The New New York Confederated Prison, 51 st Century
There was a plain metal chair in the middle of the room.
"Good morning. Please state your name for the record."
"Jack Harkness." The chair was really uncomfortable…
"Thank you. Mr. Harkness, the purpose of this meeting is to determine whether, if released, you are likely to break the law again. While this was your first conviction, you have been implicated, though never charged, in over a dozen other confidence schemes and frauds. What can you tell us about that?"
Jack relaxed as much as he could. He just had to get past this… "As you say, ma'am…I was never charged." He refrained from adding one of patented grins, knowing the parole board wouldn't take it too well. Still, the Ardani was fairly handsome…the others not so much, but that was fine. He wasn't about to attempt to flirt his way into early parole.
"Mr. Harkness…what we're trying to find out is this: was there a reason you chose to commit this crime, or was there a reason why you simply got caught this time?"
He regarded the board carefully. "My husband left me. I was upset. I got into a self-destructive pattern…" Truth can work for him just as well as a lie.
"If released, is it likely you would fall back into a similar pattern?"
He stifled the sigh that threatened to escape. "He already left me once. I don't think he'll do it again just for kicks."
"Mr. Harkness…what do you think you would do if released?"
Two guards escorted him forward as his name was called. Jack stepped up to the window, collecting his belongings. As he emptied the envelope that contained his ID, a platinum ring fell into the palm of his hand.
Jack looked at it, sighed, and then slipped it on.
His first breath of free air in three years just about froze his lungs. Lovely…he would have to be released during the planet's winter cycle.
He walked out of the prison, hands deep in his jacket pockets, and knew what he wanted to do.
The Planet Atlantica, Vegas Galaxies
The casino felt almost like home.
Jack took a deep breath, savoring everything. Alcohol, sweat, and various races' pheromones saturated the air around him; the sounds of the gaming machines rang in his ears. Someone close was shuffling cards, and the clink of chips was like a siren song to him.
Walking around the crowd, Jack found what he was looking for. He slipped his credit stick from his jacket pocket – he'd dumped the tux he'd been arrested in almost as soon as he'd left the prison – and headed toward the blackjack table. There was an empty seat; the only other being at the table was an Artaxian, hir tentacles draped over the table in a way that fairly screamed that it was drunk. Jack ignored the alien, pulling his chair up close to the felt-covered table.
The dealer was an attractive humanoid with fine purple hair. He grinned at him, sliding his credit stick into the slot provided. "Five hundred," he stated clearly into the comms. The computer deducted the amount stated from his account, and the dealer slid the equal value of chips across the table. Jack thanked him quietly.
The first hand, Jack won with nineteen. The second hand, he won again, this time with twenty. It looked like it was going to be his lucky night. In more ways than one, perhaps.
Another dealer stepped up next to the current one; they performed their little dance that announced a dealer change, and the young man departed; leaving an attractive woman with dark hair in his place. She filled out her uniform shirt quite nicely, and as she smiled she showed off a rather fetching gap between her front teeth. Jack knew it had to have cost a fortune for that sort of dental work.
"Hello, Gwen," he greeted her, a smile lighting up his face. She wasn't the one he'd been scouting for, but any friendly face this soon after being released was welcome.
The new dealer glanced up at Jack, and her wide eyes went slightly wider. "I beg your pardon sir," she said in that very nice accent Jack remembered so well, "but you must have me confused with someone else. My name is Ophelia. See?" She pointed toward the name tag on her low-cut blouse. "Just as it says here."
Jack acknowledged her. "My mistake."
"No problem, sir."
He stifled a shiver; that accent, with that word, could always get to him. Sad it was the wrong person saying it… "Table's cold anyway."
"You might try the lounge at the Grand Nebula, sir. I understand it gets busy around 0100."
"Thanks," Jack replied, taking his chips and leaving.
So much for Atlantica nightlife…
Jack checked his wrist strap – 24:58 – and took a sip of the hypervodka he'd been nursing for the last half an hour. The lounge was pretty much dead at this hour, and he mused that prison had more life than this. He picked up his copy of the Atlantican Times and continued reading.
The article was captioned: "New Vegas' Tardis Hotel to be razed; former owner denounces plans." There were two pictures: one of the new owner of the Tardis Hotel, the well-coiffed and well-dressed Harold Saxon, with a handsome – and barely visible – man on his arm. The second was the scowling face of John Smith, the hotel/casino's former owner.
"Catching up on current events?"
Jack lowered the viewer. "Ophelia?"
Gwen smirked. "Glad to meet you. Gwen Cooper won't get past the New Vegas Gaming Board, but Ophelia Blank would." She paused. "You just get out?"
Gwen motioned the bartender over and ordered. "And already turning over a new leaf." She turned her dazzling smile toward the young being who handed her a neat ale.
Jack ignored it. "You seen him?"
Gwen sighed. "Last I heard, he was on New Cali, teaching rich kids to play cards." She took a sip of her drink, looking Jack in the eye. "Why…you don't have something planned already?"
"You kidding?" Jack chuckled. "I just became a citizen again."
Gwen stared at him for a moment, as if looking for some sign. Jack simply returned her gaze…then one side of his mouth quirked upward in a grin.
Gwen rolled her eyes. "Goddess…"
Jack left the casino, pulling his jacket collar up around his neck for warmth. He made his way over to a public vidphone, pulling a business card from his pocket. He slid his credit stick into the slot, and then dialed.
It was picked up on the second buzz.
"Yes…Officer Brecken? My name is Jack Harkness. I was supposed to check in with you within twenty-five hours…" He paused, listening as his parole officer went into his spiel. "No sir, I haven't gotten into any trouble…no drinking…and no gambling…oh no sir, I wouldn't even dream of leaving the system…"
He hoped the overhead flyby of the latest shuttle wasn't too noticeable over the connection.
Langeles City, New Cali
"John! Hey, Johnny!"
Goddess, he hated it when people called him "Johnny"…
John Hart turned from his perusal of his Argolin nachos, absently crumpling the paper that held the last of his snack as the final of his "students" approached. He was tempted to just pitch the mess to the sidewalk, and just managed to refrain. The locals tended to punish litterers worse than they did murderers, and getting involved with yet one more rehab wasn't something he really wanted to do.
He barely managed to roll his eyes. The kid looked like some kind of puppy, all friendly and ready to please. John joined him as they headed into the club; it was one of the seedier places in town, but all the rich brats hung out there, mainly to piss their various parental units off. But teaching the idiots to play cards was a great source of income for him, it was easy money. Maybe too easy; John was getting bored with the whole thing.
He was seriously thinking it was time to move on.
"Hey, Johnny," the kid said, as John pulled the rear door, "I didn't know, but have you ever thought about becoming incorporated? Cause I was talking to my handler yesterday – "
"No, that's my personal trainer…oh wait, Bernie's my handler too…but anyway, he thinks since you're teaching me all this, then I can declare the lessons on my galactic taxes as student expenses…"
John raised a single eyebrow, thinking at the same time that his guy was either on drugs…or nuts. He was about to say so, but decided on seeing just how deep a hole the kid would dig himself.
"But the thing is…I'd need to pay you in on credit stick…"
John just stopped and stared. This boy was giving idiots a bad name.
"Or…" the kid fidgeted slightly. "We can keep it cash."
John sent the opposite eyebrow up at that, then practically pushed his "student" into the back of the club.
The rest of his "class" was waiting for him. They were a pretty bunch, and while John would have tried anything on any of them usually, he never mixed business with pleasure…unless the pleasure was business. Besides, on the whole he wanted to keep himself out of their end of the gene pool, out of fear of losing some serious brain cells. He had enough problems as it was, without contaminating himself.
He was just glad they'd settled on learning old-fashioned Five-Card Draw; anything more difficult would have proved beyond them. Goddess forbid he should try to teach them Pyramid or Fizzbin…
John just knew he was in for another long night.
The game started simply enough, but not even one round of betting had gone by before one of the players managed to get his back up.
"A hundred to me…ah, what the hells. I'll call. It's only pocket change…call."
John stifled his sigh. "Look, why you bet a certain way is your business. But you have to make them think you're betting for a really good reason. Got it?"
"Oh, yeah. Sure. Got it."
The conman seriously doubted the kid actually got anything.
He had to push the Tellurian sitting next to him three times; he was showing his cards at pretty much every opportunity. The Argolin player kept staring at his hand as if he were trying to change the cards into something he understood, and that level of concentration was giving John a serious headache by proxy.
The kicker was, when the lone girl at the table proclaimed all her cards were red, and that meant she'd won the pot.
John called a break about an hour into the game. He got up and headed into the club proper, to get a drink. Maybe if he got drunk enough he'd be able to handle the inanity…
He sat the bar and ordered a double. The bartender brought it over, and John simply pressed the cool glass to his temple, as if osmosis really worked with booze and the human brain. The music wasn't helping his headache; it was pounding itself into his bones, and while he would usually enjoy watching the strippers over the bar tonight they just didn't interest him.
Hm…maybe he needed to get laid or something…after all, it'd been almost two days since his last fuck…
"How's the game going?" the bartender asked, having to shout over the noise that everyone else was calling music.
"It's been the longest hour of my life," he answered truthfully. And he knew all about long hours…
The man looked confused. "What?" he practically screamed.
"I'm running away with your wife," John replied, using the same volume as before. Although that was an empty threat; he'd seen the guy's wife, and she was a real dog…in more ways than one. Now, if she'd been a poodle there'd have been some serious consideration on the conman's part…
The bartender flashed him a grin and a thumbs' up, apparently not having heard the second comment either. John barely managed to keep his eye rolling under control.
He stayed at the bar for about ten minutes, then bit the proverbial bullet – only because he didn't have a real one on him – and headed back to the stupid peoples' room…in other words, the card room. All his so-called students were there…plus one more.
It was all John could do not to grin like a maniac. After all, he didn't want to scare anyone off.
"Hey, Johnny…we got another player. That all right?"
At that point John didn't notice the hated nickname. He only had eyes for the new player in their midst.
Damn…Jack looked great, sitting at the table in his long gray coat and looking like sin on legs. He raised an eyebrow in John's direction, as if daring him to say something.
John pretended like there was some sort of bad smell in the room, instead of rushing over and settling himself firmly in Jack Harkness' lap and kissing him senseless. "What's this?" he asked, pitching his voice into a growl.
"The bouncer mentioned there was a game in progress," Jack answered lightly. "I hope I'm not intruding."
"No intrusion at all…"
John was surprised the kid knew what the word "intrusion" meant. "What was the bouncer's name?"
"I don't remember," Jack answered, shrugging.
"A card player with amnesia. This should be fun."
John took a seat, and began to deal. He put on his poker face, but on the inside he was really glad to see that Jack was out of prison. Jack was keeping an equally bland expression, although something told John that his friend wasn't there for a social call. He'd just have to play things out and let Jack make the first move.
"What do you do for a living, Mr. Harkness?" the kid asked. "If you don't me asking."
"Why should I mind?" Jack questioned. He slid his discards across the table toward John. "Two, please." He picked up the newly dealt cards, then answered, "Actually, I just got out of prison."
"Really?" the Tellurian squeaked, glancing at his fellow players.
"You're showing again," John told him, in an effort to divert the line of questioning.
"Sorry," the alien answered, pulling his hand up toward closer to his chest. "Um…why were you in prison?"
Okay, so much for that…
"I stole things," Jack admitted.
"Like what? Diamonds? Credits?"
"Castrovalvan ceremonial head masks," John put in, sending a look in Jack's direction.
Everyone at the table glanced at each other. Of course they wouldn't have a clue.
"Is there a lot of money in…um…?"
"Castrovalvan ceremonial head masks," Jack volunteered. "Yes, there's some."
"Don't let him fool you," John put in, beginning to enjoy himself with the banter. "There's loads of it. If you can move the things…"
"My fence seemed confident enough."
"If you're dealing with cash, you don't need a fence."
"Some people just lack vision."
Oh, like Jack would ever have that problem…"Probably everyone in cell block E," he snarked back, barely hiding the grin.
They were beginning to get looks. Damn, John had to get his head back in the game.
"That's all behind us now," Jack said, his tone saying it was the final word on the subject. "I raise five hundred."
Now, that cut through the heavy atmosphere.
"Okay, kids," John drawled, leaning back in his seat, "day one: what's the first rule of poker?"
There were a few "hm's" and mutters circling the table, until John got the answer he was looking for. "Leave emotion at the door?" It was tentative, but correct.
"Exactly." John was surprised someone actually remembered that. "Today's lesson: how to draw out a bluff. This early in the game, that much money…I'm thinking he's holding nothing better than a pair of face cards."
That caused another round of looks around the table. Jack was looking very inscrutable…and very luscious. John had to remind himself harshly that the other man didn't belong to him, and to keep his mind on what was going on with his "students".
"I…uh, I fold," the Argolin seated next to Jack said, chickening out.
The kid was next, and he stepped up with both feet. "Okay…uh, your five hundred and…another two?" He pushed the chips into the center of the table.
John was actually a bit impressed by that. "Anyone else?"
The Tellurian was next. "Seven to me…oh, what the hells…plus three." He added his chips to the pot.
"Be careful though," John cautioned. "You don't want to push him too high, too fast. You wanna keep him on the leash. I'll call."
