or super-healing was some kind of STD?

(But, of course it wasn’t, or else there would probably been hundreds of thousands of immortals walking around. Captain Jack Harkness, according to pretty much everyone, including himself, got around.)

“A get-well kiss,” Jack replied easily. He sounded amused and more than a little turned on. Lisa could understand; Ianto was a damn good kisser. “Did it work?”

“What are you--” Ianto started to say, but then he stopped, stunned. “I do feel better,” he said slowly. “How...?”

“Bit of tongue action never hurt anyone,” Jack said. Lisa had to cover her mouth to keep from laughing. “And, y’know, I’m special. As I’m sure,” he said with a slightly raised voice, “your lovely girlfriend-slash-our-boss would agree.” 

“That I would,” Lisa said, opening the door wider and stepping back in. She leaned on her cane and looked at the two of them. Ianto was flushed, and he looked fully alive for the first time in two days. Jack looked slightly debauched, but that was pretty standard for him.

“Lisa--”

“Oh, shush,” Lisa said, echoing Dr. Garther. She walked over to Ianto’s hospital bed and kissed him herself. Then she drew back, grabbed one of Jack’s braces, and kiss him as well.

“Ahem,” someone said from the doorway. They all jumped and turned to see Dr. Garther standing there with her arms crossed. “I believe we had plans, Director Hallett?” she asked pointedly.

“Ah, yes, of course,” Lisa said, only slightly flustered. “Um, we’ll just head out now, okay?”

“We’ll talk later,” Ianto said firmly, glancing between Lisa and Jack.

“Yes, we will,” Lisa agreed, eyeing Jack’s mused hair. She’d decided on this, somewhere between seeing Ianto trapped with that soul-sucking glove around his throat and hearing Jack -- Harkness no longer -- attempt to talk Suzie down. The sexual tension had been driving her up the wall anyway.

“See you later, boys,” Dr. Garther said as she steered her new boss away. “And don’t get too lively! I haven’t cleared Ianto for physical exertion yet, miracle princess kiss or not.”

“I have a feeling that things are about to get even more interesting around Torchwood Three,” Ianto said, sounding like he was burying his face in his hands. His voice carried down the hallway. He was probably blushing in embarrassment and trying to hide it.

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Jack very obviously leered lewdly. “Now shove over; I haven’t slept since before some saucy archivist called me about a pterodactyl loose in Cardiff.”

“Pteranodon,” Ianto corrected. Lisa shook herself free of her new doctor and snuck back to peek at them. Ianto had moved over. Two grown men had trouble fitting on the same narrow hospital bed, but they managed it. Hopefully, they would still be there when Lisa got back. She wanted to see if they could squeeze three on there and how scandalized the nurses will be.