Friday morning. For most of the world it was TGIF, but Gwen had learned quickly that Torchwood was even worse than the police force for keeping normal hours. She'd been called away from a date with Rhys even before her scheduled first day, after all. At least it was one of Cardiff's rare sunny autumn days, she noted, climbing out of her car - not that that would mean much if they stayed in the Hub all day. She'd have to try and get everyone out for lunch, she decided. Surely keeping the team human covered making sure they saw the sun once in a while. She wasn't sure how Jack managed, living in the Hub like he did. No wonder he was so distanced from reality.
Not far ahead of her she spotted Toshiko and Ianto, and sped her pace to catch up. It looked like they'd come in together, and that was interesting, wasn't it? As was the way Toshiko was hanging off his arm, and the fact that they both had damp hair, and Ianto... wasn't wearing a suit. She wasn't sure she'd seen him out of a suit before, excepting medical scrubs, and she had to admit that the snug long sleeved tee and even snugger jeans were a good look for him. It also reminded her how young he was.
"Morning!" she greeted them brightly, deciding not to comment on their appearance. As long as they were happy. Though it might be an idea to invite them for dinner sometime if this wasn't just a once-off. Get them a bit more connected to the world outside Torchwood. Ianto especially - things had to be hard for him still. "Pity to spend a day like this inside, isn't it?"
"It's just doing it to spite me," Ianto complained, making her take another look at his - borrowed - sunglasses and rumpled demeanour. Hangover, she decided, and swung her purse around so she could rummage out some paracetamol.
"Here. Good cup of coffee and you'll be right."
"Thanks." He had to juggle his things for a moment to get his keys in the right hand - and that was an awful lot of keys; he must have been able to open most of the Hub with those - as they came down onto the path to their little tourist office. There was a brown paper wrapped parcel waiting for them, and Tosh bent to lift it up as Ianto let them in, collecting the more traditional envelopes that had been pushed through the mail slot. "Who's that for?" he asked her, rifling speedily through the envelopes and separating out three to leave on the counter - presumably actually addressed to the tourist office.
"Jack. I think there's sample containers in it."
Ianto shrugged tiredly, slapping the button to open the secret door. Gwen still felt a little thrill as the wall moved away, the smaller cousin of the way she'd felt the first time Toshiko had let her in this way, when she hadn't even known what Torchwood was or what she'd find below.
"Good morning, sunshines!" Jack bellowed as they entered, the door alarms blaring loudly. Ianto winced at the noise.
"Don't talk to me yet." He pushed the mail into Jack's hand, heading to the kitchenette, and Jack shot her a conspiratorial grin when he saw she'd noticed.
"Remind me to ask Ianto what it would take to get him to wear those jeans for me," he told her, not bothering to lower his voice so that the sound carried across the open space.
"Dinner at the very least!" he called back, and all three of them laughed.
Ianto managed to swallow down an entire glass of water as the coffee machine worked its magic; now that they were out of the sun the ache in his brain was receding, though the electrical hum of the computers was more annoying than usual. At least Tosh's couch had been fairly comfortable, soft and squashy, though admittedly he'd been at that stage of tipsy where he probably would have found the carpet soothing.
Since Owen hadn't arrived and he wasn't even in his suit yet, he didn't bother pouring coffee for everyone. At least Jack took it black, so he filled both their mugs, carrying them out and passing Jack's to him on his way across the Hub. "Coffee's up," he announced, as though the smell and presence of his drink weren't clue enough.
It was almost funny how Gwen and Tosh both turned to make a beeline for the kitchen. He was about to continue to his quarters when Jack's hand on his arm made him pause. "Have fun before the hangover hit?" he asked, lips quirking slightly.
"You don't have to check up on me." There was a brief silence as he considered how petulant that might sound, and then he inclined his head in apology and agreement. "We came third. The sports round was a bust, there was only one on rugby."
"Pity they don't have an alien tech section." The lip-quirk became a grin that disappeared below the rim of Jack's mug, his hand dropping as he turned towards his office. Work to do.
By his count, it would take him six minutes to get to his room, change and wash his face. The cool water would help, and he'd probably still be back before Owen got in.
When he got back to the upper Hub he was met by one of Jack's more blinding grins, the kind that left him slightly dazzled and sort of wishing he hadn't handed Tosh her sunglasses back. "Hey Ianto! Come see my package!"