Which he did. Goddess, he was enjoying this. It was like watching a master at work…but then, that was exactly what Jack was. It was really hot…John wriggled a bit in his seat, and the tiny motion wasn't lost on Jack at all, judging from the slight twitch at the corner of his mouth. Damned tease.
The girl also pooped out of the game, making it Jack's turn to bet again. "I call…and two thousand more." He had to reach into his wallet for that, and it made quite a nice wad of credits mixed in with the colorful chips.
Apparently Jack had been busy since he'd be released, because John seriously doubted he'd had that much stash with him before getting sent up.
Every face at the table went their various shades of pale.
John threw up his hands. "Kids, you're free to do what you want. It's a lot of money. But I'm staying in. He's trying to buy his way out of the bluff."
Jack was staring John down. It was almost like two alpha males butting antlers over the pot. John got a shiver, realizing just how much he'd missed being in Jack's orbit.
Of course he was getting horny as hell, and he knew damned well Jack wouldn't do a thing about it.
No one looked overly eager to call, but eventually they all did. Either they were really brave…or really stupid. But then, John called as well, so that didn't say much about his mental acuity either.
But this was Jack Harkness. Sane men had a tendency to act crazy around him.
"Looks like we call," John said.
And Jack laid his cards down.
"Well, I don't know if four nines are good, but the ace is pretty high," the man drawled, the smirk finally appearing on his handsome features.
John's jaw dropped. "Shit…I thought you were bluffing…."
Jack didn't say a thing. He simply gathered his winnings.
Langeles City, New Cali
"Goddess, I'm bored!" John cried.
Jack glanced at him; he was behind the wheel of his ancient Falcon flitter, driving them toward a small café that John claimed had halfway decent food. The lights of the city strobed around them as the vehicle moved, the wind from the open top ruffling their hair as they traveled through the late evening – or early morning, depending on your point of view - traffic.
"You look bored," he commented, lazing his arm out the side of the flitter.
"Did you get the cake I sent you?"
"Why do you think I came to see you first?" It wasn't exactly true, he'd actually seen Gwen before finding John, but it had been John that Jack had hoped to get in touch with before anyone else. "By the way, the guards loved the vibrator you baked into it."
"Couldn't have you going crazy from sexual frustration while in the clink, could I?"
"You're a real friend, John."
"Of course I am!" The leer on John's face was priceless.
The other man pulled the flitter into a parking lot, easily finding a spot. The diner they entered was also nearly empty; a lone waitress waved them to a table, before bringing menus and asking if they wanted coffee.
Jack declined, while John took her up on the offer, throwing in some innuendo while doing it. Jack had to hide his grin; the other man had been an old partner of his in the game, especially the long con, and when Jack had come up with his current plan there hadn't been any way he'd even consider it without John Hart in his crew.
"Since when have you not wanted coffee?" John commented.
Jack shrugged. He really didn't want to get into it.
Once the waitress had brought their drinks and had taken their orders, John pinned Jack with a knowing stare. "All right. Tell me."
Oh yes, John was sharp. "It's tricky. No one's ever done it before. It needs planning, and a large crew."
"Guns?" John sounded excited at the prospect.
"Not loaded ones. It has to be very precise. There's a lot of security, but the take…"
He could see John's ears practically perk up. "What's the target?"
"Eight figures each."
"Shit." John stared. "But…What's….The…Target?"
"When's the last time you were on New Vegas?"
John's mouth dropped open. "Goddess…you want to knock over a flipping casino?"
Jack set his cup of tea down, then raised three fingers.
He had the pleasure of seeing his friend speechless for one of the few times in John's life.
Jack managed to get them into the planning commission offices even though it was after hours. But then, flirting with the security guard was pretty simple for a conman of his caliber.
He and John found themselves at one of the large interactive tables, the plans Jack had wanted to look at glowing from the large screen. Luckily the computer networks all over the sector were linked, or else they would have had to go to New Vegas for this, and the more they could do away from there, the better for the operation.
"This," Jack motioned to the virtual blueprint, "is the vault at the Gallifrey."
"If I'm reading this right – " John began.
"And you are."
"Then this is the least accessible vault ever designed."
John frowned, and Jack suppressed the urge to tease him about getting wrinkles in his forehead from that particular expression. "You said three casinos…"
Jack pointed to two spots on the blueprint. "These areas feed in from the New Utopia and the Grand Valiant." He tapped the vault. "But every credit ends up here."
"The Gallifrey…the New Utopia…and the Grand Valiant…those are Harold Saxon's places."
"Why yes," Jack said, playing innocent. "I do believe they are. Think he'll mind?"
"More than a little, Jack." John sighed. "You're gonna to need at least a dozen guys, doing a combination of cons."
Jack was glad to see his friend's mind thinking along the same lines as his had. "Like what, you think?"
"Well…off the top of my head, I'd say you're looking at a Boesky, a Jim Brown, a Miss Daisy, two Jethros, and a Leon Spinks. Oh, and the biggest Ella Fitzgerald ever."
Jack nodded, recognizing the old Earth terms. The best cons were still known by their original names, even if the reason for those names had long been forgotten. "Sounds about right."
"Who you planning on getting to bankroll this?"
"As long as we're hitting these three casinos, we'll get the money. Saxon has quite the list of enemies."
"But does he have enemies with lots of loose credits…" John's face went sly. "Aha."
"Aha," Jack echoed, smirking.
Suddenly, a light flashed into their faces; Jack raised his arm to block the brightness. "Damn, Kathy…mind lowering that?"
The security guard Jack had flirted with did as he asked. "Sorry. You two about done up here?"
"Yeah, thanks. Just need to make a copy of these plans, then we're outta here."
"Whatever you need. But be sure to shut everything down when you leave, okay?"
"Not a problem."
Kathy moved off, leaving John and Jack alone once more. Jack took out a data transfer chip from his pocket, inserting it into the table and downloading the plans.
Once that was done, he and John headed toward the lift. As they waited, the other man turned to look at Jack. "I need a reason. And don't say it's about the money. Why do this?"
"Why not do it?"
"Enough bullshitting, Jack."
Jack sighed. "Fine. Because yesterday I walked out of the joint wearing my entire wardrobe and you're cold-decking rich brats who only want to piss off their folks." He looked John in the eye. "Because the house always wins. You play long enough, never changing stakes, the house takes you. Unless, when they special hand comes around, you bet big. And then you take the house."
John was silent for a second, then he smiled. "You've been practicing that speech, haven't you?"
"A little. Did I rush it? It felt like I rushed it."
"No, it was good. Really good, Sent shivers down my spine."
"You don't look like you're affected."
Jack was about to answer, but the lift doors slid open.
"You're out of your minds!"
Jack just sat there, watching as John Smith worked himself into a tizzy. He wanted to glance over at John, and see how his partner was reacting to the near fit the former casino owner was building up to, but decided it wouldn't help him to keep a straight face.
They were at Smith's palatial home on New Vegas, sitting at a table at poolside. A nice lunch had been set out for them, and John had enjoyed it immensely. Jack had liked it, but truth be known he was a little apprehensive; their plan depended on their pitch to Smith. It had to be good.
Smith – also known as the Doctor, for reasons only his cronies knew – was Vegas old-school, and quickly becoming a dinosaur. Jack knew for a fact that he'd lost his last casino, the Tardis, not all that long ago and really didn't have a way to fit in with the new owners and their cutthroat ways. But he had money…lots of money. And it was that money Jack was very much interested in.
"Are you two listening to me?" the Doctor ranted on. "You are both nuts. I know more about casino security than any man alive. I invented it, and it can't be beaten! After all, I'm brilliant! And you know I put every bit of knowledge into it that I have. There are cameras, and watchers, and they have timers and vaults. There's enough armed personnel to occupy the Boeshane Peninsula!" He glanced at Jack; Jack hoped he managed to hide the flinch. "Okay, bad example…"
"It's never been tried," Jack answered, toying with the lettuce on his plate.
"Oh, it's been tried," the Doctor put in. "A few guys even came close. You know the three most successful robberies in New Vegas history?"
Jack did glance at John then; the other man met his gaze, and they both knew they were about to get a history lesson. Big surprise…
"Number three." the Doctor began ticking them off on his fingers. "Some idiot grabs a lockbox from a guard at the Sandstone. He got two steps closer to freedom than anyone else before. Guards tackled him and managed to put him in the hospital for a month."
He took a drink from his wineglass, although Jack was pretty sure the man wasn't drinking anything alcoholic.
"The second most successful robbery was at the Pterodactyl. The guy actually smelled fresh oxygen before they stopped him…of course, he needed a trachea transplant afterward…"
John actually put his fork down at that. Jack didn't blame him; that just sounded painful.
"And the closest anyone has gotten to robbing a New Vegas casino…it was at the Pharaoh, and he got outside with his loot…he came, he grabbed…they conquered."
The Doctor looked at both of them closely. "But what am I saying? You guys are pros, the best. I'm sure you can make it out of the actual casino. Of course, lest we forget…once you're out, you're still in the middle of the Vegas Galaxies! Security can grab you anytime they want!"
Jack managed to look suitably chastened, and knew John was doing the same.
"You're right," John said, turned to Jack. "He's right."
"Doctor, you're right," Jack agreed. "Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs."
"That's exactly right. Pure ego." John wiped his fingers on his napkin as he admitted it.
"Exactly," the Doctor said, beaming.
"Thank you for setting us straight," Jack said as he and John both rose. "Sorry we bothered you."
"No problem," the Doctor said. "Look we go way back, and I still owe you from that thing…with that guy, in that…place…and I'll never forget it."
Apparently, he had, but Jack wasn't going to remind him. He just reached across the table to shake the man's hand. "It was our pleasure."
"Give Rose your addresses, I got some clothes I want to send you. Just cleaned out my wardrobe…"
Jack turned away from the table, John walking by his side. He could tell that the Doctor was really interested, but also knew that this was make or break time. If the Doctor didn't call them back…
"Just out of curiosity," came the inevitable shout, "which casinos did you two geniuses pick to rob?"
The pair turned back to look at the Doctor, still seated at the table.
"Oh…just the Gallifrey," Jack answered.
"The New Utopia," John added.
"And the Grand Valiant," Jack finished.
There was a pause. "Those are Harold Saxon's casinos." The Doctor sounded almost accusatory.
John looked at Jack, his eyebrows raised. "You know, he's right."
"What have you got against Saxon?"
"The real question is," Jack responded, "is what do you have against Harold Saxon?"
"Took my casino, muscled me out…and now he's going to blow it up to make room for yet another eyesore. And I so hate explosions, they're so…loud." His eyes narrowed. "Don't think I don't see what you're doing."
"What are we doing, Doctor?" John asked, not even trying to sound innocent.
"If you're going to take on Harold Saxon, you'd better know. At the end of this, he better not know you're involved. Not know your names, or even if you're still alive. Because he'll kill you, and then he'll go to work on you."
"That's why we have to be very careful," Jack replied. "We have to be precise. We have to be well-funded."
"Well, you have to be nuts as well." The Doctor blew out his cheeks. "And you're going to need a crew as nuts as you are." He paused. "Who do you have in mind?"
Jack resisted the grin. This was going just the way he'd planned.
New Vegas City, New Vegas
Jack leaned back against the booth seat as he watched the crowds walk by. All these people…they had no clue. It made him smile.
"All right," John said, breaking into his people-watching. "Who's in?"
"Gwen's in," Jack began, taking a sip of his tea.
"Gwennie? She drives me nuts, always calling me Vera."
"And whose fault is that?"
John rolled his eyes. "Okay, yeah…but she doesn't know when to stop. Like when she flirts with you."
"She was a perfect lady when I met with her on Atlantica."
"That's because she found out about you marrying Eye Candy." John paused. "You know, I did want to know why you're planning something like this right after you're released, when you should be home with your husband, shagging like bunnies."
Jack didn't answer; he just glared across the table, unconsciously fiddling with the wedding ring he was still wearing. This was something he really didn't want to get in to.
But something in his expression must have tipped his friend off, because John's face went from confusion to something like pity. "Ah, I see. Didn't like what you do for a living? Guess that's the reason you're not drinking coffee anymore?"
"I don't want to talk about it," he growled. The whole thing still hurt.
John held up his hands in surrender. "Fine…but if you need any help with any…frustration…"
"Forget it, John."
Jack cleared his throat, getting back on track. "Gwen has apparently developed a bad case of lung crud, and has put in for a transfer to a warmer climate, the better for her health." He sipped his tea once more. "What about drivers?"
"I talked to Rhys and Banana yesterday," John replied.
"The Cardiff brothers?" They weren't really brothers, but they were pretty inseparable. And they were from Cardiff, on New Wales, so part of that was right at least.
"They're both back on New Wales, six months off a job. I got the sense they're having trouble filling their hours." John's smirk said they were up to no good.
Jack nodded. He liked the two, even if Banana was a bit thick. Rhys would keep him in line, no problem. "Electronics?"
"Toshiko Sato. She's been doing some freelance surveillance work for SecGov recently."
The conman snorted. That had to be fun. "How are her nerves then?"
"Okay." A pause. "Not so bad you'd notice."
Jack paused as well. He adored Tosh to bits, and if SecGov was driving her nuts, then he might have to do something about it. They could be right bastards.
"Munitions," John said, making another note.
"No shit!" Now, that was a surprise. He'd genuinely liked the ex-UNIT demolitions expert. "On the job?"
