Chapter 1: One
See, I don't want you to get the wrong idea about me (so many do). Here's the thing: I don't actually enjoy murder. Sometimes necessary on the way to a desirable outcome, but it's messy. Mess-cessary. Brain matter gets everywhere if we're talking death at close-quarters involving projectiles or explosives. Then, depending on when you are, you've probably got to frame someone else or hide evidence and obliterate a body. Quicklime? So inefficient; you've got advanced DNA analysis on this dustball but still use quicklime to dissolve tissue? Give me a convenient airlock any day. Sharks work, too. But I digress.
This time, I see something else that needs to be done, very clearly. Maybe the Time Agency would have done it if they could've. Or perhaps not, if it suited some official's ends or there were credits at stake. That's why they're a piece of history themselves, and I've downloaded most of it, only to find that knowledge is a terrible thing. Almost as terrible as... well, I'm not getting into it.
So fuck the Agency.
And "Jack?" Well, fuck Jack, too. It's not like he takes my calls anyway.
Gwen had thought hard before agreeing. She'd wanted to say,"No way in hell" or "think again, Jack", but there really wasn't any other way this would work. Ianto was better with the monitoring equipment, and he wasn't as mobile as he needed to be anyhow, with a sprained knee. Rhys's name had come up, but both Jack and Gwen had put the kibosh on that. It was too dangerous, given the nature of this assignment. As far as Rhys knew, the team were incommunicado in Scotland for field training, and Ianto had blocked his mobile from her phone for security's sake. Her thumbs itched, already missing the process of texting.
"All right," she'd sighed. "What do we need to do?"
"Just act the lovebird newlyweds. We've got most of the stuff ready, don't we, Ianto?"
"Yup. Marriage certificate in the name of Jack and Gwen Barret-Howe -- there were a Paul and Anne lost in a boating accident off the coast a few years back -- so I just fiddled the first names, dates and details in the system and we've got an official document." Ianto glanced at both of them. "They will check, from what we hear about the place; they like to keep the paparazzi out. Driver's licence in Jack's name, passport for Gwen as a backup ID as Anne didn't drive. I think we're good."
"Oh, I know we're good," Jack said, one corner of his mouth quirking.
"I think our cover's good," Ianto clarified. "I'll be monitoring everything. Gwen, you've got a fibre-optic infrared camera with microphone on your handbag. The power pack's good for 48 hours, so you'll have to swap out the power supply before then, but not on the premises. Just position the camera carefully and face the zip end out towards any room you're in."
Gwen nodded and picked up the shoulder bag as Jack extended his elbow in a gallant gesture. "Shall we, Mrs Barret-Howe?"
"You can hold the dramatics until we get there," Gwen grumbled.
Jack covered his chest with his hand as if he'd taken an arrow. "Madame! You wound me! Is the idea of being my wife for a long weekend so atrocious?"
"We all hope it's just the weekend and not longer and... you do drink milk straight from the container," Ianto pointed out, and was met with Jack's indignant glare. "Slurp, even. And then you put things back in the refrigerator with almost nothing left."
"I do n- well, I do do that, actually. Sorry."
"Also, you just drop flannels in the showers downstairs. Sopping wet flannel when you're finished with a shower. That's you, isn't it?"
"It isn't me!" Gwen exclaimed.
"Thought so," Ianto nodded knowingly.
"This is absolutely not fair," Jack protested. "We'd better get going before this whole thing falls apart on my housekeeping."
They were met by Jack's 'old friend', Rami, at the tiny airport after an exhausting ten-hour flight. Rami was tanned nut brown, somewhere in his fifties, and handsome in his tropical shirt and linen trousers. He had a sort of not-quite-French accent that wasn't the local Maldivian one either, though he seemed to be imitating it the way that Jack's accent often seemed, but really wasn't quite, American. His extravagant gallantry made Gwen immediately feel rumpled and uncivilised, and she demanded first rights to the minuscule head in the yacht that would take them to their final destination.
“I won’t be able to come in more often than the supplies boat,” Ianto reminded them. He had his head bent over his PDA, with his short-sleeved linen shirt and cream-coloured trousers as neatly turned out as his more usual suit and tie. Jack had been staring rather fixedly at Ianto since they’d stepped on the little luxury yacht, all properly attired to fit the climate and their cover stories. “But Rami assured me that communications work even in the submerged parts of the resort – which is most of it,” he finished dubiously.
“Come on, who doesn’t want to swim with the fishes?” Jack said with a grin. Like Gwen and Ianto, he was dressed for his role, but unlike them he looked completely at ease; his skin had already taken on a warmer golden tan while Gwen and Ianto turned bright pink whenever exposed to the light.
“Everyone in the Chicago mafia,” Ianto shot back. He didn’t look up from his data, but Gwen could see his smile.
“I was thinking more like ‘The Little Mermaid’,” Jack said, eyes unfocusing. Gwen winced in anticipation. “Ursula was pretty hot.”
“There goes another chunk of my childhood,” Gwen sighed and tugged her wide-brimmed straw hat lower across her forehead, eyes dazzled by the glittering reflections thrown off the water by the tropical sun. The sea really was that amazing blue of the photographs. “I wish Rhys could see this,” she said softly.
Without his boots, Jack was a lot quieter and she jumped when his arm slid along her back. “Sweetheart,” he chided gently, and Gwen tried to relax as a small island crept into view ahead of them.
For one of the most exotic and expensive resorts in the world, Arcadia didn’t look like much on first glance. There were no soaring skyscrapers or expansive golf courses; their yacht was the only ship heading to the dock. And there was only one dock.
“Oh my god,” Gwen breathed as the yacht swung around the outer curve of the low atoll and the resort came into clear view. Even Jack whistled, though that could have been at the staff waiting for them. The buildings might be roofed in palm fronds but there was nothing else primitive about the place. Everything was glass and golden wood, cyan water and bone white sand and sun. Gwen could see a couple swimming in the shallow waters off the narrow, glistening beach; where landscaping ended and the natural world began was impossible to tell.
“Welcome to Arcadia.” The greeters – a man and a woman, perfectly matched in white gauze and golden tans – were as beautiful as the resort, with smiles nearly as toothy and bright as Jack’s.
“Thanks,” Gwen hopped off the boat, biting her lip as she felt Jack’s hands on her shoulders. Her husband. Right. She glanced backward and gave Jack her best delighted smile. “This is perfect.”
“Only the best.” The dock rocked gently as Jack joined her. All around them water glimmered, all the way to the clear horizon. It was beautiful. And isolated. Despite the warm sun turning Gwen’s shoulders pink with sunburn, she felt a little chill. Four deaths, two nervous breakdowns – all centred out here in the middle of nowhere.
Ianto’s voice was soft and subservient as he handed off the luggage, head bent. When he stepped back onto the yacht, Gwen couldn’t resist one glance back as the boat pulled away. Jack didn’t look back and there was nothing in the curl of his arm around Gwen’s waist to tell her he even cared as Ianto grew smaller in the distance.
They were on their own.
“Everything you need, oui,” Rami rambled, gunning the yacht’s engine as they crossed the whitewater and headed south across the open ocean. “Except company –“ Rami’s sea-coloured eyes glinted and the look on his face reminded Ianto of Jack, if Jack could ever be even slightly restrained. “You’ll have to while away the hours until my visits.”
“I’ll manage somehow,” Ianto limped to one of the padded benches and – since he no longer had to play the part of an employee – sat down with a long sigh, rubbing his knee. He bit his tongue against the urge to ask Rami questions – about Jack. How, halfway across the world, they knew each other. How long. How… close. And why Rami thought Jack would drop everything to come help him. And why Jack had.
Rami didn’t have Jack’s overwhelming, movie-star looks but they shared the same easy comfort in their own bodies and that really annoying assurance that they were the most interesting person in the room. Or the boat, in this case. It was a wonder the boat hadn’t capsized, with the two of them on board.
“What’s the latest weather?” Ianto asked instead. The sky around them was crystal blue and the water just a shade darker. It made Ianto’s eyes ache. He found himself watching the way Rami moved instead, all long legs and deft hands, and comparing him to Jack. Jack was less graceful, barging forward through his life, taking everything on the chin.
Rami just gave him a fluid shrug. “It’s the Maldives, my friend, the weather is almost always perfect. Do not worry, you will be safe at the hotel.”
“I’m not worried,” Ianto said stiffly, feeling a flush he hoped was hidden under sunburn climb up his neck. He was forced to sit this one out, leaving the others to carry the load. “Jack and Gwen are the ones in danger.”
“Eh, Jack has a knack for living, does he not?” Rami was slowing the yacht in its solitary race across the ocean, leaning over the wheel and scanning the approach to the next atoll, this one larger and more inhabited than the previous. “And such a lovely woman, Ms. Cooper, née Barrett-Howe; he would never let harm touch her.”
Ianto frowned, thinking of the last time Gwen had 'married' one of them for the job -- the Ambassador from Wales and his wife -- and how she'd ended up rescuing him from the ghosts of his own past.
Rami brought the yacht to dock in a busy marina, half dedicated to luxury yachts like their own, the others to a mish-mash of battered, local fishing boats. Beyond the marina was a clutter of buildings -- most brand new since the tsunami of 2004 -- clustered on the high point of the island. The crowd Ianto could see was, unexpectedly, mostly European in appearance -- the few locals who could be seen were working on the dock or on their boats and not interacting much with the tourists. The most notable thing on the tiny island was the much less impressive resort where Ianto would be staying. Six stories high with balconies lined up on top of each other to give every guest an 'ocean view,' it looked industrial and unpleasantly like one of the larger estate buildings that Ianto remembered from his childhood, just with a better paint job.
Ianto pushed himself to his feet and slung his carry-all over his shoulder. “This it?”
“Oui.” Rami cut the engine. "I will come back at the time we've agreed upon, yes, and hopefully all the puzzles will be solved by then. You can reach me -- " he tapped the radio "-- 540 Mhz, if it is urgent."
Even with Rami's help, transferring to the dock was tricky with Ianto's bad knee. He nearly took an unscheduled swim and twisted his knee badly enough to leave him panting and wincing every time he put weight on it. Finally, though, all the gear was safely stowed away, and Ianto stood on the tiny balcony of his hotel room and watched the ocean. The Arcadia resort was over the horizon, invisible from here.
Ianto had arranged for one of the upper rooms, where hopefully no one would notice the small satellite dish he'd clamped to the balcony rails. Using his PDA he aligned it precariously to the atoll, where Jack and Gwen depended on him for backup. He limped back and forth, unreeling wires and setting up the monitors that would let him both watch the minicam feed and also monitor Mainframe back in Cardiff. Pulling up one of the overstuffed chairs, Ianto settled gingerly down, stretching out his sore leg while Mainframe chatted back and forth with his laptop. There wasn't anything he could really do if something went drastically wrong in the Hub except warn UNIT, but at least they'd know. Ianto was also painfully aware there was little he could do to help Gwen or Jack across a hour of open ocean; he felt stuck in the middle and useless -- back to the teaboy who sat in empty rooms and wondered who'd come back safely.
"Dammit," he thumped a fist on his sprained knee, wincing. Then he ran the self-test process for the surveillance equipment, leaning tensely forward with a frown as he scanned the readouts.
Signal intensity was nearly off the scale and it wasn't theirs. Ianto bit his lip as he hurriedly slipped the comm unit into his ear and went live. He could hear the soft rustle of movement and voices; Jack and Gwen and a few others. He jotted down names as introductions were made; Jeremy and Willow were the staff assigned to the suite. Jack was flirting with both of them and Ianto rolled his eyes for Gwen's sake, then heard her murmur something teasing in his ear (the one where Jack's comm was) about 'married, not dead, but if he kept it up he would be'. The camera in Gwen's bag showed him light and stark shadows until they walked inside, and Ianto realised they were descending underwater, to the part of the resort located beneath the beautiful tropical sea. Even with the low-resolution images, Ianto was impressed. The curving corridor spiraling down like a nautilus shell didn't look like a submarine; it resembled a magical aquarium, one where people, not fish, swam captive behind glass. Jiggling his knee, he waited impatiently for Jack and Gwen to be left alone.
"There's a problem," he broke in when he heard the suite door close. "The whole place is bugged."
"What?" Gwen paused and froze.
"Don't say anything. The sensors I've got in your bag are picking up electronic signals. Your suite is definitely bugged. We've got masking equipment on the comms, but they'll probably hear anything you say aloud. Walk around a bit, let's see if we can find the equipment. Check if that mirror can come down?"
Gwen nodded, then realised she shouldn't be seen to nod for no apparent reason. She walked over to the mirror, still in view of her handbag cam sending the signal back to Ianto, and surveyed her reflection before slipping her fingers along the edge. "Hmm, the mirror's fixed right to the wall. I guess they don't move things around much. Good job it's so pretty there," she mused, fighting a strong urge to wink back at Ianto.
"I'd guess there's a camera behind that mirror," Ianto said tersely. She heard Jack clear his throat and cough once, in agreement. Right, the cough code, she remembered that. They hadn't used it in a while.
Gwen felt a bit ill. Spying on people in their own bedrooms. She wondered if the bathroom was the same -- it had an entire glass wall, opening to the sea. With all of the guests in the building, what were the odds that someone was watching her right now? She kept her face neutral and ran her fingers through her hair as she heard the beep of a teakettle. This was going to be a horrible weekend, but there were worse ways than tea to kick it off. She began pulling Jack's resort clothing out of the suitcase and placing it in the tall dresser. The linen trousers and shorts looked foreign; nothing Jack would normally wear, no braces, no wool, but there were indeed two summery shirts in nearly an identical shade of pale blue. At least that was consistent. Ianto must have bought them. She smiled and hung them up, unpacked her own "trousseau" and did the same, then hefted the bag onto a carved wooden luggage rack near the door. She sat on the side of the bed facing the picture window and plucked a tiny piece of string off of one of the snow-white pillows.
Damp flannels on the floor aside, she guessed she'd soon find out if Jack tossed his socks in inconvenient places or left globs of toothpaste in the sink. All of the downside, none of the benefits, she thought to herself with a smile.
"Tea?" Jack asked behind her, making her jump. She nodded and he set the cup on the bedside table and sat next to her.
"These bed linens must be 1,000 thread count," Gwen murmured.
"Only the finest," Jack said, patting the turned-back coverlet with an inviting smile. "Wanna give 'em a test run?"
Gwen paused, suppressed the near-overwhelming urge to roll her eyes at Jack and closed them instead. "Mmm. I have a bit of a headache at the moment, honey," she said lightly, keeping up the charade for their unknown watchers.
"Walk on the beach, then?"
She took a sip of tea. "Mmm. Yes. That sounds perfect."
"Get you one of those drinks with the little umbrella in it, maybe ten cherries." Jack opened a drawer and shut it, then opened another, located a pair of swim trunks, and began undoing the flies on his trousers. Gwen averted her eyes and studied her cup as if it contained the key to every secret of the universe. And it was brilliant tea, so maybe it did.
"Sweet fruity drinks. Huh. Do you want my headache to get worse?"
"Nah. The sun and salt air'll be good for you. And you can get a tan."
Gwen laughed. "I'm Welsh. We're like wine, Jack. We come in white and red."
"And I improve with age." Jack grinned at her. "So we're quite the pair."
Ianto's voice cracked into their comms. "You should be able to talk on the beach. I'm pretty sure even directional hand-held microphones won't pick up conversation over the sound of the surf."
Gwen set her cup down decisively. "You're right; the beach will do us good. I'll dig out the sunscreen."
They left dressed for the beach, Jack in white trunks and Gwen in a green bikini topped with a floaty coverup and a hat to match. Gwen shoved a novel into her tote bag and scrambled to catch up.
The rustle of clothing through the comm was like listening to Jack undress in the dark, until the murmur of Gwen’s voice startled Ianto out of the memory. The image from the bag camera was the edge of the bed, Gwen’s knee and a shifting glimpse of Jack’s bare legs before Ianto got more hip-high images of hallways and doors. At each doorway, he had the camera snap a still and he was rewarded, as Gwen and Jack climbed back to the surface of the atoll and into bright sunshine, by clear signs of electronic locks on each and every door. Well accustomed to Torchwood ‘security’, Ianto immediately wondered if they served to lock people out... or in.
“Pretty high security for a secluded couples resort,” Ianto commented. Ianto only got part of Jack’s reply, disguised as an idle ramble about the safety of the rich and influential, before his comm beeped with another incoming signal. Switching to the other channel, Ianto smiled at the sound of Martha’s warm voice.
“How’s the exotic locale?” She asked, a tiny image of her face popping up on the corner of Ianto’s monitor. He glanced across the top edge of his computer to the sun and surf he’d had no chance to experience. “Very picturesque. Rather bright.”
“I bet Jack’s been posing all over it,” Martha said, a little wistfully. She was currently stationed in the secure UNIT scientific base in Sri Lanka; in the same part of the world, but with a tight schedule and little free time to enjoy the sunshine.
“Property values are rising as we speak,” Ianto said dryly.
Gwen spread out a generous towel and slipped off her flip-flops, digging her toes into fine sugar-white sand. She took a deep breath and couldn't suppress a grin as she watched Jack dash to the water's edge and flinch at the first wave, before running into the water, arms flipping like mad wind turbines.
"He's jumping into the waves, Ianto. Like a four-year-old."
"You should see him in the bath," came the voice in her ear.
"I can hear you, you know," Jack said, breathless in the surf.
"Well." Gwen plopped down on the towel, careful to face the water as she spoke -- paranoid enough now to believe someone could read her lips with binoculars if they really had nothing better to do. "I'm afraid someone is watching everyone bathe here too, what with the hidden cameras. I've got a massive case of the creeps."
"Try to act natural," Ianto advised. "If you rouse anyone's suspicions we won't find anything out."
"We will." Gwen tossed a towel at a dripping Jack, and he scrubbed his face.
"Aren't you going in?" Jack asked as he sat next to her.
Gwen dusted a bit of powdery sand off her knee. "Nah, Too anxious."