The innuendo was too obvious not to be intentional. "I'm sure that's entirely inappropriate," he said in his best 'sir is pleased to be very amusing' voice, prim and verging the tiniest bit on shocked. Honestly he didn't even remember, aside from a throwaway job summary uttered in desperation in a nearly-empty warehouse, where the butler persona had come from, only that Jack had seemed to like the suits and somehow over those first weeks when he'd worked here he'd seemed to... fall into it. And that it had been fun. He remembered that. Even now when they'd done all manner of explicit things to one another there was a certain thrill in the roleplay and the back-and-forth of the flirt. He clasped his hands behind his back now to complete the image, but did walk over, as Jack indeed was carefully removing the paper from the parcel Tosh had brought in. It was wrapped around a plain box, and the contents shifted audibly as Jack turned it. It did sound rather like containers.
Slicing open the tape with a pocket knife, Jack flipped the top flaps open and reached in to pull out... glass tupperware? "We seem to have been sent someone's leftovers," he observed, tilting his head to try for a better angle to peer through the glass. Whatever it was was packed tightly enough that it wasn't entirely clear what it was. He looked back up at Jack questioningly. "Shepherd's pie for dinner, then?"
"Think I'm taking you out, actually. At the very least." He winked, reaching back into the box to pull out two more containers. "Archie said he was sending these four months ago. Nothing important, Owen just wanted a look for the record."
Ianto paused in reaching for one for a closer look, partly idly curious and partly just enjoying the banter. He hadn't switched over to work mode yet, really, and would have been perfectly happy with a nice long lie in. "That's Tosh, you and Rhiannon. Three days in a row, I'm going to forget what this place looks like."
"If you're going to stay here you need to get out sometimes. Both of us," he amended quickly.
"I like it here. The commute's fantastic." He gave Jack a somewhat placid look and was met with a grin at the quip. Jack, he suspected, might think that a lot of the reason had to do with him, and while he was part of it, it was more just that the Hub made Ianto feel safe. He didn't know how to explain it, not really, but it was sort of as though they were nestled away secure in their own little world. Maybe it was just that the base was so different from Torchwood Tower, or that not as many truly awful things had happened here. Lisa's death, yes, but he was beginning to think maybe he really couldn't have ever saved her, even if he had gotten hold of the cybernetics expert he'd been tracking down.
It occurred to him, on some level, that Jack might know the right thing to say to make him stop wondering. Hard to say, really. After all, all the information he'd found already said there was no way to reverse it, and all Jack could do was either repeat that in a self-assured manner... or tell him the information was wrong and he'd just failed. It was probably for the best that he couldn't open that particular can of worms. Not without admitting why he'd been so desperate for a job.
He ignored the faintly disquieting twist in his gut at that, hearing the phone start to ring and stacking the containers into a neat pile as Jack turned away and began bounding up the steps to his office. There really was no other way to describe the action, and he hid a small smile, absently dismantling the box ready for the rubbish.
His morning routine was barely started when Jack came back out of his office, looking rather more serious than when he'd gone in. "Owen in yet?" His voice echoed through the space of the Hub, and Ianto mused that it really couldn't have been a coincidence that the acoustics were so good in that spot, the very entrance to Jack's domain.
"I can see him on CCTV," Toshiko replied. "Just went into the tourist office."
"Great. Ianto, is the SUV equipped?"
"All the basic tools, sir," he confirmed. "Anything else you want me to get out?"
"Nah, should be fine." Jack ducked back into his office long enough to grab his coat before starting down the stairs; smoothly, Ianto took it from him to help him into it as the entrance alarms went off, the cog door rolling back to allow their errant medic entrance. "Owen! We've got a crime scene. You, Gwen, Ianto, with me."
That was new. He shared a quick glance with Tosh before falling in behind Jack to follow him to the garage. Well, at least with a crime scene he was getting low-risk field experience, he supposed. He just hoped his spare sunglasses were still in the glovebox.
The bedroom stank of blood and piss, and Owen glanced across at Jones. He didn't know why Jack had brought him, and he definitely didn't want to have to deal if he had some kind of post-traumatic breakdown.
Then he saw the scene, and stopped thinking about Ianto's mental state. "Woah."