"Sun cancer. Got stuck on Metebelis when its sun went into an energetic phase."
"You send flowers?"
"Dated his wife for a while…" John said it like it was the most normal thing in the world… and to John Hart, it was.
Jack stifled a sigh. "How about Mickey?"
"The Idiot? There…might be an issue of availability."
New New York
John made his way through the parked police vehicles, looking for one familiar face among the sea of black and blue. He found it; the person in question was currently being slung up against the rear door of a black and white police flitter, looking pissed off.
"And that's all you used? Nothing else?" he heard the cop ask.
"Are you accusing me of booby-trapping?" Mickey sounded outraged.
"Well?" the cop challenged?
"Booby traps aren't Mr. Smith's style," John broke in, going stone-faced and immediately into hard-boiled detective persona. "Isn't that right, Idiot?"
If he thought Mickey had looked irritated before, hearing that hated nickname really made his face go red. "That's right," he said through gritted teeth.
John had always wondered where it had come from, because Mickey wasn't anywhere close to being an idiot. He flipped open a badge just long enough for the cop to see it looked vaguely official. "Franklin, SecGov. Let me venture a guess: a simple G4 mainliner, quick fuse with a drag of under 20 feet?" Goddess, he loved the technobabble, even if he didn't quite understand it.
The copper nodded, looking a little shell-shocked by the babble as well.
"That's our man. Have you checked him for booby traps on his person? I mean…really checked, and not just for weapons?"
By the widening of his eyes, John guessed the answer to that was no. Good thing the police didn't have any imagination; it made his job so much easier.
With a quick movement, John spun Mickey around, pinning him to the hood of the flitter. He made it look like he was frisking him, grabbing a quick grope along the way. The way Mickey jerked, the demolitions man didn't appreciate it. "Will you find Swanson and tell her I need her?"
"Who?" the copper was completely clueless…still.
"Just go find her!" John snapped.
Once the man was gone, he carefully slipped several objects from his pocket and thrust them into Mickey's bound hands, picking the lock to the handcuffs as an afterthought. "Didn't know you were gonna get the cuffs out…and you didn't even wait for me."
"Piss off," Mickey growled, although there was a distinct playfulness in the comment.
"How fast can you put something together with what I passed you?"
There was a flurry of movement, then Mickey answered, "Done. Thirty seconds all right?"
The two began walking away quickly, Mickey still with his hands behind him as if he were still cuffed. John tugged him toward the cordon, silently counting down in his head. "Ten seconds?"
"Not quite. Is Jack here?"
"He's waiting for us around the corner."
"It'll be good to work with real professionals again." Mickey began moving faster. "Go!"
The car that they'd been at suddenly erupted in light and noise, the heat of the explosion warming John's back as they ran. Oh yes…Mickey might be nicknamed the Idiot, but he really was the best.
Galaxy Circus, Planet Messaline
Jack sighed. He was bored, and it didn't help that he hated circuses as a rule. He didn't even want to go into clowns…they were just plain creepy.
John sat next to him in the uncomfortable plastic seats, eating what looked like green popcorn. With all the advances humanity had made, why couldn't they make a public seat that didn't hurt your arse when you sat in them for long periods?
"Why are we here?" he asked, shifting slightly.
His partner simply continued to shovel popcorn in his mouth. "We need a grease man," came the answer.
There were some hyperactive kids behind him, kicking his chair. It was all Jack could do not to turn around and tell them off. "What are we looking at?"
John shushed him, his attention fully on the center ring. A group of female gymnasts had entered, and were tumbling around very enthusiastically. Jack rested his chin in his hand. "So…which one is it?"
"The cute blonde."
Jack stifled a sigh. They were all cute blondes. "Who else is on the list?"
"She is the list."
Lovely. Not only could he not tell which one John was talking about, there wasn't actually any back-up choice.
"Just take a chill pill and watch. Goddess, Jack…you need to get laid or something."
And there was just so much of that he was going to take…
One of the gymnasts separated from the group, and Jack had to admit she was, indeed, a cute blonde. She proceeded to contort herself into the most interesting shapes while her fellow tumblers performed in the background.
Despite himself, Jack was impressed.
"There's your grease man," John practically crowed.
"What's her name?"
"Jenny. Jenny Smith."
Jack quirked an eyebrow, and wondered what it was with all the Smiths lately…
Together, they left the circus, heading toward their flitter. John pitched the last of his popcorn into a bin on the way. "We need Owen," Jack said, climbing into the passenger seat.
"He won't come," John answered. "He got out of the game a year ago."
"He get religion or something?" That surprised Jack. Owen Harper was one of the best, and would have sworn the confidence gene ran too strongly in him to ever quit.
"Owen Harper…settling down with one woman? If anything, I would've expected a triad or some weird combination." Jack actually felt a bit jealous, to be honest.
"Must be something special." John looked at him, and Jack ignored that particular expression.
"You can go and ask him."
His partner's expression changed. He turned to the ignition, starting the flitter's engine. "I can go and ask him."
New Hialeah, Planet Floridia
John watched as Owen Harper made his way down the steps and into the general admission seats, as they prepped for the next pod race on the track below. He looked pretty good since the last time John had seen him; with a bit of a tan, and wearing a garishly colored shirt that pretty much screamed "tourist" even though he knew for a fact that Owen had been living in New Hialeah for the last eight months.
He licked his ice cream cone as he took a seat beside the retired grifter, as the other man proceeded to peel an orange – a real orange, not one of those cloned look-a-likes, which never seemed to actually look like a true fruit.
"Piss off, Hart," was the good-natured greeting.
"Good to see you too, Owen."
"Yeah, well I saw your sorry arse outside the lavatories, just before I placed my bet. Hell, I saw you before I even got up this morning."
"Nice to know you still dream about me." John leaned back, taking another lick from the ice cream and managing to make it look like he was giving the thing a blow job. "How ya been?"
"Never better," Owen said, completely deadpan.
"What's with the orange?"
"Katie says I need vitamins."
"So why don't you take actual vitamins?"
Owen shot him a dirty look. "You come to give me a physical?"
"Why…do you want one? I don't mind playing doctors..."
"Like I said…piss off."
"I have a box seat. Come on."
John stood up, fully expecting Owen to follow him. He wasn't surprised; the man's curiosity would always get the best of him.
The box seat had been fairly easy to get; but then John was very good at what he did. As he and Owen were seated, he asked, "Who are we rooting for?"
Owen had his eyes on the track below, where the pods were almost hooked up to their racers. "Number four." Then he sighed. "You gonna tell me? Or should I just say no and get it over with?"
"Owen, you're the best there is. You should be in the Hall of Fame – "
"If there was one for grifters."
"You shouldn't be retired. What do you want?"
"Nothing. Got a nice flat now, with hot and cold running porn and a girlfriend who works for the New Victoria Secret…and she gets to bring home samples. I've changed."
There was a loud buzzer, and the race started. Owen leaned forward, watching in interest as the racers started their circuits.
"Guys like us don't change, Owen. We stay sharp or we get sloppy, but we don't change."
"If you're trying to con me, it's not working."
There were a few moments of silence, as both men watch the race. "That your pod, way in the back?"
"The driver breaks late. Everyone knows that."
The pods were coming around the track toward them once more, kicking up a lot of dust as their engines roared. John had never really enjoyed the races, but he supposed there were people out there who liked the oddest things. And, in his opinion, seeing adults driving what were glorified engines with a single cockpit was very dangerous. Although, he had dated that one racer…
"You gonna treat me like a grownup at least?" Owen asked acerbically. "Tell me what the scam is?"
The pod engines were getting louder; John leaned over into Owen's personal space, murmuring in his ear. Owen's eyes widened slightly; the conman placed an envelope with the details and transport ticket into the grifter's hand, then got up and walked out. He knew he had the man in his pocket.
The pod Owen had bet on finished dead last.
New Vegas City, New Vegas
"And Owen makes ten," Jack said over his untouched glass of hypervodka.
John didn't say anything. He was dead on his feet, his head resting on the bar. Traveling from Floridia to New Vegas had given him a wicked case of travel-lag, and all he wanted to do was sleep.
"Ten should do it, don't you think?" Jack asked.
John didn't answer. He just let his partner figure it out on his own.
"You think we need one more?"
Once again, no answer…but Jack was a smart lad. John knew he'd come to the correct conclusion. He stifled a yawn.
"You think we need one more."
Yep…this was why Jack Harkness was one of the best…even travel-lagged he could work it through.
"Okay. We'll get one more."
John resisted the urge to pet Jack on the head like he would a puppy.
Jack sat on the maglev, his attention on one particular passenger as the train made its way between stations. He didn't look like much; like some sort of university student, an open reader in one hand, stylus in the other, and wearing fairly ragged clothes. He was standing next to a very well dressed man, and as the maglev lurched, the kid delicately slid his hand into the man's breast pocket and withdrew his wallet.
Very pretty, Jack had to admit. And not just the lift.
Pick-pocketing was almost a lost art. Identifications had too many fail safes to really be fixed – unless you were really good – and nearly everyone used credit sticks anymore. While they would gain a person complete access to a person's accounts, there was almost too much security to handle. But it could be lucrative in the right hands, and from what Jack had heard that Andy Davidson was, indeed, the right hands.
The train squealed to a halt. Andy headed out with a crowd, and Jack followed him closely. It was busy, but he had no problem catching up and then passing the kid as he made his way up and into the daylight. Jack brushed by casually, taking the stolen wallet and leaving his business card.
Which meant, he was waiting for Andy when the kid got to the bar written on the back of the card.
Jack waved him over; Andy came to the table, taking the offered seat. "Who are you?" he asked, quietly enough so the other patrons wouldn't hear.
"A friend of Harry Sullivan's. He said you had the best set of hands he's ever seen." He held up the wallet. "I saw you lift this. Very nice."
Andy shrugged, not saying anything.
Jack put the wallet on the table, and then reached into the pocket of his gray coat and pulled out a shuttle ticket. He also put it on the table, resting his hand on it. "You're either in or you're out, right now."
"What is it?" Andy said it lightly, but Jack could sense the curiosity in the question.
"A shuttle ticket. A job offer."
"You're pretty trusting, pretty fast."
"Harry has faith in you."
"Fathers are like that."
Jack's eyebrows went up. Now, that was something he hadn't known.
"He didn't tell you?" Andy didn't seem surprised when Jack shook his head. "He doesn't want me trading on his name."
That made some sense. "You do this job, and you'll be trading on your own."
"What if I say no?"
"Then I find someone else." Jack smirked. "And you can go back to feeling up stockbrokers." He raised the hand that had been on the wallet, calling the waitress over. "Check, please."
As she left, Jack glanced down at the table. The wallet was still there…but the ticket that his hand had covered was gone.
"That was the best lift I've seen you make yet," he congratulated, very impressed. He hadn't even felt the ticket get pulled from under his fingers.
Andy was looking at it closely. "New Vegas, huh?"
"The sector's playground." Jack didn't have anything to worry about. Andy was definitely in, judging from the scrutiny he was now getting.
It looked as if everything was going according to plan. Now to get the ball rolling.
Jack and John had arrived at the Doctor's estate earlier in the day, to prepare for their presentation when the rest of the crew arrived. They'd brought Gwen with them; as Ophelia Blank, she'd made herself at home at the Gallifrey as a new dealer, and had started her own surveillance. Already things she'd discovered were proving useful, and once more Jack was very glad that she'd been willing to join them on this job.
By the time the doorbell rang, everything was ready.
"What?" the Doctor exclaimed. "You guys get a group rate or something?"
Jack joined their backer at the door; the entire crew stood there, a taxi just driving off beyond the entryway. He grinned; he couldn't help it. They were all there. This was going to be fantastic!
"You going to wait out there all night?" the Doctor asked, sounding a bit peeved.
"Maybe if you stepped out of the doorway, Doc," Jack smiled, putting a hand on their backer's shoulder, "they could actually get inside?"
"Oh. Right." Once the connection was made, the Doctor stepped aside, ushering them all into the house.
Jack greeted them all, then passed them off to John, who was waiting just outside the living room, where their presentation was set up.
The conman's eyes went wide, as Jenny grinned up at the Doctor impishly, then followed the others.
Jack glanced at John; his partner's eyes were equally wide as the small blonde passed him. Jack turned his attention back to the Doctor, who was closing the door. The conman simply raised an eyebrow.
"Some kids become accountants," the Doctor shrugged. "Mine ran off to join the circus."
Damn…and Jack hadn't even known that the man even had a kid. He guessed there was more to it than that, but didn't press it. The Doctor didn't seem to be bothered by Jenny's presence, so he guessed it was fine for her to be involved.
But his curiosity was really getting to him…
The rest of the crew had made themselves comfortable in the large living room. All the chairs were taken; only Andy was still standing, his back to the wall and staying as unobtrusive as possible. Gwen had taken it upon herself to get the drinks in, and everyone looked relaxed as Jack stepped in front of the large vidscreen that dominated most of one wall of the well-appointed room.
"Okay," he began, "before we start…nobody's on the line yet. What I'm about to propose to you happens to be both highly lucrative…and highly dangerous. If that doesn't sound like your particular brand of hypervodka, then help yourself to drinks and have a safe journey home. No hard feelings."
He actually held his breath as everyone seemed to settle deeper into their seats. He and John had chosen well; none of these people were about to back down from a job. He glanced at Andy, not at all sure what the kid would do; but he simply stood there, arms crossed.