"It'll clear your head." Jack's own head sported random wet spiky bits popping up all over, and Gwen battled the urge to smooth it like a mum would have. He shrugged. "Have it your way, but we need to spend a little time out here before we go exploring."
Gwen glanced back at the hotel before cracking open her paperback. She registered Jack's glance at the lurid Jackie Collins cover. "Hush, it's a beach read." They sat companionably for a few minutes as she stared at the words on the page without really registering them. "Okay then. What's the plan?"
"Martha's done some work for us," Ianto's voice came through the comms. "There were some ... anomalies about the two dead women. She's not sure what yet but she thinks there had to be some kind of significant medical facility nearby. They were definitely drugged and not just with a bit of panadol. You should check out the areas the tour missed; the whole northwest corner of the main hotel structure is windowless. Weird for a water-facing building. You'd think they'd want a view."
"That is odd," Gwen agreed. "Couldn't it be the physical plant or maintenance wing, though? There are huge air conditioning units outside."
Jack covered his eyes and squinted back at the hotel. "And the others are on the roof. That's a lot of units for interior climate control, even if they have backups hooked to that honking big generator in case of storms." He picked up the bottle of sunscreen and gave it a solid shake before splurting a handful on the back of Gwen's nearest leg and chuckling as she jumped.
"Fuck's sake, that's cold!" Jack smoothed the lotion into her skin with broad strokes and she settled back onto the towel, mollified.
"Don't want you turning into a lobster; you'd be spending the rest of the week in the infirmary."
Ianto chimed in. "That area abuts the maintenance wing or whatever it is. It might not be a bad idea to head over and investigate using the infirmary as an in."
Gwen fiddled with the pages of her book, none of her attention on the story. "Maybe one of us can get 'lost'."
Laughter interrupted them and Jack grunted, rising up to his knees beside her, his shadow a cool band across Gwen's back.
"Hiya!" Gwen found herself blinking rather bemusedly at an expanse of bare skin, framed by the tiniest bikini she'd ever run across in person, before looking up and returning the woman's friendly smile. She and her partner, or husband if Arcadia's booking pattern held true, were arm -in-arm, both of them somewhere between tanned and sunburned. They must have been the couple they'd seen swimming along the shore when they'd disembarked. "New here, aren't you?"
"Yes," Jack stood, scattering sand and holding out a hand with a grin. "Just hopped off the boat." The man's eyes slid to Gwen and she narrowed hers in warning, recognising the look. "Pookie here had a bit of a headache and we figured a bit of fresh air would do us both good."
"I'm Jim --"
"Sandra --" the couple chorused, laughed and leaned, in towards each other, clearly forgetting Gwen and Jack for a moment. Gwen's gaze skimmed the front of Jim's swim briefs before darting away, flushing. Newlyweds. Real ones. They kinda needed to get a room.
Gwen thunked an ankle against Jack's shin and stood with him, "How long have you been here? What's it like? The brochure looked amazing."
"The real thing is holding up pretty well," Jack put in.
"Oh, better than," Sandra said, untangling herself from her husband a bit. "It's like... like being free to do anything, out here. No schedules, no clock-watching."
The way she pronounced 'schedules' marked her as American, even if Gwen had missed the rest of their accents. They had American teeth too, bright and shining and perfect, like Jack's. "How long have you been here?" she asked brightly. "What's the best activity to try? I was thinking the reef diving..."
"None of it!" Sandra said, shaking her head at Gwen's surprised look. "God, the first couple of days, we ran around doing one activity then the next... but the best part is really doing nothing in particular --"
"I wouldn't say nothing," Jim broke in, his heavy-lidded grin making clear what he was talking about.
Sandra smiled at him. "Yeah, that sort of nothing, I've always got time for." Jim's hand slid along his wife's waist, Gwen watched him hook a thumb in the little string of her bikini top and wondered if he was going to pull it off right here. Sandra didn't look at all unhappy about the prospect. They really needed to get a room. Even Jack looked a little taken aback.
"So, you've been here... a few days? A week?" Gwen broke in, hurriedly, trying to prod some information out of the two before they were completely involved in each other. "How are the other guests, is everyone friendly?"
"Mmm," Jim said distractedly. "Not too many others right now -- the resort is exclusive, you know. And Nicola and Gerard had to leave, he got sick..."
The names of one couple who'd fallen mysteriously dead in Arcadia. Well, Nicola was still alive, in a mental health facility. She'd tried to commit suicide recently and was in the medical ward.
"Oh, that's too bad," Gwen said. "I hope it wasn't the food. Honeybun has a delicate digestion."
Jack grumbled and Gwen heard Ianto laugh over the comm, listening in the background like so often.
"No, not the food," Sandra assured her, face flushed and eyes dark. Jim had his face pressed to her neck and Gwen saw the dart of his tongue against his wife's throat. "Some kind of allergy. Like François."
The other man who'd nearly died at Arcadia; his wife was still missing.
Watching the two of them made Gwen feel awkwardly like a voyeur. "Right," she said. "Okay... well, er. Pleasure to meet you!"
Sandra looked a little startled, as Jim pulled her away and they headed towards the surf. They fell down together at the water's edge, attached to one another like barnacles.
"Well," Gwen said after a moment, watching the couple with her hand shading her eyes. Jack chuckled.
"If I'd known going on a honeymoon was like that," he said. "I'd do it more often. What do you think?"
"Americans," Gwen rolled her eyes. "Bet they're telly stars or something too."
"It wouldn't be unusual for you or Jack to ask the staff about 'allergies'," Ianto piped up. "Since other guests brought it to your attention, they must have a cover story and it'd be interesting to know what it was. And I don't think you need a honeymoon, Jack, to get handsy. Just someone holding still."
Jack chuckled. "Well, I prefer if you don't hold still. A little wiggling wouldn't go amiss."
"Oh, you two." Gwen snorted and watched the couple grapple with each other in the surf. "The water does look inviting."
Although Ianto listened to the exchange with half an ear, most of his attention was on Arcadia's permits and records, which were pretty scant. Unsurprising in this part of the world, where money bought most anything, including laws. Arcadia's tiny atoll was just within international waters and therefore fell under no particular country's jurisdiction. He couldn't believe that was accidental.
"Ianto?" It was Martha, in his other ear. "I've got some news."
Ianto put down the folder and cracked his laptop, opening video communication. Martha appeared on his screen. "Nice sunglasses. You look like a drug dealer."
"Why thank you," Ianto remarked. "Maybe I'll go undercover in Bute Park when we get back home."
"Get this. One of the holidaymakers, Gerard? Autopsy reports are in the system and if he did have allergies, they didn't kill him. He was smothered."
"Smothered?" Ianto repeated.
"Yeah, probably with a pillow. Petechial hemorrhaging at the eyes; those are broken blood vessels-"
"His wife, Nicola, is in a stable physical condition. Mentally... you know she tried to kill herself with a bread knife." Martha looked solemn. "She cut herself open starting just below her ribcage. I've seen the photos in her medical record and they're... just, I've never heard of someone attempting suicide that way. It wasn't hara-kiri or anything ritualistic as far as we can tell, but she's practically catatonic now and won't speak. No history of mental troubles before this. And she didn't leave a note. And if you think it couldn't get worse, she was pregnant with twins. Was."
Ianto swallowed. "That's terrible. And unhelpful." He cleared his throat. "Our colleagues are going exploring. I'll be in contact."
Martha gave Ianto a small salute, and her image disappeared.
"Great minds think alike," Jack said. He stood and headed back into the water, while Gwen picked up her sandy novel and tried to pay attention to the Hollywood problems of Whitney and Mannon and Jade. She was startled when he returned, clutching his knee awkwardly. "Cut myself; accompany me to the infirmary?"
Gwen sat up and focused at the blood trickling down his calf. "Oh, Jack, what did you do?"
"Sharp seashell, or maybe coral," he said, wincing as she touched the cut gingerly.
She sat up and gathered their items into the tote bag. "I could have faked food poisoning, you knob."
"Spur of the moment," Jack answered. "It's just a scrape. Doesn't even hurt anymore. Much."
"Good, because I'm not killing you to mend it," Gwen stated firmly.
"Martha checked in," Ianto interrupted. Jack lifted his chin and Gwen recognized the dark note in Ianto's voice as well and her good humour faded.
"Hmm?" Jack said idly.
"Gerard's allergies were to his pillow. He was smothered." Ianto hesitated, the line buzzing softly as they approached the wide veranda that encircled all the buildings at Arcadia. The speckled shade from the palm frond roof and the bright tropical sun were looking more and more sinister to Gwen, like she'd been dropped on an alien world.
"His wife is still alive, but we won't be getting any information from her," there was a breath of a pause. "She was pregnant, Martha said, and… lost the fetuses."
"God!" Gwen blurted in horror. She'd read the police reports and knew what Nicola Mitchell had done to herself. Jack's arm tightened comfortingly around her shoulders.
"Martha's going to keep us updated," Ianto hurried on. "But the infirmary looks like a good start; there were signs of medical care too complicated for a resort first-aid station."
"They could have a small hospital here for the rich and anxious," Jack pointed out. "Especially since I doubt they have great medical care where you are, Ianto."
"I'll look into it," he promised.
"Good.... ah," Jack gave Gwen a tense grin as he winced exaggeratedly. "Watch the sand."
Jack and Gwen scrambled through the beach dunes, Jack feigning an awkward skipping limp every few steps. "You really should have carried me, Gwen."
"I'm just glad you didn't give yourself a gorier injury." They made for the main building and Gwen held the door open for Jack. "I think the infirmary is down this corridor."
"It is." They travelled down a long hallway decorated in tropical murals and came to the glass infirmary door. "Hmm. Away for lunch." Jack jiggled the door handle, looking charmingly worried. "Okay. I wonder if there's a back door? I just need a plaster and maybe some antibacterial stuff."
"Right, sweetheart." Gwen played along for the benefit of anyone listening. "Let's see if we can't just fetch them ourselves." She motioned at a second unlabelled door with a jerk of her head and they checked it. Open.
"How about that?" Ianto said. "Watch out for the staff having a midday shag in there."
Gwen gave Jack a look meant to say oh god, you've completely rubbed off on him, haven't you?, but Jack just shrugged helplessly as they entered another corridor, this one short, with a stairwell leading to a lower landing. There didn't seem to be any surveillance cameras in the area, or at least there wasn't anything to hide them behind. The walls were smooth and solid, plain and clearly not meant to be seen by guests. Gwen aimed her clip-on camera at the steps.
"That's odd," Ianto murmured. "The water table. Nobody has basements by the shore."
"Except for Torch-" Gwen began. "Erm, tornadoes or... uh, hurricanes. I wonder if this resort has a hurricane shelter? That's brilliant, that is." She followed Jack down the steps and around a corner, ending up in another hallway with a series of doors.
"It would be for cyclones," Ianto commented. "In this part of the world."
Jack warned her with a finger to his lips and she nodded. He opened the first to find cleaning products and a "slippery floors" sign. "Supply closet." The second was a storage room full of stacked chairs and two empty linen bins. He tried a third door, and Gwen waited, keeping an eye on the hallway behind them while while he jimmied the lock. Where he'd hidden a lock pick in his snug trunks, Gwen couldn't imagine, though it was fun trying. The lock clicked quietly and opened with a soft hiss of air. "Weird," Jack said cautiously, "the door is airtight."
Gwen entered the room and watched as banks of fluorescent lights flicked on in rows with attendant pops. "Motion sensor lights. Cool."
"Echoing the astonishing high technology found on myriad Newport back porches," Ianto said, in her ear. Gwen grinned, though he couldn't see her.
The room was huge, and held elevated racks holding tanks. Jack hurriedly switched the light off after finding the controls and nodding at Gwen. They had a good idea of the room's scope, so would explore under the dimmer conditions of the emergency lights set along the walls. "Looks like a barbeque warehouse," Jack remarked. He lifted the lid to one of the shiny metal galvanised objects. "...but nothing's cooking."
Gwen lifted another. "This one's empty, too. Lined with glass like fish tanks, looks like," she said. She pulled a pocket torch from the beach tote and returned Jack's grin. She could always be counted on to have a hair comb and a mag-lite.
"Maybe they're planning an aquarium exhibit." Jack walked down the rows and checked another tank, Gwen aiming the light inside from next to him. "Liquid in here." He dipped a hand into the murky fluid, and swished it around. He shook his head at Gwen. "Nada." Jack lowered his face into the tank and sniffed, but Gwen could smell the familiar odour -- like one of Owen's many "special projects" -- from more than a metre away.
"Formaldehyde," she said. "So. A dead fish aquarium exhibit."
"Preserving something or other," Jack agreed. He walked to the far end of the room and lifted another lid. A wave of white mist rolled out. "Whoah. Liquid nitro. Cryo tank." Gwen rushed over. "Can I get some light over here?"
Gwen widened the beam on the mag-lite as Jack searched for something to heft what looked like glass pods out of the tank. If each tank was meant to be filled with the same number of glass containers... there were so many tanks. Just what was it they were looking at?
"Aha." Jack hefted a mitt and a tong-like tool from the back of the apparatus, just as they heard the sound of approaching voices.
When the bank lights illuminated the far end of the room again, Gwen gasped and gripped Jack's shoulders harder, the tips of her nails digging into skin. The metal of the lab counter bit into the backs of her thighs as Jack trailed kisses down her neck and into her cleavage, "Oh, yeah, yeah... there," she moaned, eyes shut tight, and heard someone clearing his throat. Jack's hands were warm on her hips, warmer than the sun had felt on her skin. "Shit. Honey," she hissed. "Jack...."
Jack raised his head and looked at her, eyes heavy-lidded, then glanced over his shoulder. "Uh..." he started.
A man and woman stood a few metres away. "This isn't what it looks like. Well, it is, but-"
"Resort guests aren't allowed in this area," the man said. He wore green medical scrubs and was holding a drink cup with a straw sticking out. The woman was similarly dressed, but held a walkie-talkie.
Gwen laughed nervously, feeling her cheeks colour. Truth be told, she felt a bit... hot anyway. "S-sorry," she managed. "My husband hurt himself and we were looking for the infirmary-"
"We got a little lost. And a little carried away," Jack finished huskily, stroking her arm, looking convincingly flushed and aroused. "Newlyweds, y'know."
Gwen felt herself sway against Jack, unaccountably giddy as his fingertips trailed against her skin. Was she... panting? Perhaps a bit. She pressed her lips together, struggling to affect a proper and prim expression as her pulse raced. Adrenaline, surely. The woman in scrubs quirked an eyebrow at her and raised the radio.
"God, this is so embarrassing," Gwen muttered, plucking at the hem of her thigh-high cover-up. "Like that time in the taxi..."
"It's okay; we're leaving," Jack said. "Again, uh, sorry."
"We do need a plaster, though. And something to clean a wound," Gwen said. "You're clinic staff, right?"
The man nodded and threw a quick look at his companion. "Sure. The infirmary's upstairs. How'd you miss it?"
"Um, I don't really know?" Gwen ventured, playing dumb. "Sorry, where is it again?" Jack took her hand and they followed the man in scrubs back to the entrance and stairwell. Glancing behind her, Gwen saw the woman staring after them and smiled weakly. She gripped the tote bag tightly under her other arm, hoping the vials she'd grabbed from the rack behind her on the table wouldn't clink as they walked away.
He was lucky to still be alive, considering what was at stake.
He supposed he ought to be grateful that they fed him, too, John Hart thought as he mechanically chewed a piece of bread, then sniffed at a slice of unfamiliar fruit off the tray they'd slid under the door. If he'd had his vortex manipulator, he could identify what he was eating. But if he'd had his vortex manipulator, he'd have popped the locks and got the fuck out of this dungeon before you could say knife.
They'd taken his knives the first time he'd been captured, and his VM, coat and boots when he'd overpowered the guard in the office (it wasn't a pretty scene), but he'd woken up chained to a wall between a camp bed and a toilet and metal sink, under a fluorescent light that buzzed loudly 24/7.
Tiny things loomed large when you were in solitary; a dirty blanket became your best friend and the ambient noise from a light your worst fucking enemy. It wasn't technically worse than the last jail he'd been in (Torino, bank job, Jack had sprung him out by pulling some strings since he apparently had friends everywhere), but the bloodstained concrete floor was... disconcerting during his half-lucid moments. The room smelled of bleach, the red eye of a wall-mounted camera stared at him, and a generator hummed on the other side of the cinderblocks. He squinted and the edges of the room swam. It wasn't the food. Whatever they were dosing him with came in through the vent. He realised it was pointless to fight it.
He supposed he'd got too close for them, and he couldn't make them see. "Look, you need to...I unnerstand...lemme... " John slurred up at the camera.
He'd hoped Jack had picked up his distress coordinates before they'd brought him down, but goddess knew how long he'd been here. Days? A week? Longer? It was hard to keep his head up.
When he came to again, the tray was gone.
The buzzing light and the bloodstains were still there.
Standing on the dock, gazing the perfect water, Ianto felt the stunning beauty of the place wash over him again. Even the sleek glide of Rami's little yacht was lovely as it skimmed the waves towards the pier.
Still playing the part of a dutiful employee, Ianto caught the rope and helped to tie the boat off as Rami came to the side, packages in hand. "Catch, ey?"
Ianto was juggling a frantic armful of parcels before he had a chance to refuse. He gave Rami a glare over the stack, which was no more effective on him than it ever was on Jack, and hoped Gwen had packed her samples well. Rami took most of them off Ianto's hands as soon as he was off the ship. "Mail run," he said with a shrug. "I go everywhere this way."
Ianto nodded. It was a perfect cover. Rami shifted a plain canvas bag into Ianto's hands and they strolled down the single lane road towards the cluster of concrete buildings that made up 'downtown'. He risked a glance inside to see a picnic cooler, Arcadia's logo bright on the side, and when he looked inside he smiled to see that Gwen had packed the fragile vials in blue cold packs and stolen turkish towels. He couldn't cobble together anything better, and resolved to send it along to the courier without touching it.