No wonder the smell was so bad. There was a lot of blood, splattered across rucked up blankets and staining sheets and nightclothes. Slashes to the throat - straight lines, clean cuts, he noted, and facial expressions indicated that death had been quick. The man still had his eyes closed - the killer probably went for him first, eliminate the biggest threat.
Hardly the most worrying thing though. A large framed photo had been knocked off the wall over their bed, creating a blank space that the killer had used to leave a message. In its victims' blood.
"Looks like someone's trying to get your attention," commented the policewoman who'd led them in.
Jack nodded tersely. "They've got it." He glanced around the room, quickly, darting from one thing to the next though he seemed to absorb every detail. Then again, Owen reckoned they all thought Jack had a lot more godlike powers than he really did. Half of what he did was showmanism, smoke and mirrors. Their gaze met for a moment and Owen could practically feel their boss' unease. Didn't blame him either. There was nothing good that could come of this shit. Finally Jack turned back to the copper. "Have you got anything else?"
"We found a few of the killer's hairs from the first murder," she replied. "The results should be in soon." He took note of that - no doubt they'd take their own conclusions from it, but they didn't know what they might be looking at.
"Good, we'll need that. Now, if you could just clear the room? Some of this
equipment is strictly need to know."
That sorted, Owen turned back to where Gwen was unpacking one of the scanners, just in time to see Ianto start. He'd been staring at the bodies with that weird blank look on his face that he got when he was wandering round the Hub fetching things, and Owen shook his head a little. You didn't get someone out of Canary Wharf, let them kill themselves, then just bring them back to life and put them to work.
"Actually, Detective, do you think you could show me the living area? If I can get an idea of what these people were like I might be able to link them to one of our previous case files."
There was a pregnant pause, then she sighed. "Fine. Come on."
Owen waited til they were out of the room before shrugging, grabbing the latex gloves that Gwen held up for him to start pulling them on. "Still, at least we've got a head start. If it's someone we've pissed off, that narrows it down to, oh, four or five million."
"And that's just the humans," Jack agreed. He moved to the other side of the bed and started looking through the contents of one of the nightstands, either looking for evidence or just out of curiosity. It was hard to tell sometimes.
Gloves on, Owen looked back at the bodies and sighed. He liked it better when they were aliens.
They'd only had about ten minutes in the bedroom before Detective Swanson stuck her head back through the door. "DNA results on the hair are in if you want to see them." She sounded more cheerful than when she'd left, and Jack held back a grin - he was pretty sure she'd been about to give him a bollicksing before Ianto had spoken up, and apparently that good old Welsh charm had done its work well.
"Think we're about done here anyway," Owen said, tugging his gloves off with a grimace. He reached out to grab the file as Ianto slipped in the doorway carrying a cardboard carton, and Jack gave him a mildly curious look before moving to look over Owen's shoulder. DNA first, personal effects later.
"Initial findings say, Caucasian male, early 40s, smoker, drinks tequila," Swanson recited as Owen read. "Doesn't match any DNA profiles. Only thing of interest is a compound we've never seen before. Recognize it?"
Jack saw the code at the same time as Owen. The doctor groaned, looking up. "Oh, we're in trouble. Compound B67."
"Retcon," Jack agreed grimly. He did a quick check of the room - Gwen was packing up the last of their equipment, while Ianto had shifted the carton to rest on one hip, PDA out in the other hand. "I think we're done here. We need to get this back to the Hub."
Confident that he'd be followed, he strode past Swanson and out of the house. The rest of this could be dealt with by the police. Too many trivial details that had nothing to do with them - this was why he left clean ups to people like Toshiko and Ianto. He was much better at the big picture. Speaking of Ianto - he spared a glance for him as they walked, noticing that they'd somehow fallen into a pretty decent line formation. Suitably dramatic exit, he thought. "Ianto, did you run those names?"
"Yep. No sign of any of the three victims in our databases and no apparent link between them. Sara Briscoe did run what looks like a debate society though, so I thought, if we're looking for a connection... there's a lot of papers and some photos in here."
"Nice work. Get Gwen to help you when we're back at the Hub." He yanked the driver's door open and swung into the seat, coat flying out behind him so that he had to pull it in to keep it from being slammed in the door.
"Seatbelt," Ianto reminded him in a low voice from the passenger side, and Jack rolled his eyes, but obeyed. Not like they were going to get ticketed.