Jack gave them thirty seconds.
"All right then." He used the control he'd been holding to activate the screen behind him. "Gentlemen and ladies…what you're looking at is the 456 block of New Vegas City…otherwise known as the Gallifrey, the New Utopia, and the Grand Valiant. Together, they're the three most profitable casinos on New Vegas."
He changed images, this one to the blueprint he and John had copied. "This is the Gallifrey's vault. It's located below the block, under two hundred feet of solid ground. It safeguards every credit that comes through each of the three casinos above it." He paused, glancing at each face in turn. "And we're going to rob it."
Someone in the room gasped, but Jack couldn't tell who it was. Everyone had the same gobsmacked expressions, and he could hardly blame them. It was a huge job, with a lot of danger involved. But no thief or grifter worth their salt couldn't turn down the chance of a lifetime. Jack knew he had them well and truly behind him.
"So…smash and grab job, then?" Andy asked.
"It's a bit more complicated than that, sweet cheeks," John answered, from his position seated on the arm of the sofa nearest Jack. He leered at the young man, and Andy blushed.
Jack used the remote again, once more changing the picture. "Courtesy of the lovely Gwen Cooper, new blackjack dealer at the Gallifrey…"
Everyone seemed to sit up a little, as pictures from inside the casino scrolled past. They showed locations of cameras, security details, and scanners…as well as locations of various doors and exits.
Jack switched to another set of blueprints, these of the vault proper. "Okay. The bad news first. This place houses a security system that rivals most quantum missile silos. First…we'll need to get past the casino cages – "
"Which everyone knows takes more than a pretty smile and a nice arse," John put in.
Jack rolled his eyes. "Next: Through the security doors, each of which requires a complicated set of security codes, and those are changed every twelve hours. Past that lies the lift and this is where it gets tricky – "
There was a snort of the crowd, which Jack ignored.
"This lift won't move without authorized fingerprint identifications – "
"Which we can't fake," John replied.
"- and vocal confirmations from both the security center within the Gallifrey and the vault below – "
"Which we won't get," John added.
"Furthermore," Jack was getting a little irritated at his partner, but didn't say anything; after all, John was only pointing out what needed to be said, "the lift shaft is rigged with motion detectors – "
"Meaning if we manually override the lift, the shaft's exit will lock down automatically and we'll be trapped."
"Once we've gotten down the shaft, though, it's a walk in the park. Just three guards with laser rifles and predilections toward not being robbed, plus the most elaborate vault door conceived by human, alien, or any sort of combination thereof. Any questions?"
Silence. Dead Silence. Jack could see each and every one of them contemplating what Jack and John had said, mulling over their chances of this actually working.
But then… "What about tunneling?" Jenny asked.
Jack wondered just how someone could sound so perky after being given the information dump he'd just done.
"No, tunneling is out," John answered for him. "There are monitors buried in the ground for one hundred yards in every direction. If a womprat tried to nest there, they'd know about it."
"Anyone else?" Jack threw the floor open once more.
Still more silence. He supposed it was difficult to ask questions when there really wasn't anything that could be said. This job was going to be a ball-buster, and they all knew it.
Then Rhys made a gesture to get Jack's attention. "You said something about good news?"
Jack smiled, glad that someone asked. "The New Vegas Gaming Commission stipulates that a casino must hold in reserve enough credits to cover every chip in play on its floor…this includes what's paid in by credit stick. As I mentioned, this vault services each of the three casinos above it. By law, that means that during the week it must hold anywhere from sixty to seventy million credits – hard cash and coin. On the weekend, that goes up to between eighty and ninety million. On a fight night – like the one two weeks from tonight – it's going to be at least one hundred and fifty million. Without breaking a sweat." He looked around the room, making sure to catch everyone's eyes. "Now, there are eleven of us. Each with an equal share. You do the math."
They were, he can tell…well, with Banana it was easy, since he was using his fingers. Once he got the number everyone else had, he whistled.
"That's about what I said," John smirked.
"I have a question," Owen spoke up.
Jack turned to look at him. He was fiddling with his empty glass; it would have looked nervous to anyone else, but with Owen it was just something to do with his fingers.
"Say we do get into the cage," he went on, "and through the security doors, and down the lift we can't move, and past the guards with guns, and into the vault we can't open – "
"Without being seen by the cameras," John replied.
"Say we do all that," Owen continued. "We're just gonna walk outta the bleeding place with over a hundred million in hard credit on us without being stopped?"
Jack grinned. It was his best grin, the one that he'd once been told should be patented. It was the one no one could deny…well, maybe one person, but he wasn't in the room at that moment, and Jack really didn't want to think about him. "Yeah."
"Bloody hell, Harkness...you're mad."
"But it's a good kind of mad," Jack answered. "All right…here's how we'll begin…"
New Vegas City, New Vegas
John Hart stood with his back against the railing, eating a plate of battered kano chunks and watching the crowd as they ebbed and flowed around him. He had to admit, the Gallifrey Casino was very tastefully decorated compared to some of the others that had been built on New Vegas: soft lighting, deep red carpet, understated furnishings…only the chiming and clinking from the gaming machines disturbed the quietness of the atmosphere, and even then the noises were almost discrete.
Once everyone started about their assigned tasks, things had progressed rapidly. Yes, there were a few rumbles – Andy being one of them, not liking that he'd been put onto following Saxon about like some sort of puppy – but despite the different personalities and opinions everything was running smoothly.
Which was when John just knew things would go to hell.
He sighed, popping another nugget into his mouth as he waited. It was his particular job as Jack's second to check and make sure all the others were doing what they needed to. He'd made the rounds, getting various signs from the others that it was all going according to plan.
Gwen was doing a fantastic job with reconnaissance, timing everything from the dealers' rotations to the security guards' rounds. She was also managing to flirt with most of her fellow employees, discovering personal details that might come in handy later.
The Cardiff brothers were busily shadowing various other employees, mostly those responsible for working behind the scenes, making certain they knew who went where and when. They were also making note of the security cameras around each "Employee Entrance" and learning their way around the actual casino floor…although there were times Banana proved useless at it, and Rhys had to correct him.
John had also seen Mickey take a manhole dive down the street, knowing that he was checking out power and alarm lines, in order to "throw the switch on Sin World", as Jack had put it. Mickey had laughed at that, knowing that he only had to take down a majority of the surrounding area, but John could tell the demolitions expert was already considering ways to darken the entire planet. Which John had to admit would be a hell of a lot of fun.
Toshiko had already been "backstage" and had infiltrated the security and surveillance suite. They'd managed to "liberate" a technician's pass for her – good thing John had known that stripper who had one of the workers as a regular visitor – and the woman had gotten all her sneaky gadgets hooked up into the systems. She'd be able to see into any part of the casino from their hotel room…which was also in the Gallifrey; after all, if you're gonna steal from someone the least you can do is give them a little business.
Once their eyes and ears were open, they could concentrate on construction. Part of the plan had them building an exact replica of the vault, for practice and…for other things. Luckily the Doctor managed to find them an abandoned warehouse on the edge of the Strip, and they were able to get everything they needed, whether by paying for it or by conning it out of their unsuspecting prey. John had to admit that part was going rather well, and the replica would be up and ready quickly.
The Cardiff brothers were also put in charge of getting transport, with some grifting help from Gwen. She'd even managed to get the salesman to lower the prices on several vans they'd need. John was finding that sort of efficiency damned sexy, and it was just too bad he didn't like mixing business with pleasure or he'd have some of that.
The only problem they seemed to be having was with Owen.
He just seemed…off. Sure, he'd been out of the game for a while, but the jitters the grifter was putting out was even making Jack nervous…and that was something that didn't happen that often. They'd had it out in the hotel room, and Owen had pretty much put Jack in his place over it…
But John was going to keep an eye on him.
Speaking of Owen…he was just walking by, immaculately dressed in a suit that would have cost any of the dealers in the casino an entire years' wages, flanked by the Cardiff brothers wearing black, with dark glasses and noticeable bulges under their jackets. They were carrying Owen's bags, and didn't even glance in John's direction. John allowed his gaze to linger on Rhys – Banana wasn't his type, which was saying something – then he went back to looking for the one of the crew he really wanted to talk to.
Andy joined him a few minutes later.
"So," John began, contentedly eating another piece of his kano, "tell me about Saxon."
The pickpocket leaned against the railing next to John, his quick eyes watching what went on around him. John was impressed. "The guy is like a machine," he answered. "He arrives here every day at 14:00. Same flitter, same driver. He remembers every valet on his way in. Not bad for a buy worth over three-quarters of a billion."
John nodded. He'd heard about Saxon's fascination with time.
"He works in his office upstairs, then hits the casino floor at 19:00 on the nose," Andy went on. "Spends three minutes on the floor with his casino manager."
"What do they talk about?"
"All business. Saxon likes to know what's going on in his casinos. There's rarely an incident that he doesn't know about or doesn't handle personally."
"He spends a few minutes glad-handing the high rollers. He's out by 19:30, when an assistant hands him a black portfolio. Contents: the day's take and the new security codes. Then he heads to the restaurant."
John glanced at his chronometer: 19:29:50.
"Give him about another ten seconds…" Andy prophesied.
Even as he finished saying it, John saw Saxon coming around the corner, heading toward the entrance to the casino's restaurant. He had a portfolio tucked under his arm.
"As I said," Andy replied, after Saxon had gone by, "a machine."
"And that portfolio contains the codes to all the cage doors?"
"Two minutes after they've changed, he's got 'em." Then Andy sighed. "I'll tell you: you guys sure know how to pick 'em. He's as smart and ruthless as they come. The last guy got caught cheating here, Saxon not only sent him up for ten years, he got SecGov to seize his property and bankrupted – "
"Bankrupted his brother-in-law's used flitter business," John interrupted. "Yeah, I heard. He's a real sweetheart."
"He doesn't just go after your knees…he goes after your livelihood…and everyone you'd ever met's livelihood."
"You scared?" John put the last of his snack into his mouth.
"You suicidal?" Andy shot back.
The conman chuckled. "Only in the morning after a night of celibacy." He set the plate on the nearest flat surface. "Now what?"
"Now the guy comes…if he comes after Saxon does, that means they're in a snit."
Guy? John hadn't heard that Saxon was into anyone at the moment. "Where's he come from?"
"The coffee shop upstairs. I think he's in charge of it or something. Wait…here he comes. I bet you like this…"
John glanced toward the ornate staircase…and froze.
The man was beautiful. There was no other way to describe him. Dark hair, blue eyes, gorgeous body wrapped up in a designer suit complete with waistcoat and silver watch chain, a deep red shirt contrasting against pale skin…
And John felt the breath leave his body, even as he was turning away from the approaching man, hoping that he hadn't been noticed…
Damn you, Jack!
"I don't know if we can use him yet," Andy was saying, as John's eyes followed that delectable arse into the restaurant. "I haven't even caught his name yet."
"What?" Andy sounded puzzled.
"His name is Ianto."
John stalked his way into the warehouse, the noise of construction not making a dent in his anger and disappointment. He barely noticed how much was done on the mock-up of the Gallifrey's vault, or the new vans parked away from the construction area.
He did see Jack though; he was standing beside a replica of one of the rolling carts. There was a stopwatch in his hand – and John knew just how much of a kink a stopwatch had been to both Jack and Ianto in their time together – and as he approached the false top of the cart flew open, revealing Jenny grinning around a rebreather held in her mouth.
"Twenty-nine minutes, forty-seven seconds," Jack said. "Everything okay?"
"No problem," she said, shimmying herself out of the enclosed space. "A little cramped, but nothing I can't handle."
"Jack," John interrupted, "I need to talk to you."
"Can't it wait?" Jack frowned.
"Nope, it's can't." To punctuate just how serious it was, John grabbed his partner by the arm and practically dragged him away, ignoring the looks he was getting.
They were nearly to the exit when John finally spoke. "Tell me this isn't about him," he snapped angrily. "Or else I'll walk off the job right now."
Jack pulled his arm out of John's grasp. "What are you talking about?" he asked, confusedly.
"Ianto." John practically spat the name. "He's with Harold Saxon. Tell me this isn't about screwing the guy who's screwing your husband."
"Ex-husband." Jack's voice was perfectly calm, and even though John had known him for years he couldn't see any cracks in that calmness.
"It's not," Jack denied. Then he paused. "Well, not entirely." He met John's eyes squarely. "When we started in this business we told each other that we'd play the game like we had nothing to lose. But I lost something. Someone. That's why I'm here."
John felt the anger leave him. He'd known how much Jack had loved Ianto; he'd seen it. He'd even tried to tell the other conman that it would only end in tears. But Jack hadn't listened, and now it had come to this.
"Here's the problem, Jack. We're stealing two things now. And when push comes to shove, if you can't have both, which are you gonna choose? And remember: Ianto doesn't divide eleven ways."
Jack just looked at him, and John was starting to feel a bit uncomfortable under those eyes. "If things go to plan," he answered, "I won't have to make that choice."
Of course Jack had a plan. If it was thing John could count on in life, was that Jack Harkness always had a plan.
Well, he'd go along with it for now. But if there was any danger to the job...
"How'd he look, by the way?" Jack asked, sounding and looking hopeful.
"He looked good," John answered. But I've seen him happier, was the unspoken thought.