His location was considered a major island among the Maldives but that only meant it had a tiny airfield and several government buildings, most only open a couple of hours a day. The warm sun on Ianto's shoulders and the smell of the sea in the air made the whole place seem like a Fantasy Island re-run, minus the eerie subtext. Ianto had arranged a private courier service run to the nearest British Embassy and they'd pass the shipment to Martha from there.
Standing in a shaded porch, waiting in line with a group of French tourists arguing over the monetary exchange rate, Ianto tried to look the part of a bored expatriate running errands. The squeal and wail of seabirds overhead reminded him of the Bay and for a moment, Ianto was tempted to step in and give the kids directions to Cardiff Castle or something. The sound of a vaguely familiar voice make Ianto look around, as clumsily as a tourist, and only the fact that the woman standing across the street was in the middle of a fierce argument saved him from betraying himself. After a wild-half glance, Ianto turned to face the whitewashed wall at his side, clutching the cooler to his belly.
"-- we have equipment stored in that unit," she was saying, her voice briefly carried by the shifting sea breezes. The expensive accent was ridiculously out of place on a tropical atoll in the middle of the Indian Ocean. "It's valuable and delicate and we can't just move it."
"Na, we don't do long term." A crumpled government-issue hat, its brim sweat-stained and much-folded, identified the speaker's official status; the rest of his uniform consisted of flip-flops and a pair of cargo shorts but even a head shorter than the woman waving her hands at him, he looked utterly unmoved. "Told you that already, yah?"
Ianto knew Holly Mutterlich only through one encounter, but he couldn't mistake her, or imagine that her presence here was accidental. He couldn't let her see him; she'd surely remember the persistent young man at her sales presentation who'd been so determined to have his honeymoon with his new husband at her resort -- only to be turned down, over and over again. Though no one said a word overtly, Arcadia was a resort meant for the more traditional concept of newlyweds. They'd sent Gwen and Jack in next, with shiny matching platinum bands on their fingers. Well, they looked like platinum, at any rate.
His gaze fell on the ledger book hanging from a hook on the wall beside the airport official, and Ianto twitched with the urge to get his hands on it. The chill seeping into his arms, though, reminded him of his first priorities. He had to get these samples safely in the air. It was easy enough to play on Rami's established cover and have his package shipped off, coded message and all. He'd check with Martha tomorrow to make sure she'd received it.
Ianto wandered about the town, killing time. Lunch was a seafood taco and something with a surprising resemblance to laverbread, for being on the opposite side of the planet from Wales. In the late afternoon, when most shops closed for a few hours, it was ridiculously easy to steal the airport's ledger. The official simply left it there, hanging from its hook, when he went for a few beers in the open-air tourist bar down the street. Ms. Mutterlich was renting the two large, climate controlled storage units at the edge of the airfield.
Ianto flipped the book closed and hung it back on the hook, nudging it with a fingertip until it hung at the exact same angle as before he picked it up. He wasn't worried about fingerprints or security systems -- the so-called 'authorities' had no more important job than shielding tourists from third-world realities. The streets were quiet in the daytime and the residents were polite to the Europeans, and that was all that really mattered.
When the aide left the room, Gwen undressed and donned the white gown, eyes searching the exam room for anything atypical and found nothing out of the ordinary, though it was a bit posher than her own doctor's NHS practice, and there, she would have had to wait longer than ten minutes to be seen. She realised she hadn't been to the doctor since before she'd been hired by Torchwood. Owen had done the GP stuff like handing out tetanus shots and doing a strep culture when she'd got a croaky throat, and she'd put off going to the gyno, as you do when you can set a clock by your cycle.
Gwen positioned her handbag and camera on the counter facing the wall. Ianto had seen her in the buff when they'd all needed to get alien substances off, but he really didn't need this particular bird's-eye view. She cleared her throat decisively in reply when he protested through her comm, sat on the paper-covered table and swung her bare feet as she waited.
The doctor entered the room and introduced himself. "Dr Clarke," he said, peremptorily. But his eyes were kind. "I understand you're feeling out of sorts?"
"Right, I-" she coughed. "I've been ill since this morning. I had breakfast and couldn't keep it down at all. And I was just sick twice again. Maybe it's food poisoning?"
"If you've been eating at the resort, I doubt that's the case," Dr Clarke said. "But the restaurants outside the compound... I can't speak for the quality. Arcadia has all we need. But perhaps you've just come down with a virus."
"Maybe so," Gwen agreed.
"We'll give you an anti-nausea drug and an exam and I'm sure you'll enjoy the rest of your holiday." He scanned a clipboard, which Gwen guessed held the patient's questionnaire she'd filled out in the waiting room. "Any chance you're pregnant?"
"I... no, I don't think so," Gwen replied. God, they always asked, didn't they?
"So you're trying to conceive, or to avoid that?"
Or just nosy, then. "Well, we haven't been married that long, but my mum had trouble, so we'd be happy to start our family early," Gwen shrugged. That was true about her mother, at least. Her parents had gone through a difficult time trying to conceive, and she was the only child they were able to have despite years of trying. She'd asked for a brother for several Christmases in a row before she finally twigged she woudn't get one.
The doctor knitted prodigiously-bushy brows. "You're in good health overall?" Gwen nodded in reply, and shook her head when he asked if she smoked. "Good. Don't take it up. You're on pre-natal vitamins?"
"No, I hadn't thought you were supposed to before you... " and I'm not here for that anyway.
"Always best to start when you're just thinking of conceiving." Dr Clarke unlocked a cabinet fixed to the wall and pulled out a bottle of pills. "This is a multivitamin, heavy on the folic acid. I'll give you these to start, but first..." he pulled out a second bottle and scrutinised the label, "you need something for that nausea."
He unscrewed the bottle and shook one out into her palm, then poured her a paper cup of water. "They're rather large. Horse pills, aren't they?" He handed her a chalky, gold-coloured pill and she examined it while he waited. She put it on her tongue and took a swig to wash it down. "There you are. Drink it all; you're probably dehydrated. Gwen tried to gag convincingly over the cup. "In fact, we'll give you some intravenous fluids."
The Doctor hummed as he headed to the far corner of the room to wash his hands.
"I don't need an exam, though. Do I? I'm sure the medication should-"
"We provide world-class care here, Mrs Barret-Howe," he said, donning latex gloves. "We'll do a blood test in our lab-- just to nail down what made you ill in the first place -- and a quick exam, and you'll have the results in a shake. How does that sound?" He pulled a syringe and she offered her arm.
"Ow," she said, though he'd bunged the needle in expertly -- no fiddling to find a vein. "Er... that's fine," she said, as the white-haired doctor placed the sample vial on a rolling cart, then inserted a line and hung a bag of saline. He checked her pulse, then pulled out a stethoscope. It was odd that the doctor did his own blood draws and passing out vitamins -- wasn't there a lot of medical staff around for a clinic at a resort hotel? -- but she didn't want to raise any suspicions by asking too many questions.
"Fine. I'll just send this blood sample back to our lab for a quick test, and in the meantime, that medication will take a while to work. Try to relax," Dr Clarke said.
It must be interesting to be a resort doctor, Gwen thought, reclining on the exam table as the doctor adjusted the movable light overhead. Or maybe not interesting. Maybe it was a nice and quiet job to take rather than retiring... just before she drifted to sleep.
She raised her head groggily. "How did that happen?" Gwen couldn't imagine falling asleep at a GP visit, yet she had. She squnted up at the dimmed light fixture and as she became aware of her surroundings, she noted she was covered in a warmed blue blanket and a pillow had been tucked under her head, and struggled to remember... she remembered something. Voices? Something tickled at the edge of her memory but she couldn't quite grasp it.
"You okay?" Ianto said, his voice sounding strained.
Gwen coughed once. Yes. "How long I was asleep, I wonder?" she mused, to herself and to him.
"You've been out for over 40 minutes. That's when everything went quiet, anyway. I kept calling your name and didn't hear anything in reply, except you started to snore."
"Hmm," Gwen blinked and sat up. She felt woozy.
"...and I didn't hear anything particularly alarming before it went silent -- just hushed voices, and rustling, but I couldn't see anything at all. Jack and I considered breaking in, but then there was the snoring..."
"Sor-" she started, and remembered someone else might be listening. She struggled to get off the raised table, then slowly dressed and gathered her things. She spied the anti-nausea pills and vitamins sitting next to her handbag and a box of tongue depressors, put the bottles into her bag, left the room and headed down the empty corridor she'd travelled to get to the examination area. It was all probably a wash; nothing seemed particularly out of the ordinary at the clinic, except for the solicitous care and the pregnancy questions. But with a lot of newlywed young couples about...
"Mrs Barret-Howe?" the front-desk nurse interrupted her thoughts as she approached. "You fell asleep and the doctor didn't want to wake you; we have a lot of patients who get hit with jet-lag, so we just let you sleep. He's seeing a guest with a parasailing injury, broken wrist, we think. Are you all right?"
"Yes," Gwen answered. "Fine." And she was. A bit disoriented, but that was from the nap and probably the time difference - it was already bedtime back home, and maybe the barf pill was a bit of a downer. Her GP would definitely have kicked her out for the next patient. Hell, Owen would have kicked her out in favour of working on a Silurian tissue cross-section. A hasty sleep on a hard exam table wasn't the best rest she'd ever had.
She found her legs were unsteady, and she paused at a bulletin board and examined the postings. Flu shot hours, an autographed photo from a footballer's wife she knew intimately from regular appearances in Heat and few dozen snapshots of babies arranged in a rosette. "Oh, how cute."
"Such adorable babies. Are they the resort staff's kids?" she asked. There wasn't anything terribly interesting on the bulletin board, but she was trying to get a glance at the desktop make and model tucked under the nurse's desk. It could help Ianto figure out what system they might have here and maybe he could break into the medical records remotely.
The nurse leaned in and tapped a photo of a chubby, ruddy-cheeked tot showing off two bottom teeth. "Ethan is mine."
"He's lovely!" The baby was adorable, really. They all were, and Gwen was glad Rhys wasn't here to see them.
"Delivered by Dr Clarke. He also does quite a bit of pro-bono care for local women. We have the best facilities in the islands, and well, we like to give back to the community."
"That's nice," Gwen said. She felt better now; less dizzy but with a bit of cramping that she hoped she could walk off.
"Ma'am?" the nurse asked softly. "Did you want your results?" She waved a folder and Gwen turned and took it.
"Thank you," she murmured. "Appreciate that."
"Feel better," the nurse said, smiling kindly as Gwen left the infirmary.
Notes from the first chapter apply to all chapters.
Gwen rested, feeling guilty about it, as Jack took a turn around the resort. He made a circuit of the outside area, then spoke with another honeymooning couple (a furniture chain heiress and a diplomat's son) who raved about the on-site spa masseur and the kiwi-mango daiquiris, but hadn't met the prior guests who'd come to bad ends or disappeared. The resort was a stunning vacation spot and a wonderful near-prison, without showing any sign of that at all. It was nigh impossible to get off the island; there was only the one pier and you had to walk right past an adorable little courtyard which was always staffed to get there. Rami's delivery service was the only regular outside contact, all the other ships belonged to Arcadia.
Too bad Rami's refuge had ended up dragging him right back into everything he'd been trying to retire away from. Once upon a time, Rami had been a cutthroat Lebanese spy (quite literally) and Jack had been pretending to work for MI6, and the two of them had ended up almost dying in the Afghan mountains, nearly eaten alive by an infestation of alien hive insects. Rami knew more secrets than most, and he kept them. Even retired, with a new name and a new identity halfway across the world from his homeland, Rami knew trouble when he saw it. When he'd called, Jack came.
Looking for more odd rooms, Jack ran into 'hospitality expert' Jeremy at the gym, and found himself with a chatty guide for the rest of the tour. Nothing seemed out of place at Arcadia, excepting the strange lab in the square building. Jeremy stuck to him like glue and it became apparent to him that he might be wondering why Jack was wandering around without his bride at that point, so he oohed and ahhed at the fountain in the pool, faked enthusiasm about Monte Carlo night, offered his profuse thanks and retreated back to the suite.
Ianto checked in with them and then out; he'd met some Dutch travel journalist planning a story on Arcadia and had been invited out for curry and beers, which he'd accepted in the hope of finding out more (and because curry and beers sounded fantastic, they all agreed.) Jack and Gwen dressed up and visited one of the resort's many dining rooms, this one themed like a coral reef, with a huge window looking out on a tank containing an actual reef. Man-made or not, it was a wonder, with darting tropical fish and colourful wiggly plants and creatures on display. Gwen's stomach ached with hunger, and they both went a little overboard and afterward shared crème brûlée and a delicate coconut cake. With a pianist in the corner and the rumble of conversation in the dining room, they could venture to speak quietly, and Jack told her a hilarious story about a 1978 Torchwood trip to a Butlins resort where they'd had to hide an "asteroid" which was actually a Judoon transport.
The jazz pianist changed his songbook to standards and was joined by a combo, and there was dancing. Gwen demurred; she still felt a bit as though she'd been hit by a bus after the visit to the clinic; she now vaguely wondered if the tummyache hadn't been hunger - if she'd actually picked up some kind of bug there like the one she'd faked, which would just be her luck.
"Come on, just one," Jack grinned at her as the band launched into a Dean Martin cover. She gave an exaggerated sigh but couldn't hide her smile as she put her napkin on the table.
"If you must." It was always a pleasure to dance with Jack, relaxing and...
"Oh boy," Jack said softly. He spun her slowly and she spied the couple from the beach earlier in a tight clutch. "Looks like Sandra's climbing old Jim's leg, there."
Gwen gave a low whistle. "Wow. D'you suppose they ever give it a rest?"
"Newlyweds," Jack reminded her.
She glanced sideways at the others swaying on the dance floor and quirked her head to the right. "Not just them." Jack's eyes darted over and spied another young couple who had stopped any pretense at dancing entirely and were engaged in a messy kissing session.
"Well, this is a romantic resort." Jack shrugged under Gwen's hands and gave her a warm smile.
"Yeah, it...it really is." Gwen inhaled Jack's scent and as he led her into a turn she shut her eyes and heartily wished Ianto would appear to tap her on the shoulder and cut in.
Ianto studied Geert Jansen over the rim of his beer glass. The journalist had said he was working on a travel feature for HP De Tijd, but Ianto's quick research had found a number of hard-hitting political pieces and Jansen had reported extensively from the Balkans and Afghanistan. A fluff piece on Arcadia seemed beneath him.
"I pissed off the wrong guy," Geert laughed, green eyes twinkling. "I was working on an internal government piece, really hot investigation, and my editor got even more heat coming down on him from some minister, who happens to be his brother-in-law, and it's his wife who has the money. So, hello Cultuur beat."
He tossed a salted almond in his mouth and leaned forward conspiratorially. Geert had thankfully imperfect teeth, a sly smile, and an attentive awareness about things like exits and crowds that pleased Ianto's paranoid sensibilities. He liked to talk too, and Ianto was happy to buy him beers and listen. It saved him from trawling more records on the frustratingly limited laptop he had and the beers were easing the ache in Ianto's sprained knee. He nodded in the appropriate places as Geert shared a story about being captured at a checkpoint, letting his eyes play over the ginger-to-blond wave in his hair, his neat goatee, the splay of his hands on the table as he spoke. He had broad shoulders, like Jack. Since Jack, Ianto noticed a great deal more about other men that he hadn't in the past. It was sort of like that phenomenon where you'd hear a new word for the first time and run across it four more times that week. He couldn't remember what it was called; the only word that came to mind as he watched Geert was possibility.
"-but there's something weird going on there. There's been a lot of talk. The lead was 'world's most exclusive couples resort,' but the sidebar on the story was supposed to be a broodje aap verhaal, how do you say it, monkey sandwich story."
Geert continued, "You know, urban legend. Every couple who goes to Arcadia on a honeymoon trip comes home, and bam! Baby! It's like the old story about something in the water." He shrugged. "It's not much, but I did some checking, you know a lot of the wealthy in the Netherlands, France, Spain, the UK, their trips and their milestones are in the socialite blogs, and it's a very funny coincidence."
"My sister was born seven months after my parents' wedding," Ianto said. "It's not really that odd."
"These days it is, you know? People do what they want to, nobody's going to care if they get married at all or if they have ten kids first."
"True," Ianto said. "Were you aware that you can't even book into the resort if you're not married? They don't take random couples. And they won't take gay couples at all."
Geert nodded. "Or single guys, I know, I tried to get in, and then tried to get a booking again with one of my friends. I'm not seeing anybody right now, so..." He paused and looked up with a sudden grin. "Oh yeah, come to Papa."
Ianto's eyebrows climbed as he felt a brush behind him and a server reached over his shoulder to place a tray of naan on the table. He cleared his throat. The little pot of relish accompanying the bread was a cheerful orange-red that he'd painfully learned meant it was blazingly hot. He reached for the clarified butter instead. "Huh. So. You got a very politely-worded email declining your reservation 'at this time'."
"Exactly. Weird, right? That'll be in the story but it's not even illegal for them to discriminate like that, being based on an island they've actually purchased. They don't have fixed addresses in Europe, just these setups in rented office space where they do 'interviews'." He made air quotes and picked up a fork. The quick glance Geert gave him was assessing and Ianto realized he'd grasped that Ianto's questions were more than idle curiosity.
"Geert," Ianto took a deep breath. "I'm a private investigator. There are some other things going on at Arcadia. Er... there have been some deaths." He shifted his plate to the side and leaned in to speak under the crowd. He dropped a few names - Gerard and Nicola Mitchell, the Ogilvies, and then leaned back casually and took a sip of lager.
"And that's what I'm looking into. When are you planning to publish your story?"
Geert was surprised to hear what Ianto had shared, but he covered well. "Ah, soon. 48 hours. But I got this lead from a guy here on the island; he says his sister worked there - housekeeping - and they offered her a thousand Euros to take some blood tests. Could be nothing, but I could fill you in on what I get from him..."