In the backseat, Gwen gave an over-exaggerated sigh. "More bloody police-work! Thought you were going to get me away from all that."
He laughed as he gunned the engine and backed out of their impromptu parking space. "Aliens have paperwork too."
"Pity we can't just bring them back and ask them, really."
Owen snorted. "Yeah, coz that worked so well last time."
A quick check confirmed that Ianto's expression was still light and amused, and Jack relaxed fractionally. "I thought so," he agreed. "Not a chance though. The resurrection days are over."
"I wouldn't know about that." Ianto braced himself against the dashboard as they came up to a red light, pausing to glare at Jack for his hasty braking. "That's the thing about gloves, after all. They come in pairs."
His tone of voice was clearly teasing, but Jack couldn't help but feel a faint chill at his words. Something niggled at the back of his mind, some story he'd heard once maybe, something said by a little girl, and as the others continued to joke and banter he fell silent. The team had no reason to think the other glove was anywhere near Cardiff, though, and that was the way he intended to keep it. Ianto was a lucky fluke - those things gave people too much power and that was never a good thing. Best to stick to police-work, no matter how tedious it was.
There was something about Ianto that sometimes made Gwen feel about thirteen years old - not in the giddy, giggly way that Jack could pull out of her, but the awkwardness that seemed to be a neverending torment of the teenage years. Even knowing he was hungover (and once she knew to look, she could see the drawn look of someone suffering a headache, though it did seem to be fading), she felt too casual in her mostly-practical clothing, a little bit inept every time he had to remind her of some protocol, and never entirely sure what to say to him. There often seemed to be too many touchy subjects for idle conversation, something that was not entirely restricted to Ianto, but which she felt more strongly with him.
Putting aside another page of notes that had turned out to be fruitless, she flicked her gaze up to glance at him across the conference room table. They had already gathered there to fill Tosh in and discuss the implications of their findings, and while Jack had been hardly reassuring when she'd remembered her own brush with retcon, she had at least had time to justify it to herself. It had only been one dose, after all. "So," she said, trying a smile on. "Is this the sort of thing you did in London?"
"Research and Development. Mostly collating findings and cross-referencing similarities between projects." He held up a photo, twisting it to see it from another angle before tossing it aside. "A lot of the staff didn't even know about aliens. No point if you just work in HR."
The idea of Torchwood, their Torchwood, with an HR department was sort of laughable. They hardly seemed capable of anything close to that much organisation - but they were also a team of five, not the eight hundred or so that she'd learned London was able to boast. She wasn't even sure what sort of work they'd do with eight hundred people, and if almost all of them were dead now, it was likely not many other people knew either. "Must have been quite a change, coming here."
A brief flicker of something crossed his face, and she wondered if this was another of those things she shouldn't talk about. But it had been a few months now, and surely it would do him some good to talk, if he wanted to. It wasn't as though they offered much opportunity for it. "It's certainly more relaxed," he replied after a moment, lips quirked into something of a teasing smile. "We had remarkably fewer prehistoric animals in London, too. Which is a point in..."
He trailed off, reaching for a photo that had just been partially uncovered, and Gwen left a finger holding her place as she gazed at him curiously. He didn't continue though, instead pushing his chair back suddenly and rising to walk out of the room, Gwen hastening to follow.
Jack was leaning against Toshiko's desk, and he looked up at the sound of Ianto's voice. "Found something?"
"Our connection. Notice something familiar about this photo?" He moved down the stairs towards the main floor until he was low enough for Jack to reach up to take it. He only studied the picture for a moment before Gwen saw his eyes widen slightly and he whipped his head up to stare at Ianto.
Jack frowned at the picture for a moment longer, then shoved it back towards Ianto. "Got to go out. No one do anything until I get back."
This was a bad idea, Jack thought as he steered the SUV through the Cardiff streets, afternoon sun angling down through the windshield and necessitating both sunglasses and the lowering of the visor. Restless and antsy, he reached to turn the stereo on, grimacing a little when one of Ianto's blippy electro pop dance funk CDs started, and flicked it off again.
Awful idea, he amended, swerving into a parking space and getting out of the car, pushing his way inside past bouncers and other patrons. The girl was waiting for him, and one day he'd figure out how she always knew. Her longevity, whatever variety it may have been, had brought wisdom - his had mostly brought sex and misjudgements.