New Vegas City, New Vegas
Ianto Harkness-Jones sighed, closing his eyes as he brought the small cup to his face, inhaling the scent of fine coffee before he took a small sip. The sharp, earthy taste exploded on his tongue, and he barely bit back a moan of pleasure. "This is the Columbian dark, isn't it?" he murmured, opening his eyes to look at his business manager, Bilis Manger.
Truth to tell, Ianto found the older man a bit creepy, but Harry had recommended him with the some of the highest praise Ianto had ever heard, and so had brought him in to help with running the younger man's string of coffee shops. And Ianto had to admit, the man certainly knew a lot about business.
"Yes, it is," Manger answered, blinking those weird dark eyes slowly. Ianto often wondered if he had some alien blood in him, but was too respectful to ask. "The salesman is here now, if you're interested in speaking with him."
"Yes, please send him in."
Manger did a little half-bow movement, then left Ianto's office. Ianto leaned back in his chair, savoring another sip of the coffee while he waited. Coffee…it was what had brought him to the attention of Harold Saxon in the first place, had made Ianto the businessman he was today, and had gained him the respect of coffee growers over ten different worlds. And, if he was truthful with himself, Ianto could say that coffee had brought him to Jack Harkness as well.
No, he didn't want to think about Jack. And yet, his ex-husband had been coming to mind a lot lately, since he'd discovered that Jack had been released from prison.
He turned his chair to face the window overlooking New Vegas City. When Harry had come into his life and swept him off his feet, the casino owner had insisted that Ianto have a well-appointed office within the Gallifrey Casino itself. It wasn't that high up in the massive building, but it suited Ianto just fine. He could look out over the city, and even at night there was enough light streaming in from the various other casinos and attractions that, if he chose to work that late, he would have been able to see what he was doing without turning on the overhead.
Well, they did say that New Vegas was the city that never slept. Ianto could understand why, and it wasn't because of the gambling and other entertainments. It was simply too bright out to get any decent rest.
There was a soft knock on the door, and without prompting Manger entered once more, bringing with him a nervous-looking young man wearing an ill-fitting suit. "Mr. Harkness-Jones…allow me to introduce Mr. Eugene Jones, he represents the coffee growers of Columbia Prime."
Ianto rose, and reached over and shook the salesman's hand. "Welcome to New Vegas," he greeted calmly, letting himself fall behind the mask he reserved for strangers and business…or pretty much anyone else. "Please, have a seat."
"Thank you, sir." The young Mr. Jones took the offered chair, and Ianto sat back down. "I understand that the coffee crop on Columbia Prime was especially good this year…"
He listened as Jones related the yields and types of bean that made his planet one of the finest for coffee in the sector. Ianto asked pointed questions; Jones answered them, relaxing visibly as their conversation continued. Soon Ianto was making a deal to have the special Columbian Dark blend in his shops, and with Manger helping it was a beneficial deal indeed.
They were just getting to their feet once more, this time to shake on their concluded business, when Ianto's office door opened. All three men turned at the intrusion.
Harold Saxon walked into the room. He wasn't an imposing man, but his presence seemed to fill the office as he entered. There was an aura of danger about him; Ianto was never sure if this attracted or repulsed him, but then Harry had always been pretty honest with his dealings, no matter how shady.
It made a distinct difference from his ex- husband.
No, he wasn't going to think of Jack again.
"Good evening, Mr. Harkness-Jones," he greeted, stopping just inside the room. There was a twinkle in his unreadable dark eyes. "I'm not interrupting anything?"
"Not at all, Mr. Saxon," Ianto answered smoothly. It still bothered him that Harry was so adamant about treating him like an employee when they weren't alone. "Our meeting is just concluding." He introduced Harry to Eugene Jones, who was even more nervous about meeting Harry than he'd been Ianto himself.
"Then it's a good thing I was kept by my fight promoter." He grinned widely. "I give him an unlimited budget…and he exceeds it."
Ianto barely managed to keep from rolling his eyes. One of Harry's least endearing characteristics was his needing to flaunt his wealth at people. Even the Goddess knew that Harold Saxon was about the richest man in the Vegas Galaxies.
"I understand it's gonna be a helluva fight," Jones piped up, surprising Ianto with his forwardness.
"We hope so," Harry said, favoring him now with a look.
Jones must have heard the implicit dismissal in the response; he hurriedly made his farewells, and Manger escorted him from the office, leaving Harry and Ianto alone.
"You should try this coffee," Ianto said, pouring a little of the Columbian Dark into a cup and passing it to his lover. "I've just made a deal to sell it."
Harry took a sip, nodding. "Do you like it?" he asked plainly.
"I do, yes."
"Then I like that you like it."
It was one of Harry's patented dodges, but Ianto knew them all so well by now. He just wasn't a coffee snob like Ianto himself was.
"I have some bad news on the fashion front," Harry went on, putting the half-finished cup down on Ianto's desk.
"It seems that Billy Davis is going to be wearing red trunks on Saturday night."
The younger man raised an eyebrow, wondering just what Harry's prize fighter would be wearing had to do with him.
"And I understand you'll be wearing a charcoal pinstripe with a red shirt…if the cameras pick us up in the front row, and you looking like you will in that red shirt…"
"Ah." Ianto suddenly knew where this was going.
"He's a charming man and a damned fine fighter, but no one's going to be watching him fight when they can make a study of you. I've asked Frobisher to find three or four things for you to try. I hope you're not too disappointed."
Of course he was. But he managed to bury his feelings under his customary mask. "Not a problem."
"Are you sure?"
Ianto nodded. He really didn't have much of a choice; to be honest he really didn't want to go to the fight, but as Harry's 'companion' he was expected to show up.
Harry favored him with a smile. "I'll see you tonight then."
Instinctively Ianto leaned over to kiss him, but Harry recoiled. The younger man frowned. "What? We're alone…"
Harry glanced upward, and Ianto turned to see the almost hidden camera in the corner. "In my hotels," he murmured, "there's always someone watching."
He turned then, leaving the office without so much as a farewell. Ianto watched him go, unconsciously chewing his lip. He sighed. There were times when he was happy, but those times were becoming few and far between.
Ianto was beginning to seriously wonder why he was still with Harold Saxon.
Harold Saxon took a stroll through his casino, his expensive shoes making a slight drumming sound as he strode purposefully toward the high-roller's room. His pit boss, Tommy Brockless, was waiting for him; he'd sent a message that he'd wanted to see Harry. "What do you have for me?"
Tommy made a motion toward the blackjack table. Harry took a good look; it wasn't someone he recognized, a youngish man whose face looked like an affronted frog. He had a sizable stack of chips at his elbow. "Who is he?"
"Mr. Parker, sir. Henry Parker. Wishes to speak to you privately."
"You know anything about him?" Harry looked at him closer. The suit he was wearing must have been worth thousands, and that wasn't including the jeweled tiepin and cufflinks.
"Businessman of some kind, mostly New Wales area. He's very vague, but I asked around; word is he deals primarily in alien weapons. One of the biggest arms' dealers."
Harry frowned. "I've never heard of him."
"Yessir. That's why I don't doubt the story."
Tommy had a point. None of the really good weapons' dealers you just didn't hear about; it meant they weren't sloppy. "He's staying here?"
"Checked in two nights ago, sir. He's in the Cloister Suite."
"How's he doing?"
"He's up almost forty grand."
Harry stifled a sigh, knowing he couldn't duck meeting the man. "Good for him…"
Ianto sat at their usual table in the Gallifrey's restaurant, sipping a glass of wine almost absently. He glanced at his watch for the fifth time since he'd sat down; Harry was actually going to be running late in a few seconds…
But a pair of warm hands rested on his shoulders. Ianto smiled, turning in his seat. "You're thirty seconds late. I was about to send out a search party…"
And then he recognized the tuxedoed man standing over him.
Jack Harkness gave him a familiar, winning smile. "Hello, Ianto."
Ianto couldn't make up his mind if he was thrilled, petrified, stunned, or outraged. "What are you doing here?" he demanded, deciding that outrage worked just fine.
"You're out." Ianto's voice went cold.
"Of prison. You remember. The day I went out for cigarillos and never came back. You must have noticed."
"Neither one of us smoke."
Jack pulled the chair out opposite him.
"Don't sit – "
But Jack did anyway. "They said I paid my debt to society."
"Funny, I never got a credit."
Ianto stared daggers at Jack.
Jack simply kept smiling.
"You can't stay – "
"It's good to see you," Jack said, overriding Ianto. He glanced down, and a line appeared between those perfect brows. "You're not wearing your ring."
Ianto couldn't believe his ex-husband was being so blatant. "I threw it into the nearest black hole. And I don't have a husband. Or didn't you get the papers?" Not being married hadn't meant that Ianto had changed his name back, but he wasn't about to admit that to the insufferable bastard sitting in Harry's chair.
"Yeah, I got them."
"Well, I told you I'd write."
Jack reached across the table, toward Ianto's hand.
There was no way he was going to let Jack touch him. He'd been having enough doubts about Harry – and enough thoughts about Jack – that he really didn't want that sort of intimate contact.
Ianto slid his hand down into his lap.
"Jack…go, now. Before…"
Ianto froze. Jack knew?
But Jack just kept smiling.
Then he caught the eye of a waiter. "Hypervodka, please."
Ianto couldn't believe what was happening. How dare Jack just show up like that, and act like everything was just fine? He wanted to go all righteous anger on him, but they were in a busy restaurant and didn't want the attention. "Jack…"
"You're doing a wonderful job with your coffee shops. "
Ianto sighed. Trust Jack to bring coffee up.
"The Blue Fields is quite good, but I think the Mountain Roast has fallen off a bit – "
"Does it remind you of anyone?" Ianto snarked, crossing his arms across his chest.
"But I still get the Wheaten Red and the Wheaten Gold confused."
"The Red is a more cinnamon flavor, while the Gold has a sweet honey base to it."
The two men stared at each other for a heartbeat, and Ianto was wishing Jack would just leave. The man wasn't doing good things to his nerves.
"You know," Jack sighed, "I've replayed this conversation in my head so many times over the last several years…"
"Did it always go this poorly?"
"Pretty much, yeah." He smiled, but it was completely different from what Ianto was used to; this was more self-deprecating, as if the man opposite him had finally given up every ounce of cockiness he had.
"Sounds frustrating." Damn, he hadn't meant to sound sympathetic!
"You were never easy."
Ianto shrugged as if he didn't care, but he couldn't help but wonder if that was some sort of bizarre compliment.
"Okay," Jack said. "I'll make this quick. I came here for you. I'm gonna get on with my life, and I want you with me."
"You're a thief and a liar," Ianto hissed.
"I only ever lied about being a thief. But I don't do that anymore."
"I'm with someone now who doesn't have to make that kind of distinction."
"No, he's very clear on both."
Ianto was well aware of who Harold Saxon was. But Harry had never hidden it, not like Jack had. And if there was anything Ianto despised, it was someone who kept secrets on the par that Jack Harkness had. "Do you know what your problem is?"
"I only have one?" Jack asked, raising an eyebrow.
"You've met too many people like you." Ianto leaned back. "I'm with Harry now."
"Does he make you laugh?"
"He doesn't make me cry," the younger man whispered, seeing his words hit home as Jack visibly flinched.
New Vegas City
Owen Harper pushed nine thousand credits' worth of chips forward, settling the stack on top of his cards, signaling that he didn't want any more. He was sitting on a twenty, and hoped that it would be enough to beat the house once more.
He thoroughly enjoyed playing high rollers. He could show as much bad behavior as possible and no one would say anything. He could sleep with all sorts of women – not that he would now, with Katie waiting for him back home – and not an eyebrow would be raised. It was really the perfect role for him, and while he always would excel at any part he was given to play, it was the rich bastard that always felt like he was donning a well-worn glove.
He'd been out of the game for a year, living the retired life on Floridia with a woman who'd managed to capture his heart – or at least his libido – and had considered himself fairly happy. But then that bloody John Hart had showed up, teased him with this big payoff…and Owen had followed like a puppy looking for a treat.
He was loving it.
Although if Jack got on his case one more time about not having his head in the game he was going to feed the man's bollocks to him with a nice brown sauce.
He also had to wonder if he'd be able to go back to Katie after this.
"Hey," the player next to him drew his thoughts back to the here and now. "You don't want to get in too heavy to this Saxon."
"What?" he asked, acting confused; in actuality, Owen was very familiar with just what Harold Saxon could get up to, there were enough rumors about the man.
The player – a Thargon, judging from his coloring – sidled up a bit closer, as if he was about to share a confidence. "A friend of a friend of mine once borrowed a hundred thousand from the guy. Two months went by, Saxon hadn't heard from him, so he calls him up and asked for his money. My friend's friend tells him he'll get it when he himself has it. Half an hour later Saxon's in his hotel room, dangling him off his 50th floor balcony by his ankles."
Owen could tell this was yet another urban legend about the wily casino owner; Saxon never dirtied his own hands, preferring to have minions do his work for him. Still, there might have been some truth to it at some point, he just doubted that Harold Saxon was the one who'd done the actual dangling. Besides, these "friend of a friend" stories a person had to take with a large grain of salt.
The dealer turned over a nineteen; Owen won.
He sensed a presence over his shoulder; Owen had seen Saxon standing by the door, so he assumed it was the casino owner. The man could lurk with the best of them, and it had been a bit hard to ignore him.