Bellies full and pleasantly buzzed on lager and chatter, Ianto and Geert left the restaurant and wandered down the street. The island was active well after dark, especially along the shoreline, when the bars and the clubs lit up in neon lights and sold overpriced fruity drinks to the tourists; though technically alcohol was illegal here, several places were attached to hotels, skirting the local law. They paused to take in a Boduberu performance in a tiny park tucked along the road, and hit a wall of classic rock and two shots of whiskey in a bar. They paused in the shadow between two buildings, laughing at something they wouldn't have smiled at sober, and suddenly Geert's hand was inside Ianto's shirt, kissing him with lips tasting of Jack Daniel's.
"Stop," Ianto gasped, before contradicting himself and kissing Geert back, just as hard. "I think you're tired," another kiss. "And so am I." Another. "I'll call you, okay?" He carefully tucked Geert into a taxicab and gave the driver the address to his hotel. Whistling, he shuffled the four blocks back to his own.
He admitted to himself that he was flattered, and he knew Jack would be curious rather than jealous when he told him about the evening's events. But Ianto just wasn't a love-em-drunk-and-leave-em-retconned sort of bloke.
It was a shame he'd had to lace the shot, but they couldn't take the chance Geert would report the information Ianto had given him as quid pro quo. Maybe in a week it wouldn't matter, or... maybe it would, but it was a unnecessary risk.
Enjoyably woozy, Ianto kicked off his trousers with less than his usual fastidious care, and plunked down on the bed. He dumped the recording from dinner into his laptop transcriber and elevated his knee, which was starting to ache again. He tuned in the earpiece briefly and heard Jack and Gwen talking about turning in, so Ianto decided there was nothing further he could accomplish tonight. Plus, he was feeling a bit gravity-challenged thanks to booze on top of jetlag. He switched off the comm and punched his pillows into submission before settling back with a gusty sigh.
But he vowed to help Geert out if he could when this was over. Quid pro quo. And hey, he was hot.
"Do you feel better?" Jack asked pointedly when they'd returned to the room. Gwen nodded and then shook her head.
"Actually, I'm knackered. But if you want to go to the casino or something, don't let me hold you back. It would be a shame not to explore the place a bit more, have some fun."
"It's all right, I'm bushed too. Must be the food here," he grinned. "Better than my usual slice of pizza between, uh, client meetings." Gwen snickered. Between weevil captures, was more like it. She unsuccessfully picked at the knotted bow at the neck of her green halter gown, growing more frustrated by the second, and wondered if she'd have to pull it over her head.
"Little help?" She asked, and Jack set down his bottle of water and pulled her down on the bed. She sat primly as Jack carefully teased out the knot and flipped the ties free and over her shoulders. She clutched at the dress before it fell, as she noticed Jack watching in the full-length mirror in front of her. His eyes darted away hastily and Gwen felt her stomach turn over. She cursed herself inwardly. Why couldn't it be Rhys here with her? Or even Ianto. They'd become close mates and it wouldn't be... weird. Or Ianto and Jack, and Gwen on the other island with the receiver. "I'm, uh... having a shower. Or a soak. Still don't feel quite myself." She kept her eyes down, but felt pretty certain nobody was watching them through the mirror right now anyway. Surely Sandra and Jim were providing a better show.
"Okay, honey. I'll just read then." Jack cleared his throat and stood, unbuckling his belt. Gwen felt herself colour and awkwardly pressed the silk fabric of her dress to her chest and rifled through the dresser with one hand to dig out a nightgown. By the time she'd returned, feeling clean, boneless and soft from the complimentary sea salt scrub in a larger-than-usual-hotel-sample-sized jar, her hair in a loose bun, Jack was already out like a light, her trashy dogeared beach novel splayed open on his chest.
Dragging the metal IV stand along with her, the tube pulling at the tape on her arm as she shuffled, the muscles in her abdomen aching as if she'd taken a gut punch, Gwen tried every door until she came to the end of the long corridor, and when she swung that one open, the banks of blisteringly bright lights over the tanks flicked on audibly, row by row. The kindly nurse from the clinic front desk sat in a white rocking chair, smiling down at the bundle in her lap, but looked up, startled, as Gwen approached.
"I'm sorry, but you can't have him," the nurse scolded her sternly. "Not until we're finished."
"But he's my baby!" Gwen pleaded.
"Not yet, he's not. You can have one of the others." The nurse pointed at the tanks, and the capsule doors slid back in unison to reveal a tiny infant inside each, motionless under a layer of gleaming glass.
"Oh my god," Gwen shook her head vehemently. "No, no, please." The woman met her glare. "Give me my child!" she demanded.
The nurse laughed. "It doesn't matter. They're all exactly the same." She looked down at the bundle in her arms, and Gwen saw a tiny fist raise above the pale blue receiving blanket and wave in the air. "Aren't you?" the nurse cooed. "You're all just the same. Yes you are."
Gwen rushed to the nearest tank and splayed her fingers on the glass, and the second, then ran to another row of tanks and looked closely at another identical baby boy. None of them looked as if they were... alive, but suspended in solution, floating. She pounded on one tank with her palms, and the milk-pale newborn inside turned his face to hers and opened hazel eyes, wailing silently at her from beneath the thick layer of glass as bubbles rose from his rosebud lips. Gwen screamed.
"No," Gwen sobbed. "No!"
"Gwen!" Jack's voice sounded as if he were coming down a long tunnel towards her. She crumpled into a ball.
"Help me, please save them, they have my..." she whimpered, and felt Jack at her side, at her back.
"It's a nightmare," she heard him say, more clearly. She opened one eye and saw the dim cast of light from the porthole window, shot a hand out and felt the edge of the bed. "Shh, you're safe," Jack said, he tried to turn her over as she again clutched at her sore belly with both hands. She ached bitterly. Shaking, she let Jack roll her to face him, pull her hands away and take them in his own. He rubbed at her wrists with his thumbs. "You had a bad dream, but everything is fine," he murmured softly. Gwen felt the pillow damp against the back of her neck. She'd been crying in the dream, and she couldn't stop sobbing now. She pulled a hand free and ran her fingers up into the crook of her other elbow, felt a plaster, and gasped.
Jack squinted at her in the half-dark and took her hand to keep her from clawing at it. "You had a blood draw today. Remember?"
Right, Gwen thought, clinic. She'd gone to the clinic for reconnaissance. And the doctor had asked her a bunch of odd questions, and there had been photos of babies everywhere..
"I'm o-okay," she managed to choke out, her breathing ragged. "I'm okay. Oh Jack, it was horrible." Coming more fully awake, she silently blessed Ianto for producing false identification in their real first names; she could barely remember her own. Jack pulled her close, and she tucked her head against his neck and swiped at her eyes with the back of one hand.
"Want to tell me about it?" Jack whispered, rocking her gently. Was he always this warm?
Gwen sniffled. "Yes. No. I-- later. It was just a stupid nightmare. I'm, I'm fine now." She hoped she hadn't freaked Ianto out, but they weren't wearing earpieces to sleep and he was undoubtedly snoozing away himself.
"Are you cold?" Jack asked, and she was about to protest but realised she was shivering. She nodded against Jack's neck and he shifted to pull the duvet up, then wrapped his arms around her. She could feel his heartbeat under her palm and his hand stroked her back comfortingly.
Gwen took a deep breath. "Thanks, Jack." She closed her eyes. The rows of tiny infants, all hers, all locked in watery tanks. She shook her head to erase the last pieces of the dream and the dread and choked back a sob. She felt Jack's hand still against her shoulder.
"It's okay." He gripped her tighter and pressed a soft kiss to her temple. "Gwen, I'll keep you safe, all right?" Her fingers curled around his neck and she stroked the hair at his nape, thankful for his presence, solid. Jack gripped her waist tighter and kissed her again, at the side of her eye, tasting damp as she nodded.
If they hadn't been been playing hands off for so long, this would have been much easier. Being less naked would help too. Jack breathlessly cursed Ianto's attention to detail; he'd packed a silky, honeymoon nightgown for Gwen and the soft fabric had bunched up above her thighs during her nightmare. Jack traced a line down Gwen's warm back, making himself stop where fabric ended, and kissed her damp cheek again. She tasted like the ocean.
"I'll always keep you safe," he promised and shivered at the scrape of her nails on the back of his neck. There were all sorts of reasons why Rhys wanted to punch him whenever they met and this was going to be another. "Gwen..."
Gwen's eyes were tight shut as she turned her face to his, seeking blindly to kiss him. He understood. In the safety of the dark, with the subtle thrum of the ocean against their underwater window and the scent of salt and lavender ticking the back of Jack's nose, this could be not entirely real. Jack could be a better dream than whatever had left Gwen sobbing in her sleep, and broke his heart to hear. The nest they'd made under the duvet was warm and heady with the smell of Gwen's skin and Jack closed his eyes.
Gwen arched against him with a long sigh, smoothing a hand languidly over his bare chest. Heart pounding, Jack cupped her arse, pressing his fingers to the lush curves he'd wanted to touch for so long and bringing her closer. Her bare thigh slid warmly over his... then he jerked back with a pained gasp as she barked the cut on his knee with her shin. Gwen's eyes flew open, meeting his in the dimness, and suddenly they weren't dreaming anymore. It was too real.
"Oh god," Gwen said as her face crumpled in misery. Jack held her tight when she tried to twist away.
"Shh ... shhh, Pookie," Jack said, rocking her in his arms and angling his hips uncomfortably away from her. "Just a nightmare, honey. Newlywed jitters, huh?"
"Crap," Gwen muttered under her breath, then slowly relaxed. Her arms and legs were awkward though, instead of fitting warmly against him like she had before. "I - I guess," she said shakily. "Sorry, Jack," the regret in her voice was for more than a newlywed's bad dream.
Jack stroked her hair but didn't kiss her for comfort, like he would have moments ago. "I'm going to go for a little walk. Want to come? The beach must be incredible at night. Might be relaxing."
Gwen silently shook her head and rolled out of his arms, bunching the duvet around her shoulders until all Jack could see was the fan of her dark hair. He fished his trousers from dinner off the floor then retreated barefoot out of the suite. The evening air was cool on his skin and he needed that. He needed some space. Jack was so hard he hurt, a relentless, unforgiving ache that would have disappointed his applied sexuality instructors. He'd left his comm behind and couldn't even call Ianto up for some phone sex. Jack marched off down the beach, left with no choice but to try and walk off the heat he could do nothing about.
The nighttime view was as amazing as the sunlit, turquoise day. Waves whispered to shore, glimmering with bio-luminescence, and the white beach was ghostly in the dark. Arcadia kept the lights low, just enough for safety, and the Milky Way was brilliant in the star-filled sky above. Jack returned to one of the cushy lounge chairs and indulged in some melancholy homesickness. Which home, he didn't know. Damp, rainy Cardiff? The harsh beaches of his childhood? The subliminal, living hum of the TARDIS? Ianto's snores? A strand of Gwen's dark hair was tangled around his fingers and he stroked his thumb over it, gaze on the invisible horizon.
The approaching footsteps in the dark weren't Gwen's and Jack glanced over to see Willow, the curvier of the two Arcadia staff assigned to 'provide perfection' while he was here. She had the gliding, smooth walk of a professional dancer – or martial artist. Either way, Jack took the moment she deserved to appreciate it.
"I hope you don't have us on 24/7 alert," he joked, though with the amount of surveillance they'd already discovered, he was pretty sure they did. The electronic locks on the door probably registered every time it opened.
Willow's perfect smile was as ghostly as the beaches and she had a pale porcelain mug in her hands, wisps of steam threading in the air. "Even staff have trouble sleeping sometimes."
The pause wasn't uncomfortable and Willow's soft voice was intimate, and Jack could feel his breathing syncing with the hypnotic sound of the waves whispering along the shore. "We want our resort to be everything you imagined. If there's anything I can do, please, that's what I'm here for."
Jack grunted then shared an inviting, slightly abashed smile. Late nights were meant for confidences and if she were pumping him for information, Jack could return the favor. "It's amazing here… just, newlywed nerves, I guess. And my wife isn't feeling very well."
He gave an awkward laugh that wasn't forced at all. "Bit of a let down."
Willow settled lightly down on the edge of Jack's lounge chair and rested her hand on his wrist, fingertips brushing his pulse. Jack used the trick every day himself but knowledge didn't stop his flush or the renewed heat of his cock. His expression softened and his eyes dropped to Willow's low cut top and high cut shorts. She inhaled prettily for him.
"There are always a few bumps along the way," Willow said encouragingly and a little condescendingly. He must not be the first nervous new husband she'd found wandering the beach at night. "The two of you are beautiful together, like you were made for each other. This is the start of a new journey with the woman you love."
"Yeah," Jack admitted quietly, "she is that."
"Just… she's nervous, I guess," he shrugged, raised his brows, and gave Willow an anxious look of his own. "She had a rumble earlier and went to the clinic to get checked out. One of the guests said there'd been food poisoning or something? A few guests had to go to hospital? I have allergies, you know…."
"Some of the guests went to a neighbouring island and ate something they shouldn't. We have a world class chef and all our food is to the highest EU standards and inspected daily." She leaned forward and pressed her mug into Jack's hands and folded his fingers around it. Willow had very nice cleavage and Jack was wistful all over again for what he couldn't have. "I nicked it from the spa stash. For nerves and late nights. Promise, no food poisoning or allergies."
Did his sexy smile look as sinister in the dark as hers? He'd have to ask.
Willow hadn't taken a sip from her mug the entire time but Jack took a healthy, herbal swig. It tasted like the rooms smelled; lavender and bay and herbs and Jack bet there was something more in there as well. He'd find out what in a few moments.
"My wife really liked your clinic doctor," Jack rambled on, watching Willow's serene profile. Her mahogany hair was black as pitch in the night, straight and smooth, and Jack wondered idly if she were native to this part of the world or imported, like the maraschino cherries in the drinks. "I was a little worried, you know, coming out here without any decent hospitals for miles on some tropical island with strange food -" Jack broke off his hypochondriac complaints and yawned, not feigned, even if his whining was. "You do ship in bottled water, don't you?"
Willow patted his hand, letting her hers linger as she looked into Jack's eyes. It was a wonderful performance, from the lean of her body towards his and the press of her thigh to the way she turned her face so the soft lights from the buildings fell just so. Jack wanted to give her a gold star. "Everything here is perfectly safe," she soothed, "the water is purified on site and our clinic is so well known in the area that we sometimes provide medical assistance to the surrounding islands."
Jack certainly hoped he'd remember that when he woke up again; there might be records. The tea had sedatives, of course. But nice ones and having a pretty woman pet his arm and smile at him wasn't a bad way to go under at all. Willow was petting more than his arm now, or maybe he was imagining the tug on his flies and the cool air on his cock. That wasn't a bad bit of fantasy either, though drugged and semi-conscious wasn't going to get his best performance.
"There's not a thing you need to worry about, Jack," Willow's voice followed him down. "We'll take care of you and your wife."
FROM: Dr Martha Jones, UNIT.
- Analysed materials include contents of eight vials. 80cc sampled per item.
- DNA extract, four samples
- Recombinant DNA, two samples. Check base: synthesised nucleotides, vector (plasmid chromosome).
- Matches: Discuss on secure line.
Ianto stared at the datafile clogging up his mobile, as if enough attention would make it make sense. Clearly, it was about the samples. Clearly, Martha had information for him. Clearly, he shouldn't have dropped out of Uni. Pressing his cold bottle of water to his forehead, Ianto called Martha, envying her the more efficiently air-conditioned lab premises she was undoubtedly enjoying in Sri Lanka. It took the system a few tries to find a satellite connection before Martha's face popped up with a smile.
"I'm sure what you sent meant something," Ianto said. "Can you translate?"
"Sure," Martha glanced off screen and Ianto heard the flattened sound of a chair being dragged across a floor. He leaned back in his own lounge chair, looking out over the rose-streaked start of a beautiful sunrise and wishing he was home.
"Jack," Gwen said softly. Jack squirmed as she gave his bare shoulder a gentle jostle. "Time to wake up."
"Five more minutes," he mumbled, blinking at the early-morning sun. Gwen moved in front of him to block the rays and bent over the lounge chair. He was where Willow had left him and seemed intact, except for his dignity and a residual headache. He grimaced and dropped a hand to his flies, hoping that Gwen wouldn't notice the undone button. So. Not just a disturbing fantasy then.
"Are you all right, Jack?" He nodded, still feeling groggy as last night's events came back to him. He'd been drugged.
"Yeah, I... tell you what, Let's go further out on the beach for a stroll, it's a beautiful morning." And we can talk privately out there.
She obviously caught his meaning. "All right." Gwen nodded. "I'm sorry I... woke you last night. It was a pretty horrible dream."
So she remembered that. Jack hoped she wouldn't feel awkward or angry, depending on what else she remembered.
"I'll change and meet you back out here in a couple?" Jack wanted clean trousers, and a shower to wash of the vague, unpleasant sense that someone had left sticky handprints on him without asking.
She let out a heavy breath and perched on the adjacent lounge chair, cotton sundress fluttering. The tip of her nose and tops of her shoulders were pink and freckles were springing up along her arms like an unknown star chart. Jack rather liked freckles; they were exotic. "Sounds good."
Dressed in tan shorts and a white linen shirt, Jack returned ten minutes later, extending his hand as they walked towards the beach. Gwen gave him a smile and took it, straightening her straw hat with the other. Jack hadn't heard Ianto check in yet; he was probably still asleep.
"About last night-"
"Jack, I'm so sorry I drove you out here. Did you sleep outside all night?" Gwen bit her lip guiltily.
"It's okay, it's a tropical paradise," Jack squeezed her hand. "And you didn't drive me anywhere. I went out to get some fresh air and fell asleep. But I had a little help."
Gwen squinted towards the waves, then back to the resort. Arcadian staff in their silky white clothes were serving breakfast to another couple, a man and a woman sharing a single lounge chair. "Cocktail service?"