Sitting, he tried to contain his impatience as she laid out cards, racing to interpret them before her even though he knew it was useless. "They hid it in a church?" he guessed, and she shook her head.
"No. When the people found out what it could do, they built the church on top of it."
That was all he needed. He knew where the church was - once you'd been in Cardiff as long as he had, you found you picked up a lot of the city's secrets, and contrary to what the team might have thought, a hell of a lot of them he let lie. He'd gotten halfway across the room before her voice, soft as always but somehow strong enough to carry, caught him. "If I told you not to use it, would you listen?"
He wanted to say yes, badly. Another day he probably would have, except that another day he wouldn't have come this far. He remembered the Briscoe's bedroom, the amount of blood they'd had to lose to create the macabre message on the wall and how much more had been spilled on the sheets. Somehow, this was connected to them. To Suzie. And that meant it was his responsibility.
"Shouldn't you already know the answer to that?" he tossed back over his shoulder - bad psychic joke, 'you've reached the psychic hotline, wrong number', har har - and left.
"What the hell, Jack?"
The lift wasn't even halfway down when Owen leapt to his feet, startling Toshiko. True to Jack's demand (for she had no illusions that it was anything but - he was a good man, but patience was not always something that came easily) they had all been sitting, waiting, doing nothing for most of the time that he had been gone. Every so often one of them would speak, but the bursts of conversation were short and stilted.
Now they all moved towards him: Owen and Gwen just behind him, with Ianto moving slower and Toshiko herself bringing up the rear. They were like ducklings, she mused wryly, or perhaps puppies who'd just realised that their master was on the front doorstep.
When the paving stone was close enough to the ground Jack jumped off it, no tbothering to wait. He was carrying a heavy-looking box, and as he shook off their questions and moved past them they turned as one to follow him to his office.
She had a strange feeling about this, and not necessarily a good one, either.
Jack had his back to them as he set the box down on his desk and opened it, pausing before reaching in to pull out the object inside almost... reverently. She could see the glint of metal reflected in the glass walls and something began to twist in the bottom of her stomach.
Then he turned around and there, an end held in each hand, was the glove. No-- not the same one. The first one had been for the right hand, this was for the left. "Oh my god," she breathed.
"No way." That was Ianto, and she shifted closer to him in solidarity, barely glancing at him before staring back at Jack. Her mouth was open slightly, almost an o, which felt silly when she realised. "Jack--"
"Jack, you can't!" Gwen's objection was mirrored by Owen, which left the four of them, for once, standing in agreement, Jack facing them. He looked around at them, gaze lingering on Ianto a moment longer than the others, and Tosh shifted uncomfortably. The moment was much tenser than she liked, though at least it was more tension at the situation rather than each other. Which, considering the make up of the team, was almost an improvement on most days.
"Look, I don't like it either, but you saw that picture. We have a killer with retcon in his blood and victims who ran a debate society that Suzie visited. Unless someone can think of another way?"
Toshiko knew that there were no online records of the group - she'd already run all the searches she could think of, but it seemed that Sara had never bothered with a website. There were still businesses that were completely offline, she knew, but it was a little off-putting. Hard to remember if she'd felt like that when she worked in the Ministry of Defense. It might have just been a result of how entrenched in technology they were here. It certainly meant, though, that she had no way of coming up with a membership roster, and as she tried to meet Ianto's eye and instead found Gwen's, it was obvious that they hadn't found any real list in the hard copy, either.
But after Suzie, who had never been her best friend but who she'd liked for most of the time they'd worked together, and after everything that had happened to Ianto, she couldn't help the almost visceral reaction she had to the thing. There was just something wrong about it. "Maybe we should think about this," she tried, disliking how there seemed to be a note of pleading in her voice but unable to change it.
The important thing was that Jack paused, though instead of her he was studying Ianto, gauging his expression or emotional state or something that only Jack was ever aware of. Finally he jerked a nod. "Take two hours," he said, making it nothing less than an order. "Get something to eat. We'll discuss our options when we get back."
He set the glove down on his desk with a clank, jointed fingers pointing perversely upwards, and walked out of the room. Ianto made to follow, and Tosh halted him with a hand on the arm. "Are you alright?" she asked quietly.