His assumption proved correct. "Mr. Parker."
Owen turned in his seat. "Mr. Saxon," he answered to his current name, one corner of his mouth turned up in a smirk. "I recognize you from the vids. You know, in nine casinos out of ten, the owner comes up in the middle of the hand to ask me what I want. I respect you're waiting."
If any of Owen's friends had seen him then, they wouldn't have recognized the man's demeanor. It was always best to start off polite; hit them with the attitude later when the mark was in your pocket.
"You're the guest," Saxon said, returning the smirk.
"Care to sit in on a hand?" Owen was very familiar with the gaming laws, and knew that the man would refuse.
"I'd love to, Mr. Parker, but the NVGB would feed me to my pet Mandrils."
Owen suppressed his shiver; Mandrils were nasty, and anyone who kept them as pets was to be feared. He wondered how many of his enemies had been fed to them already.
It was a good thing he already felt a very healthy fear of Harold Saxon. It would keep him alive.
If you didn't fear the mark, you lost the game.
"Right shame, that," he replied. "You're basically the King of New Vegas and you're stuck playing craps in a dark alley somewhere."
Saxon shrugged. "No shame at all. It'd remind me of growing up." He made an ushering movement with his hand. "You wished to speak to me?"
"I did." Owen gathered his chips, sliding a thousand-credit chip across to the dealer in a show of magnanimity, then allowed Saxon to lead him away.
The casino owner showed him to a secluded corner. "What can I do for you, Mr. Parker?"
"The big fight is Saturday, isn't it?"
"It is. I can get you tickets – "
Owen shook his head. "Nah. That sort of thing doesn't interest me. But I do have a package arriving here Saturday night. A black briefcase, standard size, and the contents are pretty damned valuable to me."
"I'd be happy to put it in the house safe for you."
"The house safe is for the Saurian brandy and your grandmother's pearls. I'm really gonna need something more secure." Owen had to play it carefully; he didn't want Saxon to wriggle off the hook he was setting.
"I can assure you, the house safe is perfectly – "
Owen just looked at him, letting the contempt he felt for the regular safe show on his face. "I can assure you, Mr. Saxon…your generosity in this matter won't be forgotten. Now…what can you offer me besides the house safe?"
Jack sat across the table from Ianto, his eyes on the younger man as he leaned forward, a neutral mask disguising his true feelings. The conman wondered just when that blank look had appeared, and his heart sank at it.
He'd really missed Ianto. More than he'd thought possible. He'd been expecting the divorce papers but it has still felt like he'd been stabbed in the heart when they'd finally arrived. There'd been that small part of him that had hoped his husband would be waiting for him when he got out, but he knew Ianto well enough to know the man's pride would have been wounded, and his trust in Jack completely lost.
Jack really couldn't blame him.
"See," Ianto said, his New Wales accent doing things to Jack's libido that should be illegal in most systems, "the kind of people you steal from, they have insurance to compensate them. They get made whole again. I don't. I had to leave my home to get away from what happened. How do I get that time back, Jack?"
He'd known he'd hurt Ianto; and he truly deserved to be told off. But Jack hadn't known just how bad it was going to be. He really wanted to get through to the gorgeous man opposite him, to get him back on his side. "You can't," he admitted. "But what you can do is not throw away any more time."
Ianto was shaking his head. "You don't know anything – "
Jack cut him off. "Listen…you don't love me anymore, you want to make a life with someone else? Fine…I have to live with that. But not him."
That caused the younger man to bark out a laugh. "Spoken like a true ex-husband."
"I'm not joking, Ianto." Why couldn't Jack convince him?
"I'm not laughing." He rolled his eyes. "You have to admit there's a bit of a conflict of interest when you give me advice about my love life."
Jack sighed, leaning back in his seat. Ianto did have a point. "Yes," he conceded. "But that doesn't mean I'm wrong."
Ianto looked at him, his blue eyes examining Jack minutely. His gaze went to Jack's hand, to take in the platinum band that was prominent on his finger. His eyes turned wistful, and Jack knew at that moment that he might actually have a chance.
"Do you remember what I said to you, when we first met?" he asked softly.
Jack nodded. "You said, 'You better know what you're doing'."
"Do you, Jack? Now? Because – truly – if you don't, you should walk out of here and forget all about me." There was a seriousness in his tone that thickened that accent, and if Jack hadn't been so focused on the conversation he would have been painfully aroused.
"I know what I'm doing," he answered, equally as serious.
"What are you doing?"
Both Jack and Ianto looked up at the interruption. Harold Saxon stood there, a curious smile on his face.
Jack had the almost uncontrollable urge to punch that smirk right off those hated features.
"Harry," Ianto said into the sudden, uncomfortable silence, "this is my ex-husband – "
"Jack Harkness," the conman finished, extending his hand.
Saxon took it, and Jack decided he was going to wash the hand at the first available opportunity. "Mr. Harkness." The casino owner turned to Ianto. "I'm sorry I'm late. A guest required my attention."
In that corner of Jack's mind that was keeping track of all the moves that his crew was making, he knew it had to have been Owen in his Henry Parker persona.
"Jack was just walking through the restaurant," Ianto said, "and he spotted me."
"Is that right?" Those dark eyes met Jack's. They were cold, like a predator's.
"I was shocked myself," Jack laughed lightly. "Imagine the odds." He stood up. "Here, I'm sitting in your seat."
Saxon slid gracefully into the newly abandoned chair. "I run several casinos," he answered. "I can imagine the odds quite easily." There was a subtle threat in his tone. "You've recently been released from prison, isn't that right?"
Jack nodded, not saying anything. He glanced at Ianto; his ex-husband was favoring Saxon with a look that he couldn't identify.
"How does it feel to be out?" Saxon went on.
"About the same," jack admitted. "Everything you want is still on the other side."
"That's the human condition for you."
"Harry," Ianto cut in, "Jack was just about to – "
"I just wanted to say hello," Jack spoke up, "for old times' sake."
"Stay for a drink," Saxon invited, although it had a tinge of frost in the words.
Jack knew he wasn't wanted there. Not that he was surprised; he was technically trespassing on Saxon's territory…that territory being Ianto. "I can't – "
"He can't," Ianto said at the same time.
An awkward silence fell. Saxon was the first to make any sort of move; he reached across the table to take Ianto's hand in his.
Jack didn't miss the surprise in the younger man's eyes.
"I don't imagine we'll be seeing you again, Mr. Harkness." There was definitely a warning there.
"You never know," Jack answered, adding a slight smirk.
"I know everything in my casinos."
"So I should put those towels back."
"The towels you can keep." Saxon pulled Ianto's hand not-so-gently toward him, pressing a proprietary kiss to the back.
Again, Jack didn't miss the surprise at the gesture.
"It was good to see you again, Ianto," Jack said.
"Take care, Jack," the young man said quietly, glancing up in Jack's direction. There was a mistiness in those blue eyes, as if he really didn't want Jack to go.
Jack left anyway. He'd seen everything he needed to.
It left him convinced that he actually had a fighting chance to get Ianto back, despite his ex-husband's anger at what Jack had done. He knew he deserved everything that Ianto had said, but at the same time there'd been something still there…
Whistling, he left the casino, content for perhaps the first time since he'd been released.
Andy watched Jack leave the restaurant, his brows drawn down into a puzzled frown. He glanced inside; Saxon and his companion were sitting at their table, talking. Saxon didn't look happy; his date had his arms crossed, his handsome face wearing an inscrutable mask as he listened to what was being said.
He pulled back before anyone could catch sight of him, absently chewing on his lower lip. What had Jack wanted with that Ianto guy?
Shrugging, he turned to follow the older conman out of the casino. He'd have to ask Hart about it.
New Vegas City
Mickey "the Idiot" Smith was in love.
Not with your usual man/woman/alien…this was a love affair with wires and capacitors and chemicals that mix together in interesting ways.
Oh, and the loud noises were an attraction, too.
Currently, Mickey was sitting on the sofa in their well-appointed suite, leaning over the equipment that he'd strewn all over the plastic-wood conglomerate coffee table. He was working on his newest masterpiece, fancying himself an artist as he carefully shaped the charges into a seemingly innocuous form.
He whistled as he worked, idly thinking about his family and how they just hadn't understood his love for all things explosive. He wasn't an idiot by any stretch of the imagination, except to his parents; but then, they'd each had IQ's that rated off the charts. Mickey's was in the mere 200's, which had earned him the hated nickname from a cousin who really didn't have any room to talk. But it had stuck, and now all he could do was his work and show them all that he was, indeed, the best demolitions man in the business.
It was why he enjoyed working with Jack and John so much. They treated him with respect, not like some of the dumbos he'd done jobs with. Goddess, that last job had been a disaster, all because someone hadn't bothered to check for alarms on the vault floor. He'd be in stir now if it hadn't been for John Hart.
Not that he'd ever admit he owed the smarmy bastard anything…
The news vid was chattering in the background; Mickey had turned it on for noise, but apparently the Tardis Casino was going to be demolished that morning, and Mickey was curious to see another professional at work. It didn't matter how much the technology progressed, blowing things up was still an art form, and the Idiot enjoyed watching another master at his craft.
"We're here at the historic Tardis Casino," the news reader nattered on, "Once it was the prize resort on New Vegas; now it was seconds away from demolition…"
Mickey knew this was the reason "Doctor" John Smith had agreed to bankroll them – to get revenge on Harold Saxon for putting him out of business. He glanced up at the vidscreen; on it, Harold Saxon was standing on a platform, looking incredibly smug. A young man was with him, standing just behind and to the left; Mickey's brow furrowed, thinking the guy looked a bit familiar…
And there was the Doctor, standing beside Saxon, looking very much put out. Mickey shook his head; he remembered how pissed off the man had been before he'd left for the demolition ceremony, not really wanting to go. But Jack had convinced him, saying that they needed to keep up pretenses, and the former casino owner had finally, reluctantly, agreed.
Also on the podium stood the two fighters from Saturday's event: Mark Lynch, and Billy Davis. Both looked like they'd been stuffed into the suits they were wearing, and Mickey snorted as he went back to work, the newsreader still nattering away about the old casino, and the spectacle for Saturday…
Out of the corner of his eye, Mickey saw both fighters move up to a huge, decorative-looking plunger. He rolled his eyes at the ostentation of it all as the pair pushed the handle down.
Mickey heard the explosion – well, technically it was an implosion – twice: once over the vid's speakers, the second time a split second later, from outside the building; he knew, if he turned around, he would have seen the old building slowly disintegrate into a pile of dust and debris from the window in the suite.
And, as he started back to work, the power in the room flickered and went out.
Mickey practically propelled himself off the sofa and out of the suite, hooking the "Do Not Disturb" sign over the knob on his way out.
John looked around the table at the crew he and Jack had assembled…except for Mickey, and when John had called him in for the meeting all he'd gotten was a spate of cursing over the comms and a snarled request to "leave him the fuck alone". He gladly left the demolitions expert alone after that.
"Okay, guys and gals," he began, leaning over the table and the mock-up of all three casinos that took up nearly the entire surface. "Call is at 17:50. Make-up and costume. Owen's package arrives at 19:25, and Andy grabs the codes. All goes well there, and we're a go." He looked at the aforementioned men; they both nodded their understanding. "At 19:50, Rhys and Banana deliver Jenny. From that point, we have thirty minutes to blow the power before she suffocates."
Rhys looked significantly serious; Banana was chewing on a fingernail with a look that made John think he was constipated. He resisted the urge to smack him upside the head, thinking to knock some brain cells loose, but didn't bother.
He glanced over at Jenny. She was practically bouncing, and John couldn't help but leer in her direction. She really was quite cute…maybe when this was over…
Then he got a look at the Doctor's face, and decided he quite liked his balls where they were. It didn't help the man's attitude that Saxon had knocked down his casino that morning.
"Once the electricity is blown – " and this was where John wished Mickey was there – "all entry points to the vault and its elevator will automatically lock down for two minutes. That's when we make our move."
The dummied-up cash cart was wheeled into the center of the mock-up vault by a uniformed Rhys Williams. He positioned the cart with three others then walked back out, through the rather intimidating false vault door. Once the door clunked shut, the top of the cart pushed up, to reveal a small pair of feet, which wriggled up until the small form of Jenny Smith was able to pull herself up and out, and onto one of the other carts.
She removed the rebreather, closing the lid of the cart she'd popped out of. She was dressed all in skin-tight black, and John had to admit she looked positively yummy in a cat-burglar way. "Okay…they've put you in the middle of the room, far from everything. You have to get from there to the door without touching the floor. What do you do?"
Jenny fired him a cheeky grin, bending her knees with her back to the door. She inhaled slowly, her upper body completely loose, seemingly oblivious of her audience as she centered herself.
"Five says she shorts it," Gwen murmured.
"Make it ten," Toshiko said.
The two women shook hands.
John just shook his head. He had faith that Jenny would make it; after all, he'd chosen her, and he did actually know what he was doing most of the time. Maybe it was female jealousy…yeah…
From a dead squat, Jenny launched herself backward, to land seated on top of the chip rack that took up space near the door, her legs dangling over the edge in a perfectly relaxed position. Her grin lit up the room.
Gwen paid up.
John opened his mouth to congratulate her, when the echoing sound of a door slamming had him and the others turning toward the noise.