"Well, service, yeah. You know our little shadows from check-in, Jeremy and Willow?"
"The dynamic duo. Yup."
"They really must be watching their charges like hawks. Willow found me relaxing under the stars and uh, decided to console me with herbal tea and sympathy. And I vaguely remember an extremely practised hand job." He glanced sideways at Gwen, who appeared completely gobsmacked.
Jack couldn't help chuckling. "You look scandalised, virgin bride." Gwen socked his arm lightly with her free hand. "And that's not all - she drugged me first. There was a fairly strong sedative in the tea. Along with lavender and maybe... peppermint and liquorice root. It was pretty good tea," he allowed. "Maybe we can get some and bring it back to Wales."
Gwen rolled her eyes. "So I guess they weren't lying when they said they were there to make sure all of our needs were met, eh?" She lowered her voice. "Will Ianto be upset?"
"I was doped, Gwen. I was pretty malleable." Jack shrugged uncomfortably. He wondered why Willow had bothered, or bothered to drug him first. He couldn't have been a very interesting partner - though servants taking advantage of annoying employers was an old, old story. Maybe she just resented her job but Jack didn't think it was that simple.
She gave him an abashed look. "This is my fault. I-"
"It's not," Jack protested. "Anyway, we probably need to check in-"
"With me?" Ianto's voice crackled in their ears. "Apologies for my absence. I've got some information from Martha. Are you sitting down?"
Jack glanced around at the pristine beach, their only company was a little cluster of pipping shorebirds rushing along the tideline and waving palm trees. Gwen's hand tightened in his. "No, but we're alone. Go on, Ianto."
"I had a talk with Martha this morning," Ianto said. "She analysed the contents of the vials and ran a match. More than one match, actually."
The comm line buzzed in a long pause and Jack frowned. Ianto didn't want to tell them something. "Ianto," he prompted impatiently.
"Did you know that UNIT has samples of your DNA on file?" Ianto replied, words tripping a little too fast to be casual. Gwen looked over at him, brows raised.
"I get around," Jack said tersely. "Is it important?"
"Martha's been analysing those tissue samples you stole, Gwen," Ianto plowed on, voice steadying, dry and matter-of-fact, with whatever was bothering him buried underneath. "A couple are related to the - the fetal tissue from Nicola. A couple - well, Martha said she got a hit from some of UNIT's internal records. Old ones, early 1980's, and according to the records, they're yours."
"How could Arcadia have your DNA?" Gwen asked Jack but all he could do was shrug helplessly.
"I guess that makes this a Torchwood case after all."
"She'd initially thought Arcadia was covering up an unlicenced fertility clinic - and by the way, the resort has a reputation for being a bit of luck for couples wanting babies," Ianto's sombre voice in his ear and the tense grip of Gwen's hand contrasted sharply with the soft sand under Jack's feet and the blue waves washing all the way to the empty horizon. They should be back in Cardiff, in the dark, about to do something insanely dangerous, not wearing flip flops and walking on a sunny beach.
"If it's got my DNA in it, this isn't just an expensive way to put a bun in the oven," Jack said firmly. "I haven't volunteered to be surrogate daddy lately."
"No," Ianto confirmed. "Martha says the tissue samples have been extensively tampered with. Nicola's babies probably had six different parents, all told, and none were her husband. They're tinkering with people's genes. Arcadia has been in business for eight years; who knows how many children like that have been born already."
"If neither she nor her husband consented, that would explain his murder and her suicide attempt," Jack didn't like the way this puzzle was coming together at all.
Ianto's voice was grim. "It would explain the manner of her attempt too."
Suddenly, Gwen's hand closed crushingly down on Jack's and her face went pale and horrified. "What did they do to me, Jack? In the clinic, when I was asleep - they must have drugged me just like you - what did they do? Am I - am I pregnant? With what?"
Gwen pressed her hands over her stomach and looked terrified at the thought. Jack put an arm around her, feeling her tremble. He didn't mind, much losing a palmful of sperm to some low-rent eugenics project – it wasn't the first time he'd misplaced some genetic material – but Gwen didn't deserve that. He knew about her fights with Rhys over children and this wasn't the way he wanted them to be solved.
"We're going to go in," Jack said to her and to Ianto, motioning at the bulky buildings abutting the resort proper with a tilt of his head. "And we're going to have to do a little more than look around this time. However they got it, my DNA doesn't belong in the human genome, not yet. We might be in for a little sabotage and a lot of interrogation." He finished with relish. They were misusing his genes. In the 21st Century that wasn't even a crime, but in his own, it was a form of rape.
Gwen nodded tersely. Their weapons were in a lead-lined and locked metal jewelry chest in the bottom drawer of their dresser. "Wish I had a cricket bat," she hissed, rubbing her stomach one last time. "I'd make short work of all those glass boxes."
"Noisy isn't the way to go," Jack told her and got a stubborn glare back.
"Ianto," Jack went on, ignoring the look because trying to change Gwen's mind when she was angry was always a losing battle. "Check out that warehouse. And check back in with what you find."
Ianto swallowed, audible over the comm. "Affirmative. Closing comms."
Jack issued quick instructions as he pulled Gwen toward the path off the strip of white, deep sand; it was a struggle to appear casual when you had a goal. Arcadia was so open, but now Jack wished there were corners to hide behind and more than palm fronds for cover. The best he and Gwen could do was hold hands and smile and wave up the path to Sandra and Jim in passing as they headed back to their room and the small stash of weapons they'd smuggled in.
"What are we going to do about the guests?" Gwen whispered harshly, still furious. Jack approved: anger motivated, fear paralysed; he'd take anger over fear any day. "We can't have a firefight here."
"Lots of retcon, I guess," he muttered, then was nearly yanked off his feet when Gwen jerked wildly away just as they were clearing a tall fountain of artfully-arranged tropical flowers. She couldn't help it - she'd been grabbed and yanked backward off her feet - her face shocked and angry, but she didn't hesitate as she drove an elbow into Jeremy's sleekly-toned stomach. But Jeremy wasn't alone, and another of the polite and perfect staff stepped forward with a shiny plastic mask in hand. Gwen kicked him but it wasn't so effective without her boots. Jack couldn't track beyond that, too busy with Willow - she was fast - and had buddies who threw themselves at him, dragging him off balance just long enough for her to lunge at him. Willow covered his mouth and nose with a plastic mask that must have been identical to Gwen's as he fought them, struggling to hold his breath but Willow jabbed him sharply in the belly. Jack whooped in a helpless, heavily-drugged gasp, then quickly slipped into oblivion.
By the time Ianto clicked off, the sky had brightened into a burst of blue. He cursed silently. Just what he needed. Tourists, and their money, might be nearly untouchable here, but that didn't mean he could risk a daylight break-in at the units Mutterlich was so desperate to keep secret. -- he stood out among the locals no matter what time of day. But now he didn't have a choice.
Ianto set up a pre-recorded message, to be transmitted automatically in four hours if he didn't return to shut it off. Famous last words, mostly consisting of relaying the stuff they'd discovered so someone else could follow up.
"Right so, I..." Ianto rubbed his hands across his thighs, wishing he had trousers instead of cargo shorts, wishing he had the right words for what might be his last. His words died in his mouth as he thought of Toshiko, blue-lit and strangely carefree as she recorded her own eulogy. He cleared his throat and slapped the recorder off and the blue eye of the camera died. The thought of Gwen and Jack clinging to each other in shock while a pre-recorded Ianto tried to be clever made him vaguely ill. It was too soon. Too much.
He'd just have to make sure he came back.
Ianto picked up a nondescript jeep at the only rental place on the island and travelled to the airfield. He squeezed through a gap in the perimeter gate, slunk -- limped -- over to Mutterlich's storage units, then pressed the alien lockpick next to the electronic keypad. Waiting the the required thirty seconds, he pocketed it and pulled the door open, slipping inside and pulling it shut before turning on his pocket torch.
A generator was purring softly somewhere nearby and the air was unnaturally chilly; a couple of geckos were scrambling over the walls, chasing bugs and probably getting chilled by the air conditioning. Four stainless steel containers, each the size of an industrial refrigerator, sat on very advanced vibration-resistant platforms. They all had their own back-up generators and monitor panels that suggested delicate, valuable, and maybe dangerous contents. The Maldive customs labels implied perishables and food, but he really doubted even Kobe steaks and caviar needed such perfectly controlled conditions, no matter how high class the place was. "Fuck," Ianto breathed, with a spike of worry for Jack and Gwen.
But he did his job and took pictures and scanned around for anything else unusual or interesting, like a nice diary or Villainous Plans for Dummies sitting on a table.
The pallet of luxury toilet tissue was kind of a relief; something normal. But then Ianto wondered why Holly – or whoever was behind her – was wasting space with toilet tissue in a storage unit they were fighting to hold onto. Sighing, Ianto turned back to it and began to probe gently between the packages, wedging his hands between the layers of crinkling plastic. He ran into a solid box almost immediately and began tugging packages of loo rolls out of the stack to reveal it. The additional deception worried him, considering how lax the laws were.
Ianto burrowed a tunnel into the stack and shone a light down the opening, discovering the smooth corner of a translucent plastic carrying case. Smaller boxes were stacked inside, but there was no way Ianto could get at them unless he wanted to entirely deconstruct the loo roll disguise, which he didn't. With a fair bit of squinting and cursing at the tight space, he did manage to get some partial words from the boxes inside, and register the Red Cross stamped in the upper corner. Medical supplies, and if the twenty-syllable words with their hyphens meant anything, not the sort of thing usually found in honeymoon resorts.
"Of course, I don't know what they mean," Ianto muttered as he began to fit the packages back into the stack like a squishy puzzle, but he was too weary to be frustrated anymore. They ran into moments every day when Owen or Tosh's presence was desperately needed. Ovorderol sounded like a brand name and something-something-propanidiol sounded like god knew what. Martha would know.
The generator was sitting near a small closet space and Ianto would have ignored it except for the scrapes on the ground where the door had recently been opened. It was locked now, with a shiny new padlock and chain which didn't match the rest of the equipment at all. It was different enough to attract Ianto's attention and the alien lockpick made the same thirty second short work of it as it did everything else.
He let the chain slither to the ground, and braced himself mentally before he pulled open the door. The last time he'd cut off a lock he'd been greeted with a pile of completely drained human husks because Torchwood brought new wonders every day.
Whatever he'd expected, it wasn't John Hart eating a banana. Seriously?
"Hey, I know you! Sight for sore eyes... dream," Hart slurred with a wan smile and halfhearted wave. Ianto surveyed the small cinderblock-walled room and shot out the wall-mounted camera pointed at the camp bed. His ears rang from the report, but Hart didn't flinch; he laughed.
Ianto's trigger finger itched to cap Hart right then and there (big loss, that), but he was too curious about why he was being held here, clearly drugged out of his gourd. Ianto groaned. He'd have to get him out of there before Mutterlich's goons realised what was happening. "Come on, Hart." Ianto tugged him to his feet and bit his lip hard as he tried to support him, shifting the dead weight to his good knee. "You've gotta walk, okay? Come on."
Thankfully, Hart's feet worked, sort of. Ianto half-dragged him away from the closet and out of the warehouse. He fished his phone out of his shirt pocket one-handed while the other held Hart up against the wall and quick-dialled.
"Rami? I'm going to need some help. Like right now. I need a safe house." He paused to listen and clicked off, then struggled with Hart, who was beginning to babble.
"Got no boots," Hart complained loudly, as they shuffled along the gravel. Drunk tourists were common enough, even early morning, and Hart passed for drunk well enough.
"Shut up. You'll live." Ianto shook his head. This was all he needed. Blessedly, he'd parked the hired jeep close enough to the gap in the chain-link fence, and with a grunt, Ianto hefted Hart into the back jump seat, where he promptly slid sideways onto the floor. Ianto peeled off, yanking down the sun visor against the beautiful morning.
It was a quick jaunt to the other side of the island and a whitewashed house on a hilly outcropping with shallow steps leading down to a dock. Ianto glanced around, heard only the squawk of seabirds and the wind chimes on the loggia, and finally breathed. After he handcuffed Hart to the table in the kitchen. Looped or not, he couldn't trust that bastard.
His relief was short-lived; He registered the persistent ping from his bag, opened his laptop and pulled Martha into video chat, but her voice was faint over a loud grinding sound. "Martha?"
"I'm en route," Martha shouted. She made a whirling motion with her finger. "Helicopter! ETA 90 minutes." A chat window popped up on the screen.
M: Big probs. Staff @ Arcadia ran J & G EMRs - covers blown.
M: J & G in danger. Copy?
I: hang on
Great. They had checked Jack and Gwen's electronic medical records and the Barret-Howe aliases wouldn't hold up under such close scrutiny, especially since Mutterlich and company now had DNA samples from the pair. Ianto checked his comm again. "Jack? Gwen? Hello? Do you read me?" Nothing. Shit. Shit.
Ianto speedily typed in a sitrep and instructions. Martha gave him a thumbs up in reply. He closed the satellite connection. She had a small fleet of Sikorsky X2s but Ianto was still closer to Arcadia - if he could get a speedboat. He wasn't the damn tea boy anymore and he wasn't going to sit here and wait while hell was breaking loose on the other island.
Ianto looked up to see Rami burst in, breathless from his run from the dock. "Great timing. And change of plan." Ianto gestured at Hart, who was coughing and blinking at both of them, "Rami, how fast can we get to the resort?"
As the speedboat cut the waves, Hart shook away the last of whatever they'd drugged him with; hearing Jack was in mortal danger - well, danger - brought him back to lucid damn quickly. Ianto had known it would. It was... disturbing to see John's unswerving dedication to Jack, a twisted mirror image of his own. Ianto had at least the vague comfort of knowing he'd never actually killed Jack, overwrought threats or no.
"What the hell are you doing out here?" Ianto demanded, shoving a bottle of water at him. Rami had supplied a pair of trainers that almost fit, and a clean shirt, but Hart looked out of place without his jacket and boots. Hart even looked out of place in sunlight, Ianto thought. "You'd better start talking. I'm already sorry I didn't leave you chained up in that room."
Hart eyed him, probably desperate to make a wisecrack, but something about Ianto's expression stopped him. "It's the DNA. The Arcadia project."
"Here to make money, then? What were you going to do, hold it for ransom? Steal enough to clone Jack for a travel companion?" Ianto spat.
"It's..." Hart pinched the bridge of his nose. Ianto suspected, with satisfaction, that the sedating drugs had left Hart with a headache. "Not like that. It's 180 degrees from that. There are things you don't understand. You're not... supposed to know yet."
"Try me." Ianto folded his arms and leaned back against the railing. "Go on."
Arcadia was a lot smaller when you thought of it as a secret base for mad genetic experiments instead of an exclusive resort. Ianto was also aware of the innocent guests, nine couples according to the records, who he very much didn't want to see become collateral damage. They hadn't brought enough retcon, either.
"So much glass, so many pretty windows... not so many places to hide." Rami's hands were deft on the speedboat's controls as he slowed it down, mimicking a fishing boat or pleasure cruiser. Arcadia was only a few knots away but it was the last stretch that mattered. "If Jack and lovely Gwen have been taken, it is to the maintenance building, and there are reefs offshore on that side of the island."
"Undoubtedly intentional," Ianto sighed and squinted across the bright water. Rami had provided building layouts and navigational charts of the island, extra ammunition and more, saved for just such a day, oui, but it didn't change the fact that sneaking up on the island in the middle of the day was impossible. He traced a path along the map towards one of the smaller beaches, Rami peering over his shoulder. "What about here?"
"Look, I've told you," Hart broke in, "You can't stop them."
"Your information has been so reliable in the past." Ianto glared but Hart only stared mulishly back. The lack of smarmy jokes or leers was making Ianto nervous. He might even be telling the truth and that was a horrible thought.
"Look, defending the human race is your gig, right?" Hart crossed his arms and sat back, looking annoyed and smug. "So don't muck this up."
"I should have left you in that closet," Ianto muttered while Rami looked on, watching their continuing argument like it was a tennis match. "We're not just leaving Jack and Gwen to fend for themselves."
"Get 'em out, and leave the rest," Hart shrugged. "Go back home to that soggy little country of yours and forget about it."
"Too many deaths, is that not so?" Rami put in, spreading his hands casually, though the hard glint in his eyes was unexpected. "More noses will come poking in, more questions will be asked. They cannot hide forever, no matter how rich or influential Arcadia is, even in the Maldives. It is time they stopped."
Ianto nodded slowly, studying Rami and wondering all over again why he was here. He conveniently had maps and information and all sorts of handy things, wasn't a tourist, wasn't quite a local - though everyone treated him like he was - and Ianto didn't like things he couldn't categorise and neatly file. How long had Rami been watching Arcadia? Why? He'd have to pin Jack down sometime soon and ask some questions. For now, he was just pleased that Hart gave Rami a sour look and sat back in a a jump seat, resigned. Or at least faking it. Ianto recalled very well how well John Hart lied. And how easily he'd betrayed them all.
"Remember," Ianto murmured, as he rested a hand on Hart's shoulder, thumb along his collarbone where a nerve ran vulnerably close to the surface. "What I promised you, back in the Hub, if you hurt anyone I cared for?"
"I love dirty talk," Hart smiled, a flirty little smirk, even as Ianto's hand tightened. "I haven't forgotten, Eye Candy."
"Good. Neither have I."
In the end, they had no choice but to rush in and hope speed would give them some advantage against whatever waited at Arcadia. Rami gunned the engine and powered them over the choppy waves, along the nearest clear path to the maintenance wing. "Beggars are not choosers, yes? We must run."
And they did.
Rami grounded the boat and Hart, damn him, heroically leapt off while it was still yawing wildly, and Ianto jumped after him, sloshing through knee high water with his stunner in one hand, gun in the other, and both held overhead and safely out of the water.