"Yeah." His smile was tight and didn't quite reach his eyes, but a moment later he softened a little, enough for her to recognise that he was at least making an effort. "Thanks."
"We will sort this out." She hoped she sounded more confident than she felt, and tried to remind herself that their track record on overcoming dangerous odds was a good one. This only felt bad. Giving him a more genuine smile than he'd been able to manage, she leaned up to press a kiss to his cheek before letting him go. No doubt he and Jack had a lot to talk about.
Ianto caught up to Jack in the kitchenette, staring blankly at the contents of one of the cupboards. As he recalled, it was the one containing canned food, a toaster and bread and butter plates, which led him to believe that Jack was not actually particularly interested in what he was looking at. "They put the food inside the can and seal it," he told him seriously. "It makes it last longer."
"Funny." Caught out, he swung the door closed and turned, one hip against the edge of the counter in a manner that drew the eye to the angle of his long legs. Normally he was a man of big gestures, waving his hands wildly when he spoke and using his whole body to smile, but now the expression on his face was... muted, somehow.
"I like to think so," Ianto agreed. Behind him, he could hear the others talking amongst themselves, more Owen and Gwen than Tosh, about the glove and Jack and whether they should go get an early dinner somewhere. He hoped they did; this was really a conversation he wanted to have alone, even not knowing where it was going to go. Or probably because of that. It could as easily be a heart to heart as a shouting match, and neither were something he particularly wanted an audience for. Sighing, he reached out to hook a finger into Jack's belt - not pulling him closer, just letting it rest there in a silent communication of solidarity even through disagreement. "Are you sure this is a good idea?"
"Not really. I don't know if we have much choice, though." His gaze moved to over Ianto's shoulder, evidently holding the same opinion as he did on witnesses to the discussion. The sounds were definitely moving towards a packing up sort of vibe, though, and Ianto expected that the cog door would be rolling open shortly. "At least we know destroying the glove will break the connection. I don't want her hanging around here any longer than necessary."
There was probably something funny about that logic, but Ianto was damned if he could put a finger on exactly what. "Not to make this all about me, but we also don't know if opening another connection will cause any... complications."
Jack drew in a breath to reply, then stopped, evidently thinking about the implications of that point. It was almost amusing that Ianto could practically see his brain working, eyes unfocused slightly as whatever train of thought he was having processed, corner of his mouth turned down slightly in a faint frown. "Unlikely," he said slowly, "but you're right, I don't want to take that risk. Not over Suzie. Which means... either we hope someone comes up with a better plan, or we let Gwen try." Now it was his turn to sigh, reaching up to run a hand through his hair tiredly, leaving it a little ruffled and mussed and Ianto itching slightly to fix it. "Why do we never get stuck between two really fantastic options?"
"Actually, we do that pretty much every night we end up in bed together." Ianto smirked, remembering the last time Jack had brought him nearly to the edge and then stopped to ask what he wanted. Expecting anything in that situation more specific than 'anything, oh god, just let me come' was really far too optimistic, in his opinion.
Jack laughed, though, so he decided the comment was a success. "Oh yeah. Maybe we should explore that later, just to even the balance a bit."
From the warmth of his skin, Ianto was fairly sure he was flushing. He'd never met someone so entirely unashamed of their sexuality before - in some ways, that was the biggest clue that Jack was more than he seemed. Far from rebelling against social norms or overcompensating for some self-perceived lack, he really just genuinely enjoyed sex and didn't have time for anyone else's judgements. Which, he had to admit, led to some great benefits for him. It was a point of view that had a lot to recommend it, really. "Weren't you going to buy me dinner first?" he asked, raising an eyebrow slightly in an attempt to feel like he at least had some control over the conversation. "You did tell us all to get something to eat."
"So I did. And you said something about jeans." Somehow he stretches out the last word, making it seem so much more salacious than anyone ought to be able to. "Then again all the decent restaurants seem to have something against casual wear. Maybe it would be better to explore the world of tight-fitting denim later."
"If it would help keep us from getting banned for lewd behaviour," Ianto replied drily, though there was a smile threatening his poker face. He let his hand fall free of Jack's belt and patted him lightly on the chest. "I'll go clean up a bit, shall I?" No doubt his suit would be good enough for any restaurant Jack could get them into on short notice, but he could at least change his shirt and tie.