It was Mickey. And he looked distinctly unhappy.
He didn't smell all that great, either.
"We're in deep shit," he growled, as he practically ripped the stained and soaked shirt from his chest. John wrinkled his nose at the scent that wafted from the abandoned material. "That damned demo crew didn't use a coaxial lynch to back the main line! They onioned the mainframe couplet!"
John leaned toward Toshiko. "You get that?"
"I'll explain later," the tech expert whispered back.
"They blew the back-up grid, one by one! Like freaking dominoes!" Mickey went on, adding some rather colorful swears in about three different languages.
Jack looked as confused as John felt. "Mickey…what happened?" the older conman asked.
The demolitions expert threw up his hands. "They did exactly what I'd planned to, only they did it by accident. Now they know the weakness in the power grid, and they're fixing it."
"So…" Jack prompted.
"So, unless we do this job on New Reno…we're screwed."
They all began to talk amongst themselves. John glanced over at Jack; the other man was pacing furiously, absently chewing on a thumbnail. It occurred to him that this little screw-up may have happened for the best; yeah, they'd be out a lot of money, but with the personal issues…he honestly didn't begrudge Jack's happiness, but this shit with Ianto being in the picture…
"Maybe we could…" he faded out as Jack turned to look at him.
"By tomorrow?" he asked, one eyebrow raised.
John sighed into the silence.
"Wait a sec," Mickey said, getting everyone's attention. "We could use a pinch…"
"And what's one of those when it's at home?" Jack asked acerbically.
"It's a bomb," Mickey answered, a sudden grin on his filthy face. "Only there isn't any explosion."
"That's about as clear as mud," John snarked. "Which, judging from how you look, you would be intimately familiar with."
Mickey gave him a two-fingered salute, then continued. "Every time a nuclear device detonates, it unleashes an electromagnetic pulse which shuts down any power source in its vicinity. Of course, usually that doesn't matter, because the weapon destroys everything you might need power for anyway. But a pinch creates a similar electromagnetic pulse, but without the headache of mass destruction and death."
"But," Jack questioned, "wouldn't anything be shielded against atomics?"
"Nah," Mickey waved the inquiry off. "They're considered too primitive. Hardly anyone uses nuclear bombs anymore."
"So, how long?" John asked the million credit question.
"About ten seconds," Mickey answered.
"Could it take out the power grid of, say…." Jack said, "New Vegas City?"
"Sure. But there's only one pinch powerful enough to do it."
"Pasadena, on New Cali."
Pasadena, New Cali
Andy sat in the back of the hovervan they'd rented on New Cali, trying to calm his nerves by watching his fellow criminals as they prepared for their raid on the lab where Mickey's pinch would be located. Rhys was driving; Banana sat in the passenger seat, messing with something that looked vaguely like a remote control.
Jack, Mickey, and Jenny were with Andy in the back of the van, all dressed in black and looking pretty damned melodramatic. Jenny and Mickey were tooling up; the acrobat with ropes and hooks; the demolitions expert with such things as drills, and something that Andy thought was some sort of sonic screwdriver.
The van pulled to a halt, but Andy couldn't see what was outside simply because the back of the vehicle was closed. He knew, of course, where they were going, but there was something about not being able to see out that made his head itch a bit. He wondered vaguely if that was what being in a cell was like, but didn't want to ask Jack for clarification.
"You two ready?" the older conman asked, looking at Mickey and Jenny in turn.
They both nodded; for once Jenny wasn't all bouncy and excited, and Andy knew this was her 'business' face, which didn't fit what he'd seen so far of the younger woman. Jack threw open the hovervan's rear doors, and jumped out. The two followed, and Andy moved to join them.
"Where are you going?" Jack demanded.
"Coming with you," Andy answered, confused.
Jack simply smiled, and shook his head.
"But – "
Anything else he might have said was cut off as the door was slammed in his face.
It took approximately five minutes for Rhys and Banana to get on his very last nerve.
It started off with a game of Twenty Questions – which Rhys won handily after three questions – and was now going on with an argument about string theory that had them each claiming that their decimal points were both right, and then quickly degenerated into Banana calling Rhys a bitch and Rhys pulling Banana into a headlock.
Andy had enough.
He climbed out of the back of the van without either man noticing. He took a deep breath of night air, looking around to see if he could spot the others. They weren't in sight, but he finally got a good view of the laboratory they were currently parked outside. It was all concrete and glass, very modern-looking, with most of the rooms visible from the outside in darkness. The stairwell was lit; there wasn't anyone on the stairs, so Andy assumed the three were already at their destination.
The pickpocket decided there was still time to catch up. He headed toward the door, knowing that was how Jack and the others had gotten in. And yes…the door was ajar, and Andy pushed his way inside.
He was just passing the third floor when he heard the harsh sound of air being accelerated through an anti-grav engine. He glanced outside…
The hovervan was leaving without him.
Andy swore. Okay, next time he was going to listen when told to stay in the van…
He began to tear off back down the stairs, but the loud pounding of footfalls echoed up the stairwell, coming toward him. Andy reversed, going back up, leaving the stairwell at the very next floor.
Apparently they'd noticed him missing, because he caught a glimpse of the van coming to a halt just as he left the stairs.
Sirens and alarms start to blare as Andy rushed into the first office he could find unlocked, not wanting to take the time to pick his way inside. Without thinking, he picked up the nearest heavy object – a desk chair – and threw it at the floor-to-ceiling window, shattering the glass.
He had no choice. He had to jump.
Luckily, the main entrance overhang broke his fall.
The hovervan started to back up, and Andy accepted the invitation. He leapt off the overhang and onto the back to the van, then propelled himself through the open rear door. Jack and Jenny each grabbed an arm and hauled him inside.
The engine roared, and the hovervan took off as if its tailpipe was on fire. Andy tumbled into Jack, unable to keep his balance, and the rear door slammed shut…on Jenny's hand.
The young woman gasped, then cursed in a language Andy wasn't familiar with. Mickey was at her side at once, cradling the injured hand carefully as he probed the fingers gently.
Suddenly Jack was standing over him. The look on the older man's face was fierce. "When I say stay in the van, you stay in the van…got it? You lose focus in this game for one second, and someone gets hurt."
Andy knew he'd screwed up, but he didn't need Jack Harkness raking him over the coals for it. "I got it," he snarled back, pulling himself up and taking a seat beside the large device that had to be the electromagnetic pulse that Mickey had wanted.
Could this get any worse?
New Vegas City
John waited in the lobby of the Gallifrey, his sharp eyes on the lookout for the hover van that he knew was on its way. A part of him had almost wished that Mickey hadn't come up with an alternate way to take down the power grid, but at the same time he was really looking forward to things starting to heat up. He was getting a bit bored with all the planning, and wanted to be acting.
The van pulled up under the ornate vehicle port, spilling Jack and Andy. The older conman slapped the top of the van, and it pulled off, leaving the three of them to enter the hotel.
John noticed there was something wrong.
Jack seemed his usual, intense self; but Andy kept glancing in Jack's direction, a tight look around his eyes. The first thing that came to John's mind was that Jack had gotten on Andy's back for some reason, but since neither man said anything he decided to drop it. He'd keep an eye on the situation, and intervene if he had to. As long as it didn't interfere with the job, he'd let it lie.
The ride up in the lift was quiet, and John rolled his eyes at it. Well, this was what happened when you got a group of people together with different personalities…there was bound to be conflicts.
They hadn't even stepped one foot into the room before being met my Toshiko. "We have a problem."
"Not what I want to hear on today of all days," Jack quipped.
"You've been red-flagged, Jack," she went on, as they joined Owen and the Doctor in the hotel room.
"What does that mean?" Andy asked curiously.
"It means," the tech went on, "that the moment he sets foot on the casino floor, they'll be watching him. Like hawks, only with lots of fancy surveillance equipment."
"That's a problem then," the pickpocket murmured, quite unnecessarily.
"You got any idea how this happened, Jack?" John asked, aware of every eye suddenly on the pair as they faced off.
Jack simply looked at him. John wanted him to say anything than what he was actually thinking, but Jack didn't seem to want to admit a thing.
"I do," Andy spoke up. "He's been chasing Saxon's guy." He seemed to wilt a little under Jack's sudden glare in his direction. "I've been tailing you."
"Who told you to do that?" Jack growled.
"I did," John answered. "I knew you wouldn't leave Ianto alone."
"Who's Ianto?" the Doctor demanded, standing from where he'd been seated on the sofa.
"My husband," Jack ground out, looking very pissed off.
"Ex-husband," John corrected.
"Coffee-boy is here?" Owen snapped, looking well disgusted.
"Don't call him that!" Jack retorted.
"I'm sorry, Jack," John murmured, feeling strangely sympathetic. "I didn't want to think this would sting you, but it did." He sighed. "You're out."
"What?" the Doctor fairly screeched.
"It's that or we shut down right now. His involvement puts us all at risk."
Jack squared off with John, fury screaming from every pore even though his face was stony. "This isn't your call."
"You made it my call," John snapped. "When you put him ahead of us. You made it mine, Jack."
"This is my job!"
If looks could kill, John knew he'd be a puddle of body parts on the floor. He wanted to apologize, to somehow make this right…but he knew he couldn't. Jack had been stupid and let personal feelings get in the way. This was his fault, not anyone else's.
"He can't just be out," the Doctor said, looking between both men. "Who's going to take his place?"
There was only one other person John could ask. He turned to Andy. "Kid, you up for it?"
Andy glanced between the two conmen, swallowing convulsively. John could see read him like he could the cards: half-cocksure and half scared shitless. He could remember when he'd felt that way, on his first long con…it had been a heady experience, almost as good as sex.
The young man nodded, licking his lips nervously. "I can do this."
"You'll be fine." That was all the confidence building John had time for at the moment. He turned to Toshiko. "Gorgeous, find everyone else. Let 'em know the change in plan. Curtain goes up at 19:00."
She nodded, then headed back to the computer set-up in the second bedroom. John took a look at the members of the crew in the room; pretty much everyone looked gobsmacked, except for Jack of course, who looked plain furious. Well, he didn't have a right to be; the man had been rumbled, there was no call for him to be pissy over it.
"Can't believe Coffee-boy is with Saxon," Owen muttered. "Hell, I knew he had shit taste for marrying Harkness, but still…"
Which pretty much summed up what John was feeling…without the Jack-bashing.
Harold Saxon paced his penthouse, com unit to his ear. He was only halfway listening to what was being said; his eyes were on Ianto, who was getting dressed in one of the suits that had been chosen for him to wear, instead of the one the younger man had wanted. A part of him was disappointed in not being able to see that delectable body in the charcoal pinstripe, but this would work out much better. He didn't want anyone paying attention to what was his, anyway.
He finally got tired of the droning in his ear. "You inform Mr. Sherman he'll find a better view of the fight in front of his vidscreen. I'm sure he has access to the pay channel carrying it." With that, he closed the connection, letting his irritation go. It wouldn't do, and he had better control than that.
He caught Ianto looking at him. Saxon met the gaze. "What are you thinking about?"
A slight smile cracked the mask that the young man was wearing. "You."
"Finish getting dressed, and I'll meet you downstairs." Saxon left the suite, completely missing the look of pain that flickered through his lover's eyes.
Saxon took the private elevator, glancing at his wrist chronometer. As the doors opened, the time clicked over to 19:00.
Right on time.
His manager, Aaron Copley, was waiting for him just outside the lift doors. "Any sign of Harkness?" Saxon asked, taking a look around himself.
"No, nothing," Copley answered. "If you want him gone, I can probably have him bounced from the planet on a parole violation…"
Saxon appreciated the thought. "No, not yet. Put a guy on him. He's here for a reason, and I want to know what it is. But if he goes anywhere near Ianto, take it to the next level."
Copley nodded. "Janet?"
Saxon smiled. He clapped the man on the shoulder, then headed out into the casino, toward the meeting he knew he had. He collected two security men on his way, hoping to be able to get this piece of business over with quickly.
Henry Parker was standing just inside the lobby doors, his back ramrod straight in the designer suit he was wearing. "Mr. Parker," Saxon said, getting his attention.
The rat-faced man nodded. "Mr. Saxon," he returned the greeting.
"It's a very busy night for me. Are we on schedule?"
"Yep. Got no reason to think otherwise. My couriers should be here shortly."
As if on cue, an expensive looking flitter pulled up at the curb. Two men got out; both were dressed in black, and wore fashionable dark glasses. Saxon could swear he could make out the concealed holsters under those suits, but didn't let it worry him. He was on his home turf. Nothing could happen to him there.
One of the men had a plain black case; only when he got closer could Saxon see that it was handcuffed to his wrist. Well, that's a bit melodramatic, he thought as the man approached Parker, removed the cuff from his own wrist, and snapped it in place around Parker's.
"Thanks, guys," Parker said. As if that was a dismissal, both men turned and left, getting back into the flitter.
"If you'll follow me." Saxon ushered them back through the casino. Parker walked beside him, the two security men flanking them and looking quite menacing.
They were just passing a bank of slots when a familiar face caught his eye,
He motioned one of the security men forward. "Find Mr. Walsh. Tell him Mr. Harkness is in the west slots."
The guard dropped back, and Saxon was confident that the matter would be taken care of.
Jack's eyes followed Saxon and Owen – as Henry Parker – as they walked by, heading toward the cages. He slipped the credit coins he'd managed to win from the slot machine into the pocket of his tuxedo, then he got up from the stool he'd been seated on.