He supposed he should be grateful for Hart as the man barreled up the beach with a mad grin, straight into the pock-pock-pock of semi-automatic fire, tackling the shooter. He was as crazy as Jack, but without the immortality. Ianto ran past them, rushing to meet the next tropically-dressed defender, shoulder to the man's gut, stunner on his calf - the man went down with a shout. Rami shot past him in turn, pistol in his hand, bulky bag over his shoulder, firing wildly to give them some cover on the exposed beach. Shorebirds were shrilling madly overhead and Ianto could hear shouts farther away; reinforcements or tourists, he didn't have time to care.
It was like storming Normandy, except everyone was in Hawaiian shirts and shorts and they barely made it to the line of hibiscus shrubs before a someone clocked Hart hard in the shoulder and Ianto was sent reeling by handful of sand in his eyes. A gun digging into his spine ended their invasion.
Hart was dragged back to his feet with a curse and both of them were shoved along, guarded by a scantily dressed, lovely young woman with a compact semi in her arms. Ianto felt like he was on a James Bond set, except for the biting reality of the plastic zip ties around his wrists.
"This was pretty stupid, you know," Hart muttered, weaving woozily, and Ianto glared, counting minutes in his mind. All they had to do was delay - and keep everyone alive.
Rami was nowhere to be seen.
Notes in the first chapter apply to all chapters.
Gwen came to slowly, aware first of the straps securing her arms to a chair and then to the gorge rising in her throat. She grimaced and fought to keep from throwing up in her lap. Jack was similarly trussed beside her, his head drooping to his chest, blood drying on a nasty cut across the side of his forehead. They were alone.
"Jack," she hissed. He stirred, his head went back, and he made a guttural sound. "Jack!"
"Huh-" Jack came awake and pulled at the arms of his chair as he breathed heavily through his nose. His eyes caught Gwen's and he tried to give her a reassuring smile, which looked more sickly than anything else. "Chloroform. Makes you want to puke." So he was in the same shape she was. Gwen was bizarrely relieved that it wasn't morning sickness. She looked around. Standard executive office. Soft, sea green carpeting, sconces, huge desk.
Unfortunately, her bag with the tiny camera was nowhere in sight. She hoped Ianto would check the feed and realise something was wrong, since the comm in her ear had been dislodged when they were captured. She wondered if Jack's had been lost too, but there was no time to ask; the door to the right of them opened and Dr Clarke stepped in, looking flustered.
He didn't look menacing or much at all like an evil scientist; still an amiable, balding GP with unstylish bifocals, but that didn't stop Gwen from balling her fists until her nails bit the flesh of her palms. If she hadn't been trussed he'd be laid flat by now. He moved to the desk and sat, and glanced up at the door again as Holly Mutterlich strode in, running a palm over her short curls. She put her hands on her hips and stared at them. Ah, she was the bad cop then.
"So, you are not who you say you are."
Jack snorted. "This place isn't the honeymoon resort you say it is, either. Or do guests here usually get kidnapped by the staff and tied up?"
Dr Clarke sat back in his chair, fiddling with the pens on his desk, mouth twisted unhappily. "No, that doesn't generally happen. But that doesn't change the fact that you are not Mr and Mrs Barret-Howe, does it?"
Gwen took a breath to speak, but Jack cut in before she could. "What's the difference? We're paying customers who chose to come here on our honeymoon."
"That's another lie," Holly Mutterlich retorted, leaning forward aggressively. "Are you reporters? Investigators? This is a private facility on privately-owned land and we do the choosing. You may have noticed that we are very selective about those invited here to enjoy our hospitality." Her smile was sharklike.
"Well, the food was great, but it had nothing on the four-star beating. I'd give it five, but maybe you should beat a guy from Fodor's next time."
Mutterlich glared at Jack and her mobile went off. "What?" she barked into the Blackberry, then paused, obviously impatient. "I see." She retreated to the other side of the office and whispered terse orders into the phone.
Gwen's gaze travelled to the wall, because looking at the doctor made her feel sick again. Diplomas. University and medical school in New Zealand. An abstract canvas. A souvenir didgeridoo leaning against the wall beneath it. So ordinary. She glanced over at Jack, who she could tell was trying to pick up on whatever Holly Mutterlich was saying. How many? and pull everything was all Gwen caught. The woman returned to the side of Dr Clarke's desk and set the phone down with a sharp clack and an unpleasant smirk.
"We have your associates as well." A few minutes later, there was a brisk knock on the door, and she barked, "Come in."
Gwen's heart sank when Ianto appeared at the doorway looking pale and disheveled, his hands secured behind him. Jack's jaw tightened, then his eyes went wide when John Hart shambled in next, stumbling after a rough shove from Jeremy, who looked much less ornamental with a Hechler machine gun in his hands. Mutterlich gestured at the sand-leather settee and the gun Jeremy carried was enough to persuade Ianto and Hart to sit before they were pushed.
"How many more in your entourage?" She snapped in exasperation. "Should we prepare a buffet?"
"I'm actually hungry," Hart piped up with an ingratiating grin, then slowly sank back into the sofa when Jeremy lifted the barrel of his weapon.
"Quiet, Mr Harkness, if that is indeed your real name," Holly Mutterlich snarled, and Ianto and Gwen exchanged a look as Jack mouthed a sarcastic "thank you" in Hart's direction. "Frankly, it doesn't matter. I think you all realise that none of you will be leaving this resort today." She waved a hand at Dr Clarke who looked a little unhappy at her words. "Go on."
The doctor's eyes jumped from Ianto and Hart to Gwen and Jack. "So, what brought you to Arcadia under false pretences? You might as well tell us what you think is going on here."
"An illegal cloning facility," Gwen parried back, she jerked and twisted at her wrists, as subtly as she could but it was pretty pointless. "An illegal forced fertility clinic. A place where people like Gerard and Nicola Mitchell come for a holiday and leave mad, or in a body bag. Did you know Nicola cut herself completely open?" Dr Clarke turned his head, swallowing hard. "If you're a real doctor, what do you think of that? Nice Hippocratic oath." Gwen was shaking with anger.
Dr Clarke looked up and indignant rage flashed in his own eyes. "We are not here to hurt anybody. We're here to help, to change... everything." He glanced at Mutterlich.
"Go ahead," she urged, turning to face the rest of the room. "He loves to talk about it and so rarely gets the opportunity. Isn't that right?"
Dr Clarke took off his bifocals and swiped at them with a tissue. He looked almost... hopeful, as if he really believed he might convince them if only they'd listen. Gwen set her jaw. "You're aware that the human genome has been mapped. A game-changing advance in scientific knowledge, but it doesn't mean much to be able to identify the genes that cause blue eyes," he gestured at Jack, "or certain kinds of hereditary cancers, or achondroplasia... that is to say, we can identify some of these genes, and we can tell people with them not to have children depending on the genes their partner carries, or tell them it might be in their best interest to have a mastectomy before they get breast cancer, things like that. What should be done is more intensive work before children are born. We don't have to be at the mercy of our genes anymore."
He looked at Gwen,"Perhaps you, for example, are carrying a genetic disease, and so is your 'husband' there. What if you could have a child with her genetic code altered so that she would have a healthy slice of DNA and wouldn't have to worry about cancer, or alcoholism, or any other disorder we can identify? Wouldn't you want her to be healthy and whole? And while we're at it, if you wanted a boy, or those blue eyes..." He studied his folded hands for a moment and looked up. "Isn't that a... good? Isn't eliminating suffering something that'll change humanity for the better?"
"So, your basic Nazi-style eugenics, then," Ianto offered, eyes narrowed with rage, even if his voice was level. Gwen had always admired Ianto's cold anger; she always got shouty, then cried. "Choosing who and what is 'good' and getting rid of undesirables before they're even born."
"Bullshit," Holly Mutterlich snapped. "This isn't about race. It's about the human race."
"Holly," Dr Clarke said, "Please."
"If 'helping humanity advance' is all you're doing, why the secrecy?" Gwen asked. Jack seemed to be making more progress on his wrists and Gwen tossed her hair back out of her eyes, raising her voice, trying to demand everyone's attention. "Why the cover-up, why the resort?"
"Well, it's illegal, obviously," Dr Clarke replied lightly. "Because thanks to historical events as referenced, the public have a very dim view of 'improvements' to the genetic code. We're not trying to build a master race here, just to give parents healthy children who will live long, healthy lives."
"People would volunteer, though," Gwen persisted. "They donate sperm and eggs to strangers, they become surrogate mothers. You're outside most jurisdictions here anyway. You could recruit people; all sorts buy into these things willingly."
"I'd volunteer!" Hart offered, earning a glare from Gwen. "I mean, for suitable... remuneration."
"Not if that meant cloning their offspring a hundred times over," Jack cut in with a shrug and a look over at the doctor. "Or mixed in with dozens of others to make superbaby stew. That turns out so well for you when your subjects find out."
"Oh!" Dr Clarke narrowed his eyes, and waggled a finger. "Oh, you see now. There is that. You've guessed correctly. We need many copies of genetic material. There have been... failures. This is still a grand experiment." Gwen felt ill. "But we can do much, much better than 100 copies. We can replicate each strand by 800, you see? We take the very best genes and share them."
"Why do you only take married couples?" Ianto said loudly. "Since we're having show-and-tell hour." Gwen glanced at him, at Hart, who was studying the ceiling with a bored expression, and then at Jack, who raised his chin by a fraction; a tiny nod. Ianto was stalling. She brightened, then tried to hide it. That meant he had a plan.
"Deniability," Mutterlich blurted. "We need controls, for studies as the years go by. We can access and track their digitised medical records, doctor's visits. And frankly, married wealthy people in love, they're less likely to abort. They have the means to raise many children, send them to the best schools, give them the best medical care. We give them the best genetic advantages and they can give their children the best environmental ones."
"If they don't, do you have them killed?" Gwen asked, her tone sickly-sweet.
"Of course not," the administrator purred back. "There are many dozens of Arcadia contr- children, and they're doing fine. And so are their parents." She picked up her Blackberry and glanced at it, then at the doctor, giving him a brief shake of her head, which made him frown uncomfortably. "Unfortunately, this meeting is to be cut short."
Dr Clarke stood and edged towards the door. Jack was leaning forward and Gwen could see a thread of blood at his wrists where the zip ties bit hard. Ianto looked worried. Hart looked half-asleep, despite his bound hands, and seemed oblivious to how Jeremy had firmed his grip on his machine gun and settled his stance. Were they really going to kill them right here? Time was running out.
"Wait," Gwen called out sharply. "What did you do to me? I have a right to know."
The doctor smiled at her, amiable once again. "It really doesn't matter now." He motioned to the flunky with the machine gun and backed towards the exit, already turning his face away.
Gwen caught her breath, bracing her feet on the floor, ready to throw herself and her executive office chair over and buy a few more seconds, but she didn't get a chance. She heard shouting outside, and rushing boots, followed by the crashing, staccato birrup - rrup -rrup of automatic weapons. Holly looked shocked, spinning towards the door, and Gwen lashed out with her feet - because they hadn't tied them - and kicked at the woman's shins. She only stumbled, flailing for balance, but Gwen shouted in triumph. Hart, who'd looked bonelessly relaxed a second ago, was on his feet in a flash. He lunged froward, twisting to ram his shoulder into Jeremy's chest and knocking him sprawling with an agonised cry. Then he stomped his foot hard on the man's elbow, making him kick and scream again as the gun was knocked from his grasp, spinning across the expensive carpet.
"Amateur," Hart sniffed, standing on the man's wrist as soldiers rushed inside. Ianto was on his feet too, and had body-checked Dr Clarke, who'd been sidling towards another door, panting and wide-eyed and clearly terrified. The soldiers with their red caps were followed by Martha Jones, without a machine gun but clearly in command.
"Now that's a sight," Jack declared with a delighted grin.
"I keep finding you tied up," Martha said, smiling. "Are you trying to tell me something?"
"Who wouldn't want to be rescued by a beautiful woman in a flak jacket?" Jack laughed with a cheerful waggle of his eyebrows then tilted his head at Dr Clarke and Mutterlich, who looked as if she was about to breathe fire. Dr Clarke looked somewhere between terrified and heartbroken, clearly realising he was going to go down in the history books as another mad eugenicist. "I think you'll want to have a long conversation with these two." A UNIT soldier cut him loose and he rubbed his wrists, as did Gwen, while two others hurriedly freed Ianto and Hart. Hart grudgingly stepped back and let the UNIT team take Jeremy into custody. The man was moaning that his arm was broken and could the doctor please treat him, the doctor was right there, come on, as he was marched out behind the administrators.
Martha had what looked like one of Torchwood's stunners in her hand and she hefted it, giving Ianto a grin. "Came in handy."
Ianto looked pleased.
"Why is it I end up working with fishpeople and you with gorgeous ones," Hart complained. "Next time, I want the beautiful women with guns and you can take the coked-up blowfish."
"I should have them take you in, too," Jack turned to John Hart with a suspicious frown. "Because what in the hell-"
"Hey, I came here to help! At some risk to myself, you know!" Hart gesticulated wildly at his bare, scarred wrist with his other hand.
"Oh for Pete's sake." Jack flipped open his vortex manipulator and entered a code, and a soft series of beeps issued from behind Dr Clarke's desk. Hart ran to a locked drawer, squinted at it, then shrugged and broke it with a well-placed kick. A relieved grin broke over his face as he slipped the wrist strap on.
"I always just know," Hart confided to Gwen, who shook her head.
Martha glanced around then clicked her comm. "Subjects in custody and ready for transport. Get the place cleared of guests," she ordered, and nodded at Jack. "There are extensive medical laboratories here, Jack, I'm assuming we need a technical extraction team."
Jack nodded sharply. "There's material here that Earth isn't ready for." He and Martha exchanged one of those significant looks they had and Gwen frowned, wondering, as always, what it meant. Jack wouldn't even tell her how he and Martha had met. It wasn't fair.
Ianto had pulled out his beeping phone, which the goons had foolishly left in his cargo shorts while they focused on his weapons. A fire alarm sounded faintly and Ianto's expression blanched. "Fuck! Rami's already started. He's got charges and a lot of Semtex. He - damn it - he used us as cover to set explosives in the lab!"
"No! Tell him to stop!" Hart broke in, frantic. "You can't destroy the lab, or the genetic material here." He gripped Jack's shoulders and pulled him away from Martha. "You can't shut Arcadia down."
"The hell we can't," Gwen snapped, Hart gave her a look and ducked to the other side of Jack. "They're playing God with our DNA. My DNA."
"And a lot of Jack's." Martha said. "We still don't know where they got it."
"And mine!" Hart disclosed. Jack tried to yank away but he persisted, shaking him. "Jack. Listen to me! Classified historical record. They didn't steal your genetic code. They have pieces of it because we, in our time -- we're the result.
Jack's expression of shock turned to alarm and he spun towards the door. "Get back in touch with Rami, Ianto!"
But they were interrupted by the booming sound of a series of explosions as the floor shook and the didgeridoo fell over. Martha ran to the door, peering cautiously around, then gestured hurriedly at them to follow her out. "It's too late!"
"It can't be too late!" Hart shouted. The fire alarm was deafening now and there was the heavy smell of smoke, then another rattling set of explosions and the floor rocked violently this time. Rami clearly wasn't taking any chances.
"The dock!" Ianto shouted, grabbing Gwen's arm to pull her along. "Rami sent the text to warn me, but he only gave us a few moments. We have to get out!"
Jack was dragging Hart along despite the man's struggles, and Martha was ahead of them all, shouting frantically in her comm for her team to evacuate. Dust was falling from the ceiling and Gwen coughed, clutching at Ianto now as they sprinted down the hallway to the square of sunlight they could see. They all barrelled out into the tropical landscaping in a cloud of concrete dust. Flames were already licking along the walls of the main clinic and Gwen could see a wall collapsed out across bright flowers and a shattered palm tree. She hoped none of the guests had been nearby.
"I like existing!" Hart was shouting.
"Well, we're still here, so-" Jack yelled to Hart over the noise as they all ran for the water's edge. Gwen's heart stopped in terror as Jack's voice cut off abruptly. Ianto made a heartbreaking noise, looking wildly back for a second, then let out a harsh sound of relief. Gwen stumbled onto the safety of the shoreline and fell to her knees, panting. Jack stood over her, resting a hand on her shoulder. Gwen reached up and laced her fingers with his.
"Grandfather paradox," Ianto said breathlessly. "Cool."
On hearing that Ianto's instructions to Martha had included the location of the warehouse and that the second UNIT team had secured the lot, Jack leaned back and tilted his face towards the sky, eyes closed in relief. His profile made a dramatic tableau against the pillar of smoke streaming out of the lab buildings, Ianto thought.
"There were cryogenic vats in there, Jack," Ianto explained, turning away from the wheel. "They looked important, so -" he broke off with a shrug.
"You saved us, Jones," Hart roared over the hum of the speedboat, clapping Ianto on the back as he steered. Ianto frowned and shrugged him off, it wasn't Hart's approval he was interested in. "You saved humanity's future collective arse. Arses?" He was considering the choices when Gwen broke in.
"It doesn't make sense, though. You're from the future," she leaned forward and patted Jack's knees. Her hair was blowing wildly in the breeze, her knees sandy, wrists bruised. Another Torchwoody day, no matter where they were, and Ianto sighed. Someday he'd like to save the world by... beat poetry or paper cut-outs. "But there are billions of people on Earth."
Hart sighed. "Step on a butterfly... don't you have that story here? Of course, where I grew up, it's sort of scarab-roach hybrid thing, but it has wings." He paused and glanced at Jack, who shrugged, then at everyone else. "When we colonise space in the future, cloning is hugely significant. DNA advances made in this location, at this point in time, lead to changes in the genetic code that allow people to survive the colonisation process and thrive and reproduce. The end." He snapped his fingers.
"What about the… beings on those planets the humans displace?" Ianto asked. If John Hart was any example, humans were still out for themselves, thousands of years in the future or not. "Colonisation doesn't have the greatest reputation on Earth. Most of the time there's already someone living there and they get the short end of the stick."
"Well, it's not like the accessible reaches of the universe are teeming with life, Jones. The first waves go to uninhabited places, like Luna."
Hart paused and let that sink in. The finest university in his and Jack's time was as near to Earth as her moon, the oldest space settlement. Gwen peered up at the deepening azure sky.
"Then Mars -- too dusty, ugh. Then Gliese 581 C, or A - it doesn't matter -- then points beyond. And when we do get to inhabited places, oh, they want our credits - the tourism! The recreational drugs! The tentacle porn! The genetic research and DNA refinements sampled match ours because this is where we were hatched, Jack. It's all in the Agency's files, which I… happened to liberate recently. This research happened and it helps to make extra-systemic colonisation possible."
Hart threw his head upward dramatically, a gesture that lacked panache considering his boxy plaid short-sleeved shirt and trainers. Jack's mouth twitched and Ianto had to cough to keep from laughing. "You're looking at the product of thousands of years of human evolution, assisted by advanced technology."
"Apparently we don't figure out how to program morals in at some point," Ianto said drily over his shoulder. The sunglasses he wore made him feel like Horatio Caine from CSI Miami. Maybe he should keep them. It was sunny in Cardiff, occasionally.
"Hey!" Jack broke in, sounding wounded. Gwen gave his knees another squeeze.
"Why the cloning, though?" She asked. "Clarke said there were hundreds of the same embryos in the samples. It doesn't make sense; it's-"
Hart donned an expression of forced patience, as if he were lecturing a nursery school class. "Because. When you send colonists out in ships out of the solar system, they're likely not coming back and they're heading in different directions. No danger really of anyone banging her own twin brother until cost-effective transport between colonies is developed, and that's generations later. Despite the advances, the conditions during early days of colonisation are harsh; people will die. And they will be replaced by others with the same selected qualities."
"So it is eugenics." Ianto said, feeling queasy. He turned the boat slightly as the other island came into view.
"They don't select space pioneers by passing out lottery tickets, Jones," Hart said with a disdainful snort. "There's no room for error in the colonies because everything else is so unpredictable; they need people who are resistant to known diseases and in a good position to resist others. They need clever, rugged people who are likely to find partners and populate the colonies without the technology that exists on Earth by then. So physically attractive people come in handy as well."
"That does explain me," Jack said with a bit of his usual smugness. Ianto was relieved to hear it; Jack had been uncharacteristically quiet since they'd left Martha to finish clean-up at Arcadia and decided to head to the safe house Rami had offered. Jack's 'old friend' had been in touch by radio and was clearly staying out of arms reach until he sussed out how angry everyone was. Ianto wanted to punch him. A few minutes longer in Clarke's office and all of them would have been buried under rubble. Rami had known the danger, and he'd taken the risk anyway.
Gwen gave Jack a look and waved her thumb sideways. "Not him, though."
"Come on, you want me," Hart scoffed. "Anyway, you see the dilemma. Destroy the research and samples, cause reverberations through humanity's future, just like stepping on a butterfly. And there's not really a Time Agency around anymore to handle things like securing samples before monsoons come and flood a facility - what sort of morons put a lab beneath the water table?"
"You could have told me," Jack said.
"I didn't have all of the information before I got here; it's patchy." Hart replied. "The files were sabotaged and some of them sold off. And you don't take all of my calls."
At that, Ianto slipped his mobile out onto his knee and sent a hasty text. He didn't know which island Geert was on, but it wouldn't do for the journalist to miss the visuals as the resort's lab burned.
Gwen rose, steadying herself on Jack's shoulder and smoothing her rumpled white sundress, then walked to the port side of the speedboat to lean on the rail and watch the ocean. Ianto watched Jack watch her as the wind whipped her hair. She still had things to worry about, even though Jack could rest easy about his own future existence, apparently.
Martha jogged towards the house on the shore, gripping the handle of a file box and ducking along with Rami as the helicopter lifted and banked away, its shadow shimmering over the rippling water. Gwen waved and opened the screened-in door as Rami joined Jack, Ianto and Hart on the decking. Rami had gained tentative forgiveness when he turned over medical records from the local clinic on Fonadoo, which showed that more than a few local women had gone to the resort clinic for care. He wouldn't admit it, but Gwen was pretty sure that someone he loved had been a victim of the Arcadian project. No wonder he'd wanted to see the place burn at any cost. She'd certainly felt the same way.
"Martha!" Gwen grinned when she stepped inside. "I'm sorry I didn't have the chance to do this properly earlier." She pulled her into a bear hug.
"We were sort of busy," Martha pointed out, giving her a squeeze in return. "I'm glad to see you, too. I missed you."
"You could come back," Gwen said hopefully. "I know Jack and Ianto would love that too. It's just the three of us now, and-"
Martha hefted the bulky metal box with both hands and set it down on Rami's kitchen counter. "I'm supporting you from afar. And the Doctor."
Gwen understood. But it didn't hurt to keep asking. "What's in there?" she asked, waving at the box.
Martha glanced through the gauzy curtains at the others. "Something really important. I know what happened to you at the clinic. Barring consent forms, they kept meticulous records, and we brought field testing equipment. So..." she slapped open the dual latches and pulled out a packet of surgical gloves and an individually-packaged syringe. "I'm good with veins." Gwen nodded and perched on a counter stool, offering her arm. Martha quickly accomplished a blood draw and plunged a few drops onto a tiny slip of blue paper, which she fed into a complicated-looking little piece of equipment as Gwen pressed a piece of gauze to the inside of her elbow.
"Meanwhile," Martha said, snapping off the gloves and taking a small brown paper bag from the box. "Here you go." She passed it to Gwen.
Gwen glanced inside. "Oh. High-tech." Martha nodded.
"I'll just... wait here," she trailed off, as Gwen rushed down the hallway, bag in hand.
Gwen reappeared fewer than ten minutes later, glancing around the house before joining Martha on the wicker settee. She produced a plastic stick. "Negatory," she breathed, sharing the digital readout. "Can it be accurate this soon?" She looked unconvinced.
"This one definitely is, and the result's the same," Martha assured her, gesturing at the blinking light on the unit on the coffee table. "I just thought two tests would put your mind at ease. But the records... Gwen, the time you lost in the clinic? Ianto said they drugged you and you were under for about 45 minutes, that right?" Gwen nodded. "There were topical hormones in everything from Arcadia's guest soaps to the body scrub, and god knows what else. And they gave you pills and an injection. Bottom line, they extracted over a dozen eggs from your ovaries with an ultrasound-guided needle. The records indicate they also obtained a semen sample from Jack somehow and merged your samples. A few more days and they probably would have called you back for a follow-up appointment and implanted the fertilised specimens. Or they would have knocked you out with an etheric compound like Hart and handled it in your hotel room while you both slept – the records are... revealing." Gwen went paler beneath her freckles. "As it stands, they vitrified the overage. Those were frozen in stasis and stored, ready for further genetic manipulation and mass duplication, and implantation into you or... somebody else."
Martha switched off the unit and the lights went dark. "UNIT pulled all of their satellite correspondence. Holly Mutterlich was communicating with foreign governments."
Gwen pressed her fingertips to her mouth. "I feel a little shaky right now."
"Yeah," Martha nodded and sat back on the settee, gaze sympathetic and steady. "Basically, they stole from you, and Jack, and produced a bunch of embryos with the proceeds. I'm really sorry."
"But the lab was blown up," Gwen murmured, not sure whether she felt relief or heartbreak. Those stolen... samples were her children, sort of. She remembered her nightmare and shuddered.
"That destroyed the ova they had ready for implantation, but the the other fertilised versions were frozen and stored in the warehouse; they didn't waste any time. Gwen, I have them. I'll... do whatever you decide. Destroy them, keep them in a cryo unit indefinitely, whatever. And it's interesting, because ethics aside, the long-term preservation techniques they came up with are amazing, really ahead of their time. Clarke could have got a writeup in the Lancet for that bit of it, or an MBE –" Martha stopped. "Oh god, sorry."
"It doesn't matter," she added. "They're yours. It's up to you."
Gwen glanced at the three men sitting at the table outside talking, and back at Martha. "Up to more than me. I have to talk to Jack."
Rami's safe house was, it turned out, his home; there were signs that he had a family that had vacated in a hurry to make room for the flood of armed Europeans with their boxes and mobile phones and satellite computer connections. The children's toys were disconcerting, and Gwen blanched every time she saw one. Jack felt a little weird about them himself, and angry at the situation they'd both been forced into. Dr Clarke was on his way to a UNIT holding cell, where Jack would certainly not be rescuing him, and Holly Mutterlich was going to be answering difficult questions for some time. Jeremy, Willow and the other staff would be investigated by their respective governments. That left no one for him to shout at. Almost no one.
Rope sandals made for unimpressive stomping so Jack opted for silence instead as he tracked Rami to the rickety pier that stuck out like a crooked finger into the water. He was kneeling in the middle of a half-disassembled shipboard motor, fingers grease-smeared, expression content as Hindi-synth pop blared over a portable radio. The sunset was gorgeous: pink and apricot and violet, and Jack was sick of it.
"Rami," he growled, watching the man jump. "I think I have a few questions before we wrap everything up."
"Ah, Jack," Rami turned with a graceful, rueful shrug, eyes guarded. "I thought I might see you one more time."
"Pity it can't be a nicer good-bye."
"I have beer," Rami tried a grin and patted the cooler at his feet. "Come on, my friend, drink with me. You've done a fine thing, lives are saved, the sun rises and sets as it should -"
"Because you lied!"
"I did not lie," Rami said, rearing back on his knees, then scrambling to his feet to face Jack, fists clenched and eyes dark with frustration. "I did not know, not for sure - only that death haunted that place and that the police would as soon shoot me as listen. Especially when it was just a few local girls," he finished bitterly. "Only when rich white tourists were turning up dead were there frowning faces instead of full bank accounts and blind eyes."
Jack ran his hands through his hair. "You could have told me."
Rami's expression hardened and the Lebanese spy he had once been peeked out, despite the tropical silk and the boat shoes. "I still know the faces of influence and power, Jack, and I saw them at Arcadia. I heard whispers of dealings with governments; Americans, China ... perhaps even the so-civilised Britain. The perfect people Arcadia was building were useful for more than gratifying the rich, is that not so? Is that not what your beautiful friend in the Task Force is discovering? The military applications?"
When we met," Rami told him, "you were working for MI6. I could not be sure who you worked for now."
"And by the time we parted," Jack shot back, "you knew it wasn't so simple."
"And so I called you, my old friend Jack," Rami replied. "Because things are not so simple."
Gwen had taken him aside, pale and grave, and told him about their embryos. Martha was going to be heading a UNIT task force to try and track down the Arcadian children scattered all over the world and monitor them, quietly, as they grew up. Government operatives were already circling like vultures as secrets started to leak about genetically-engineered soldiers. Rami was right; the Arcadian project been about much more than perfect children for the rich.
"No," Jack sighed, sinking down on a piling and taking one of the beers Rami offered. It was cheap, yellow American beer and bitter on the tongue. "Not simple at all."
Jack was still sitting on the dock, Rami long gone to wherever he'd tucked his family away. Martha and her team - along with Hart - were holed up in the cheapest hotel they could find, when Ianto found him. The steady pace of his trainers was a rhythm Jack knew well, echoing on the catwalks in the Hub, patient at his shoulder, turning up with coffee and a quip exactly when Jack needed it. In the long tropical twilight, his pale linen shorts gleamed and the brightly patterned silk shirt made him look exotic. The tired, vaguely horrified look on his face was familiar, though.
"You know we're missing the opportunity for some 007 role-play here," Jack said, making sure his smile was more than halfhearted. He lifted a beer up in offering. "I could wear the white bikini."
Ianto's brow quirked, and his mouth a moment later. "You certainly could." He took the beer, grimaced at the taste then knocked it back anyway. Jack watched the bob of his throat as he drank. "UNIT is coordinating with the Maldivian government, and a few others, to cover up the whole thing. Even the subjects won't know what happened."
Jack just shrugged. "Not their fault."
Ianto's scowled. "It seems like we should ... do something about them. It doesn't seem very wise to leave them running loose."
Them, Jack thought sourly and pushed himself to his feet. It was sickening to realize how ugly his own beginnings had been. It sure hadn't been in the history scans back when he was a kid. "They're not glowing beagles, Ianto."
Jack gave Ianto an weary look, whose eyes widened in sudden, dismayed realisation. "They're victims themselves."
"Jack - I - ," Ianto muttered as Jack stalked stiffly away. "Shit."
"This doesn't actually count as an employee holiday, does it?" Ianto deadpanned, plopping down on the wickerwork settee on Jack's other side. Jack scooted closer to Gwen to make room. The settee was a little small for three but he liked that. "Because I didn't get much sightseeing in."
"Corporate retreat," Jack replied, tensing then relaxing as Ianto gave him an apologetic glance. "But if you want, we could do a thing with zip lines and trust falls in the Beacons." Gwen groaned.
Ianto put his left leg up on the ottoman with a silent wince. "What do you think, Gwen? Should we bring Jack back to Cardiff with us tomorrow or just leave him here in paradise?"
"Oh, don't know. His tan would fade. It would be a pity."
"And he's genetically modified. It's like smuggling in a banned tomato," Ianto said. "Customs might stop us at the checkpoint: 'Very sorry, sir, but that Captain you're bringing in with you is too perfect'."
"That would be bad," Jack said softly, ducking his head. Too perfect. Too perfect because of ego and arrogance, living - now and forever - because of a mistake made with love, holding the line at Torchwood because of another man's suicidal fear. None of it his choice, from his genes to his destiny, but he still had to live with it. Ianto leaned closer, shoulder pressing warmly against Jack's.
"Do you really have enhanced pheromones? In your time?" Gwen asked. "I mean-" At a loss for words, she took another sip of her coffee to hide the flush of pink spreading across her cheeks.
Jack half-smiled, wondering unhappily if he was going to be getting questions like this all the time. Was Gwen going to think alien whenever she looked at him now? "Does it make a difference?"
"I think Jack's attractiveness is primarily non-genetic," Ianto declared, catching Gwen's eye with a complicated eyebrow bob that must be Welsh secret code because Jack had never been able to figure it out. "It's the coat."
"That's right," she nodded at Jack, playing along. "Total rubbish without it. Wouldn't give him a second glance on the street."
Ianto made a picture frame with his fingers and eyed Jack through it, leaning to the side. "Definitely not. I'm certain that before he obtained the coat he struck out constantly."
"Couldn't pull a piece of taffy," Gwen smiled. "No way."
"You're both absolutely... wrong," Jack said, sliding a hand over to give Ianto's good bare knee a squeeze, and tickling at the fine hairs above it with his fingers. He felt Ianto shiver against him and smiled smugly. His other hand tightened around Gwen's waist. They were still here with him, because they wanted to be here. "Look, I know what you're trying to do," he went on. "You think I'm having an existential crisis."
After a pause, Ianto replied. "I recognise the signs. I have them on a regular basis."
"Me too," Gwen admitted. "Generally when we get back to the Hub from wherever and..." she studied her mug. "...and the adrenaline's still pumping and I look around and realise we're okay. Not too different than right now, really."
"So we're all having one together," Ianto said. "Excellent."
Jack let his head loll back on the settee, and Gwen set down her mug. The night before trips, she'd always stay up and pack and repack, full of nervous energy, and end up napping on the plane or train, but tonight there was nothing to pack. Their weapons cache had been retrieved by UNIT from the resort, but they hadn't bothered with the clothes. In the morning she'd be wearing the sundress again to the airport in Malé; it was hanging up to dry while she lounged in someone's pink dressing gown - it probably belonged to Rami's wife or daughter.
She figured she'd stretch out on the cushions here once Jack and Ianto headed off to the bedroom. Maybe she'd do the kitchen washing-up as a prelude to winding down. They couldn't be as wired as she felt right now, even after her long, hot shower.
Ianto had leaned over and pulled Jack into a kiss, though, so perhaps they were. That's sweet, she thought. She'd scrub mugs and give them their privacy.
Gwen rose, clutching Jack's knee to steady herself. "'Night, lads," she said softly, but Ianto's hand crept over hers and kept her there, and she sank back down to the cushions, expecting a goodnight. She didn't anticipate the dance of his fingertips along her wrist and up her arm, or the look on his face when he pulled back. Jack turned, eyes unfocused and dark, and his touch traced the same path up Gwen's arm that Ianto's had. She shivered sharply, and Jack's lips parted - too perfect, like that imaginary tomato, and Gwen leaned in to kiss him. She meant just the one, one that was... friendly, one for the relief of knowing they'd all lived, one for victory. Just the one.
But Ianto pulled in a soft breath and Gwen could hear the pleasure in it as his hand tensed on her arm. Jack turned his head just so and his mouth gentled hers open. One kiss was another, then another, and she'd known it would be easy to kiss Jack. Everyone thought so. Still, Ianto was right there and Gwen made herself draw back. Jack's arm was warm around her waist and Ianto's hand was splayed over Jack's stomach. It was kind of startling to see Ianto there, close and flushed, with a look on his face that wasn't jealousy. It made Gwen blush hotly, very aware of the thin robe she wore and the way she could taste Jack in her mouth.
She could leave now and it would only be an awkward moment. Something they'd thought about and had realised wasn't wise, and laughed off later as the heady relief of being alive. She could close her eyes and pretend this wasn't quite real, but she looked at the vulnerable line of Jack's throat and couldn't bear to dismiss him like that. Ianto's fingers stroked the crook of her elbow gently, a subtle question. Jack, though, wasn't subtle at all.
"What happens in paradise stays in paradise?" he said huskily, lashes flickering briefly before he met her eyes again, letting her see the longing. "If you want..."
Gwen shook her head. "No," she said stubbornly. Jack and Ianto drew back like they'd been burned, Ianto stammering some anxious apology. She huffed a breath and leaned across to kiss Ianto swiftly - she'd never thought about doing that but, it was... nice. He must have learned some of Jack's easy warmth because kissing him was as lovely as kissing Jack. Jack was kind of breathing carefully, not daring to move and crammed between them on the settee. Gwen reached to lace her fingers over Ianto's where they rested on Jack's stomach. "I don't want to pretend this never happened, all right? You're my friends and I just - " She trailed off. Gwen just didn't want to miss any more chances; she regretted every day never making friends with Tosh, never really forgiving Owen for being an arse after their affair, until it was too late.
And there were so many things it was useless to regret, so many choices that weren't choices at all. So much everyone on earth, or beyond earth, was forced into or born into or expected to do or to be. Tonight, whatever happened was up to them.
Ianto ran a hand through his hair, offering the other, which she took. "Well then," he said softly, rising and pulling Gwen with him. "Coming?" he asked Jack with a lift of his brow. The settee creaked as Jack scrambled to his feet, and they made their way to the room with the queen-sized bed and shutters parted to the slant of moonlight. She slowed and stopped at the foot of the bed feeling her nerves jump again, gripping her biceps tightly as Ianto lit a hurricane lamp with a match and turned back the covers; trust him to do everything properly. Jack's arms enfolded hers and she felt his chest press solid against her back, his breath against her cheek. They swayed for a moment, almost dancing, and Jack slid his hands down her side to her hips. She felt a tug at the sloppy bow at the front of her gown, and his lips at the side of her neck before he traced a trail of kisses down to her bared collarbone, and Gwen sucked in a soft gasp. Ianto, already on the bed, kneeling, paused halfway down the line of buttons on his shirt, rapt.
While Jack eased the glossy pink fabric from her shoulders, Ianto met Gwen's eyes, and a minute quiver at the corner of her lips dared him to drop his gaze as the dressing gown rustled to the floor. He loved a challenge, so he didn't; he edged forward slowly, buttons and sore knee forgotten, until he reached them. She caught his shoulders with both hands, steadying him, and leaned forward, brushing her lips against his, deepening the kiss as her fingertips eased into the back of his hair, her touch feather-light. She pulled back and their foreheads touched, rushed breath mingling, and the bed dipped as Jack swung around Gwen and lay back, leaning on his elbows.
Her fingers danced to Ianto's buttons and she pushed his shirt off his shoulders. The challenging quirk of his brow dared her to look down. Gwen swept her palms along Ianto's chest and let her gaze follow. Muscle and a smattering of chest hair and a fresh bruise blooming on his rib. She had bruises now too, in various places, to balance out the buckshot scars in her side.
"You could have bitten those buttons off," Jack rasped, and Gwen threw her head back to laugh, cut off as Ianto's arms slipped around her back, pressing them together, and oh, that first smooth shocking slide of skin to skin - it was always one of the best things - always better than the first look.
Ianto's hands smoothed along the curve of her waist and Gwen kissed him again, trying to find her balance in this. Jack as the observer wasn't what she'd imagined (and she had imagined, since catching the two of them in the hothouse– who wouldn't?); it had always been Ianto watching in her mind, standing quietly to the side as he so often did. But the hungry press of his mouth wasn't passive; the calluses on his hands were from guns and hard work, and Gwen's breath was coming quick and ragged for him. A soft groan from Jack's direction made Gwen blush in a mix of arousal and embarrassment and break the kiss with Ianto with a gasp. Jack looked downright famished.
Gwen's fingertips traced the line of skin above Ianto's shorts and fumbled open the button and zip, and he shuddered as she slid a hand inside and cupped him through his pants, the tickle of her nails through the cotton a nearly-forgotten novelty. Jack was being Jack, impatiently yanking everything down from the side, and Ianto nearly lost his balance, twisting back on the bed and into Jack's grasp. He could feel Gwen's gaze, and her hand, gliding against his bare cock now, god, as Jack kissed him and - after that night she'd walked in on the two of them, Ianto had fantasised this, her, watching them. But she didn't look shocked or amused or discomfited now.
Jack's lips stuttered against his for a second - Gwen was undressing him bottoms-first, tugging the linen shorts free and off the bed. One hand on each of their thighs, she eased herself up then hesitated, unsure, before leaning towards Ianto and dipping her head, capturing the heavy hard length of his cock with her right hand and the tip with her mouth. Ianto watched it disappear and flash again behind her fringe, savoured the silken heat as she licked her way down the shaft. Jack made a guttural sound and reached upward to capture a breast, strum the edge of his thumb against a nipple, and Ianto watched Gwen's eyelids flutter closed.
Jack's hands didn't stop there, slipping along Gwen's throat as Ianto felt her swallow around him, then cupping her cheek. Dark strands of hair were caught in his fingers as he stroked the wet purse of her lips while she slid along Ianto's cock. He pressed gently and Gwen opened her mouth wider, tongue pink and wet against his shaft. Ianto groaned, cock twitching as she sucked Jack's thumb, and his cock, and Jack's hand worked him slowly to the slide of her mouth. Jack was panting against Ianto's neck. Ianto held out as long as he could then had to push, flexing his hips, thrusting, head lolling back against Jack's shoulder. The pleasure pulling through him was so good. Gwen coughed and pulled back, pressing kisses on the head of his cock as Jack rubbed it against her lips.
Ianto reached back to where Jack's stiff cock was pressed conveniently to his hip, tugging gently and smiling at the hitch in Jack's breathing. Gwen was kissing Jack's fingers, tongue flicking as she looked up at them through her tumbled fringe. When he coaxed Jack forward, not that he needed much coaxing, Gwen leaned in to lick at his cock while Ianto cupped her cheek to feel them together. The slow bob of her head was hypnotic, but Ianto's knee was killing him. He lay back on the bed with a groan, listening to it creak as Jack and Gwen sprawled out beside him. They kissed across his body, Gwen's hair brushing his chest and Jack's fingers tickling along his belly on their way to the sway of Gwen's breasts above him. Creamy pale in the soft lamplight, Gwen was irresistible and Ianto pushed up on an elbow to nuzzle the soft curve to the dark, hard nipple. Gwen moaned, muffled, and Jack hmm'd, stroking Ianto's hair.
"He's very good with his mouth," Jack assured Gwen and Ianto blushed with pleasure. Gwen's hand crept down to cup his head, pressing him just where he was.
It was enough, for a while, to lay together on the bed and learn how well they fit together. Ianto was determined not to ask questions, not to think ahead. He had known for a long time that should Gwen and Jack find their way to each other, he would have to live with that. This was... more than that, and less. There was no sign from either of them that Ianto was unwanted, and he was a little ashamed that he'd assumed he would be. He could only return that gift and want them both back, fiercely.
There was something amazing about watching Ianto's face while Gwen had her hand around his cock and Jack was licking... well, he'd been licking Ianto's balls (and Gwen's fingers and the suck of his mouth had made her ache with hunger) and now he was licking further down. Ianto was making high pitched sounds, his cock leaking pre-come over her fingers, and Gwen leaned over to kiss him, stealing those moans right out of his mouth. Jack nudged his shoulder between her legs and licked a slow stripe up her thigh.
"Oh, god," Gwen gasped, opening her eyes to see Ianto watching her with the same intent hunger she felt. She drew a knee up, curling her toes against Jack's warm side and felt him slither up between the two of them.
Jack buried his face between her thighs, the tips of his dark hair leaving spiky shadows on her skin in the glow from the oil lamp. Ianto moved behind him, doing something distracting that made Jack pant and tighten his deathgrip on her hips. Gwen dragged her eyes up to Ianto, who looked as if he was concentrating on a critical chess move. And then Gwen couldn't look at them anymore; it was too much. She screwed her eyes shut and arched her back - Jack's fingers were everywhere his tongue wasn't, and she couldn't bite back a strangled shriek.
"Stop showing off," Ianto murmured at Jack's shoulder, and Gwen moaned.
"No, don't. Please," she pleaded pointlessly, because of course he wouldn't, but he did. She felt the scrape of Jack's legs inside of hers and the dip of the mattress as Ianto fell beside her. His arm stole behind her shoulders and she turned her face blindly to kiss him slow and deep. Jack leaned back and tore open a condom wrapper with his teeth, spitting out the foil, showing off. Then he was touching her again, canting up on one elbow, trailing kisses up her mons to her navel. Jack extended his hand to Ianto.
"Taste her," he urged, brokenly, and Gwen watched as he did; she was still watching Ianto's face when Jack gripped her hips again and yanked, demanding her full attention. Oh. He began slowly, pushing inside her, eyes dark and focused, moving like hot treacle, and she wasn't sure for whose benefit that was -- she was so close he could have gone zero-to-sixty in five seconds and she wouldn't have minded, but clearly he was making it last. Making it memorable. Ianto's hand stole between them, his thumb making quick, practised circles against her clit, and she gasped and gripped his wrist, her other hand stealing up around Jack's neck. Ianto stretched to kiss him just above her, and they were... lovely. Memorable? No. Unforgettable.
She smoothed her palms over Jack's chest and tracked them down his sides, pulling him deeper, encouraging him to move faster, and he slid his hands up to the backs of her knees and shifted her quivering legs up and obliged, every hard, sharp, fast thrust knocking her maddeningly closer to the edge, until he'd slow again. Gwen dug her nails into his thighs and he laughed, speeding up again and finally, finally... she felt everything build and go bright-hot, a snap of ecstasy tearing rough cries from her as Jack kept going, not smooth and gentle now as she tightened around him and he followed her down, breathing ragged and eyes wild. He slowed then, and teased her with a few shallow thrusts, before she leaned up to capture his face in both hands and kiss him.
Gwen felt Jack's breath change again, and he made a valiant effort not to crush her as he released her knees and fell forward, catching himself on his hands as Ianto pressed behind him. Gwen realised she had legs again, and that they were a bit sore, but she really didn't care; she reached blindly past Jack's hips and felt Ianto there, then moved her fingers up to Jack's waist and entwined them with Ianto's, both of them holding Jack in place.
Jack was cradled between Gwen's thighs, sweat gleaming on his back and the flex of his hips presented his arse so beautifully that Ianto saw no reason at all why he shouldn't take advantage of it. He steadied Jack with one hand, Gwen's touch joining him, and pressed himself into the familiar heat of Jack's body. He took more care than usual, very aware of Gwen beneath them both and the strain in Jack's arms as he held himself up. Ianto shoved a little and Jack moaned, shuddering. Ianto pressed kisses to the nape of his neck and squeezed his eyes shut. "Beautiful," he panted, "Beautiful, beautiful." They were. They all were.
Jack was safe between them, for one moment, both of them holding him close. Ianto shifted his knees, biting his lip at the ache in his sprained one, rocking coaxingly. Jack moaned, tremulous and shaking, and Gwen's hands stole around his shoulders to pull him down ... closer ... in.
"That's right sweetheart," she murmured, cheeks flushed pink and her dark hair spread across the borrowed pillows. "We've got you."
Jack buried his face against Gwen's neck and spread his thighs as much as he could in the tangle of their bodies, groaning softly every time Ianto pushed into him. Ianto set the pace, deliberate and steady, Jack's hips rose and fell in time with his and Gwen moaned low in her throat. Flushing with pleasure because he felt like he was fucking both of them, Ianto met Gwen's wide eyes and smiled. It was stunningly intimate, taking Jack with Gwen there, taking Jack and knowing she could feel every twitch of Jack's cock, every gasp he made, that Ianto felt it when Gwen clenched around Jack and Jack tensed around him in turn. It should have been more awkward than it was, but maybe it was just another of Jack's talents, like taking something that should have made Ianto feel jealous and insecure and making it stunningly perfect instead.
Gwen's nails scratched sharply down Ianto's wrist and he shouted hoarsely, the sensation sparking bright along his nerves, then he was coming, unable to hold back. Jack made some incoherent, encouraging noises and the three of them surged together for a moment, Gwen panting breathlessly beneath them before Jack managed to lever himself up on an elbow and give her some breathing room. Ianto slumped against Jack's back, before rolling off with a grunt, bonelessly relaxed. His knee throbbed dully, but Ianto felt too good to care.
"Wow." Gwen lay back, a hand over her eyes. "That... just..." She'd lost her speech, but that was all right. There wasn't anything left unsaid, not through words or sounds or touch.
"What a long, strange trip it's been," Ianto breathed as Jack shimmied up the centre of the bed to capture the fluffiest pillow. "To completely beat an already oft-abused line with a brickbat."
"Oh, I don't know," Jack smiled beatifically, closing his eyes. "You should have seen Butlins back in the seventies."
Gwen slipped out of the bed and Jack grunted at the vague chill and rolled closer to Ianto. He was already starting to snore; Ianto took his sleep where he could get it and wasn't much for post-sex snuggling. Jack rested his chin on Ianto's shoulder and pretended the horrible noise was some alien, therefore intriguing, music. Space whales, maybe. He could hear Gwen puttering around but Jack was too relaxed and sated to even open his eyes to see what she was doing.
"Fuck, does he snore like that all the time?" Gwen climbed back into the bed with a glass of water for the bedside table. "I'm going to have to go sleep on a different island."
Jack yawned, reaching back to tug Gwen closer and smiling contentedly as she slid an arm around his waist. "He'll stop in a few," he said and, as if on cue, Ianto hitched in a breath, rolled over, and quieted down. "You don't need to go anywhere, see?"
Gwen spooned against him and kissed the back of his neck while Jack curled a hand around the angle of Ianto's hip, smiling as Ianto mumbled sleepily. The sound of the night beyond the bedroom was gentle, tomorrow was later, and Jack lay skin-to-skin with the people he loved. He was exactly where he wanted to be.
After the fighting and running and guns and explosions and revelations and everything else, the faint, calm rhythm of pitch-black waves lapping at the beach was surreal, as if someone had simply turned off the television before bed. As if nothing had happened on these islands today. In a few hours the sun would rise and people would eat breakfast and deliver parcels and open their shops; the posh guests at Arcadia would still be loudly complaining about their ruined holiday, and Torchwood would be on its way back home.
"He would never understand," Gwen said as Ianto joined her, his fingers playing lightly along the deck's damp railing, and he knew she wasn't talking about what they'd just done together, though that was part of it. "It's not that I can't tell him most things, but if Rhys really knew what it's like, and he thinks he does but he can't…" She drew a deep breath.
"I can't leave it behind, Ianto. If I had any sense at all I'd get out, but I need it. And I always will."
Ianto leaned into the railing, facing the ocean. Even the ocean smelled different here, not at all like the Bay. "I know. With everything we've seen…" He flashed to Jack. And Lisa. "And I never, ever thought of quitting. Not for more than a second."
"It's not the same for you though, is it?" Gwen asked. "Your sense of duty, it's to him."
Ianto squinted at the faint lines of white surf, streaming into shore like echoes, and didn't know what to say, except that he didn't have to say anything, because it was true.
"You and Jack." Gwen continued quietly, "Tonight. All of this. I hope it doesn't-"
"It won't." Ianto said, reaching over to rest his hand on her arm. The feel of her skin was subtly more now, he knew her heat flush when she was aroused, the taste of her when she came, and those were memories to keep close, even if it never happened again. "You're my best friend. And you're beautiful. And I wanted to. How many times do we get to do what we want in Torchwood?"
He watched Gwen's profile for a moment before nudging her arm. "Come on. Let's get some sleep. We've got an early flight."
By dawn, it was settled that John Hart would join Martha in Sri Lanka for follow-up, and then tag along back to the UK and UNIT HQ; he knew more than any of them, thanks to the purloined files. Jack also had faith that Martha would be able to keep an eye on Hart, so he wouldn't wander off with the UNIT silverware, or the codes for someone's nuclear armament.
"You can work under Mickey," Martha decided, giving Hart a suspicious once over, and he winked back. Even in jeans and a pastel madras shirt, he had swagger; definitely not the sort of bloke you'd bring home to mother.
"Oh, now that sounds intriguing. Is he gorgeous?" Hart asked hopefully, and Martha gave an exasperated snort as Jack laughed.
"Very." He offered Martha his most innocent expression. "What?"
"Well, I just hope he can be trusted," Hart said, without a hint of irony. Jack gave him a warning look as Ianto's jaw set with anger. Jack hadn't actually forgiven Hart for all that he'd done but he could forget it; they had a history, after all, and history is a complicated thing. Ianto, though, wasn't the sort to forget.
"Our chopper's here," Martha pointed out, kicking off a round of parting embraces.
"Too bad we have to fly," Hart muttered. "Bloody slow progress on realising the reverberations of the Fourier Transform." He shook his head at Gwen and Ianto's blank expressions. "Don't you tell them anything?"
Jack cut in: "It's a Time Agency history lesson. Proton teleportation was developed in 1997."
Ianto and Gwen traded a sceptical look.
"Along with the ability to transport yourself anywhere or food to the starving, you could also in theory transport the food away from your enemy's troops or all the world's gold into your own private vault. That couldn't happen, clearly," Hart explained. "Although..."
Jack nodded. "There's a reason you haven't heard of it and have to commute to work in a Ford Sierra and spend hours on connecting flights."
"It figures," Ianto whispered to Gwen. "Born too soon." She rested her head on his shoulder and shut her eyes as Martha and Hart dashed towards the waiting helicopter.
Explosion, Fire at Exclusive Couples Resort
Six administrators are missing and presumed dead following a massive explosion at a posh honeymoon destination in the Maldives popular with European jetsetters.
Damages are still being assessed at Arcadia, but local authorities have said faulty wiring was to blame for the incident on the privately-owned island.
Captains of industry, the super-rich, and other luminaries made up the resort's clientele; Arcadia was also colloquially known as "the baby farm," after a smattering of celebrity births followed reports of holidays at the luxury spot.
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17 months later, Gwen Cooper gave birth to a baby girl called Anwen. Her father, genetic and otherwise, and very proud, was Rhys Williams. Her godparents were Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones.
428 years later, identical twin boys were born to a pioneer couple on a quiet outpost on Gliese 581 h (222 light years away from Boeshane, which had yet to be discovered.) They had dark hair, piercing blue eyes and tiny gaps in their smiles. They grew up loving rock-climbing, dancing, and getting into a lot of trouble.
Their mothers loved them very much.