He then walked away.
John took a turn circling an obviously nervous Andy. The pickpocket fidgeted in the smart suit he was wearing; John wondered if the kid had ever worn anything but casual clothes in his entire life.
"Where you gonna put your hands, Sunshine?" he asked, coming to stand in front of the young man.
Andy promptly clasped them in front of him.
The older conman barely stifled a sigh. "Nope. Try again."
Andy goes for his pockets.
Normally John would use this chance to feel up the new guy in the name of teaching him a few lessons in grifting, but he barely managed to restrain himself. "Not the pockets either…although that does stretch your trousers out quite nicely." He enjoyed Andy's blush. "And don't mess with your tie." Goddess, it was at this point that he actually wished Eye Candy was on their side, because he could teach this youngster a thing or two about wearing a suit… "Look at me."
Andy raised his eyes, staring somewhere on John's face that wasn't his own eyes. He looked a bit uncomfortable, holding himself ramrod straight.
"Is the how you're gonna stand?"
Andy promptly shifted his feet, but really didn't do much for his posture.
"Wrong again." This was like pulling teeth. "I ask you a question, you have to think of an answer…where do you look?"
Andy looked down, effectively dodging John's gaze.
"Sweet Goddess. You look down, they know they're lying – "
Andy looked up, as if the ceiling just got really interesting.
" – and up, they know you don't know the truth. Don't use three words when one will do, don't shift your eyes, look always at your mark but don't stare, be specific but not memorable, be funny but don't make him laugh. He's got to like you, then forget you the moment you leave his sight. And for Goddess's sake whatever you do, don't under any circumstances – "
"John," Toshiko interrupted, "can you come here for a sec?"
"Sure thing, sweetheart."
With that, John wandered off….and he barely hid the smirk as he left a completely baffled Andy Davidson in his wake.
Owen Harper placed the black case down on the empty table, then ran his thumb over the DNA scanner and popped it open.
Inside were five perfect Arcadian diamonds.
Or, at least that's what they looked like.
He glanced up at Harold Saxon; the casino owner was looking at the diamonds avidly, and Owen could almost read the greed in the man.
The counting room that he'd been escorted to was empty, but the equipment scattered around the room spoke to what it was used for. Owen vaguely wondered just how much money passed through this room on an average day, then happily imagined himself rolling in it.
"They're very beautiful," Saxon breathed. "Were they a gift? Or payment?"
Owen stared at him, not answering. He wanted to give an aura of mystery, but really…why would anyone really answer that?
Saxon apparently hadn't expected an answer, either. "Can you life them out, please?"
Owen carefully pulled out the black satin pillow the diamonds were on. Saxon examined the case very thoroughly, before motioning him to set the jewels back inside.
"All right, Mr. Parker. I acknowledge that the case doesn't contain any dangerous or illicit material. I further agree to take custody of your case for a twenty-five hour period to store in my secured vault. While I can't permit you to accompany the case to the vault – "
"Why not?" Owen demanded, even though he'd known this would happen. He did have to keep up pretences, after all.
"Insurance, for one. Security, another. Besides," and Saxon looked at him, smiling in a way that made him closely resemble one of those Boeshane sand-sharks he'd heard Jack talking about. "I just don't trust you."
Before Owen could answer, there was a knock at the door. Saxon excused himself, and the grifter kept his ear cocked without seeming to eavesdrop. He caught the words "Harkness", and "bar" and Owen suddenly didn't want to hear anymore.
Damn Jack, never could keep it in his pants!
"Mr. Parker," Saxon said, cutting through Owen's inner rant about certain conmen and coffee-boys, "this is Mr. Copley, my casino manager. If you'll follow him, he'll arrange for your case to be stored inside my vault, while you watch on a security monitor."
Owen glared, keeping up the act. "I guess I don't have a choice." He unlocked the handcuff from his wrist.
New Vegas City
Andy felt horribly uncomfortable in the suit that John had gotten him.
It didn't help that he was nervous as hell about what he was about to do.
"You'll be fine," Toshiko's calming voice sounded in the earpiece that John had taken great pleasure in inserting deep into his ear canal.
"Thanks," Andy murmured, knowing that she'd hear it.
"No problem. Just don't screw up."
Any good cheer that had been engendered from her earlier comment vanished. He kept waiting for Saxon to appear from the cages, where he knew the man was with Owen.
"Are you torturing the poor lad?" John asked, leaning over Toshiko's shoulder and watching Andy being all twitchy in her monitors.
"Would I do that?" she asked innocently.
"Sweet Goddess, I hope so," he leered at her, and she smiled back shyly. It was too bad that SecGov had pretty much wrecked the tech's nerves, but John knew she still had it in her to be great.
There was a knock on the door. "Room service!" a familiar voice called out from the hallway.
John checked through the peephole anyway; it wouldn't do to be careless this late in the game. He unlocked the door, letting in the Cardiff brothers, who were pushing a white cloth-covered cart. "Anyone order the penne?" Banana asked.
Toshiko waved her hand; the man served her, as Rhys removed the cloth…to reveal the false-lidded cash cart. John vaguely hoped that she'd share; he was starved.
Jenny must have heard the commotion; she came out of the bedroom, dressed all in that slinky black number that John loved to drool over. The only thing marring her good humor was the bandage wound around her hand.
"You ready, sweetheart?" John asked.
Jenny nodded. "As I'll ever be." She favored him with a bright smile, and John vowed to look her up after the job was over, father or no father.
Owen accompanied Copley and Saxon into the security room. The place was so high-tech he wondered if Tosh would even understand it…no wait, of course she would. Tosh was brilliant.
"This is our security center," Copley was saying, as if it wasn't completely obvious where they were. "We oversee all gaming in the casino as well as our vault. You'll be able to monitor your case from here."
"Thanks, this should be fine," Owen answered. Out of the corner of his eye he caught Saxon glancing at his watch; knowing what a time freak the guy was, it must have been driving him nuts to have to stand there and take care of Owen like that. "Don't let me keep you, Mr. Saxon," he said, admirably containing his smirk.
"Mr. Parker," Saxon said absently, then turned and left the room.
"You're up, sunshine," John's voice purred in Andy's earpiece.
Andy didn't need the warning; Saxon was leaving the cages. Someone came forward to hand him his usual portfolio, then he headed toward the restaurant.
Andy caught up with him. "Mr. Saxon?"
Saxon stopped, looking extremely put out. "Yes?" he said, trying to sound polite.
"John Frobisher, New Vegas Gaming Commission." He flashed the identification that Toshiko had made him. "Could I have a few minutes of your time?"
Saxon sighed. "Certainly. Anything for the NVGC…"
Jack watched Andy accost Saxon. They spoke for a second, and then Saxon was leading him away. He took a sip of the hypervodka he'd been nursing, his eyes searching until he found the person he was looking for…
The younger man was wearing a black suit, with a plain white shirt and black tie. Jack's heart began to race; even in the funeral suit his ex-husband looked amazing. He vaguely wondered why Ianto was dressed so plainly, but it didn't really matter.
Jack got up from the bar stool he'd been sitting on, leaving enough credit coins to pay for his drink and to leave a healthy tip. He was so focused on the handsome man walking toward the restaurant that he totally failed to notice the two rather large men following him…
Jenny tucked herself into the cramped cash cart, the rebreather held between her teeth. John leaned over to look at her; the small woman looked horribly uncomfortable. "You okay in there?" he asked.
She nodded, winking at him reassuringly.
"Want something to read? A magazine or something?"
A roll of the eyes was the only response he got. "Suit yourself, sweetheart." He carefully closed the lid. "Okay, we're counting down…thirty minutes of breathing time starts….now." With that, he snapped the lid in place, sealing Jenny inside.
Rhys redressed the cart in its white cloth, then he and Banana whirled the cart around and they left.
Andy followed Saxon as they entered the pit bosses' station. His nerves seemed to be a bit under control, now that this was actually happening. He hoped that the rest of his nervousness would be construed as concern.
"It only came to our attention this morning, Mr. Saxon," he said, managing not to sound too out of breath. "Apparently she has a record longer than my arm…"
"If she is who you say she is," Saxon answered darkly. He waved someone over; it was a young man, who looked far too innocent to be working for a shark like Saxon. "Tommy, call Ophelia Blank over, please."
"Yes, Mr. Saxon." The pit boss left on his errand.
Andy tried to play it cool, and he hoped that he was succeeding. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Saxon open the portfolio, and pull a small card out. Andy's eyes tracked it to Saxon's inner jacket pocket.
"You new at the commission?" Saxon asked, bringing Andy's attention back on his mark.
"Been there about two years," he said, actually sounding nonchalant about it.
"I know Brian Green from over there," the casino owner replied. "You work with him at all?"
In that moment, Andy praised the Goddess and John Hart for the massive preparation he'd been given. "Not since he died last year."
Saxon nodded, and Andy realized that that had been a test, and that he'd passed. He wanted nothing more than to lean against the wall and sigh out of sheer relief, but kept himself under control. He heard Toshiko congratulate him in his ear, and it was hard not to smile.
Tommy the pit boss returned, Gwen Cooper in tow. She looked puzzled, and not a little scared.
"Ms Blank," Saxon said. "Could you come with us?"
"What's going on?" Gwen demanded.
"I think this is better discussed off the floor," Saxon said. He took ahold of her arm, leading her away.
Andy followed closely, passing the lift just in time to see Rhys and Banana leave it. They were dressed as security guards and were pushing a cash cart toward the cage door; he could just make out the pile of white linen on the lift floor.
He heard that familiar voice call his name, and he stopped just over the threshold of the restaurant where he was supposed to be meeting Harry. This was the final straw. Ianto had been so confused by his feelings over the last several days that he'd genuinely had enough, and was ready to take his mood out on the first available person.
And that person was Jack Harkness.
He wheeled around, trying to ignore just how good his ex-husband looked in that tuxedo. "Jack," he growled. "No."
"I'll just take a moment – "
"No," Ianto reiterated. "You're up to something, Jack. And don't say you came here for me. You're pulling a job, aren't you?"
Jack moved closer. "Ianto…"
"Know this: no matter what it is, you won't win me back." Ianto's heart was hammering so hard he felt like he'd just run a race, and he couldn't tell if it was because Jack was standing so close, or if he was trapped in some weird flight or fight response.
"I just came to say good-bye."
Ianto's mouth dropped open in surprise; that hadn't been what he'd expected at all. A part of him was far more upset at that announcement than it should have been, and he simply stared at Jack for a few heartbeats that seemed to last forever.
"Well," he finally managed to say, "Then…good-bye."
Jack smiled, that sweet smile that Ianto only ever saw, but this was tinged by sadness. He leaned forward, brushed his nose against Ianto's cheek, then pressed his lips to the skin above the cheekbone. "Be good," he whispered in Ianto's ear, and it was all he could do to keep his eyes from closing at the pain that simple touch caused.
But then, he pulled back. There was no way he could accept Jack back, not after what had happened between them.
Jack also stepped away; he nodded once, then turned and walked away.
"Good-bye, Jack," Ianto whispered. He already missed him.
As he left Ianto, Jack ran smack dab into two of Saxon's goons.
"Mr. Harkness," one said, "Mr. Saxon would like to see you."
Jack sighed. "I thought he might," he said resignedly. These two were far too big for him to tangle with.
He let himself be led away.
Andy found himself in what looked like some sort of conference room, alone with Gwen and Saxon. The conwoman looked about as nervous as Andy himself was, but then she had an excuse, it was part of her role.
She was seated at the table, chewing on a fingernail. Saxon was standing just behind Andy; the young man could practically feel the man glaring into the back of his neck.
He heard Toshiko telling him to get on with it.
"Thank you for your cooperation, Ms. Blank," Andy said, trying to sound official. "Or should I say, Ms. Cooper?"
Gwen flinched, but didn't answer.
"You are Gwen Cooper? Formerly of the New New York Confederated Prison Authority?"
Gwen was silent.
"Your silence suggests that you don't refute that." He turned to Saxon. "Mr. Saxon, I'm afraid that you've been employing an ex-convict. As you know, the NVGC strictly forbids – "
"Goddess-damned bigot," Gwen muttered, just loud enough to be heard.
Andy paused. He'd known something like this was going to happen, but that was just plain rude. "Pardon me?" he squeaked, letting his shock show in his query. It was the height of insults to call someone a bigot.
Gwen glared at him, and even though he knew this was an act, Andy cowered back. "You heard me. Just because a full-blood human can't earn a decent wage in this galaxy – "
"That has nothing to do with this, and I resent your implication!" Andy's voice fairly vibrated with outrage, but he wasn't going to let the opportunity Gwen had given him pass. "As I was saying, the NVGC strictly forbids the employment of the pureblood – no, wait – "
Gwen launched herself at Andy, tumbling him backward into Saxon…
Giving Andy the opportunity he needed.
It took only seconds to subdue Gwen, and she went back to her seat somewhat unwillingly. "I'm okay, it's fine…"
"Are you all right?" Saxon asked, eyeing Andy.
Andy straightened his suit, barely able to contain his hands from checking his pocket. "Yeah," he answered, glaring at Gwen who simply managed to look pissed off.
Toshiko and John watched on the monitors as the Cardiff brothers made their way to the cage door. While they couldn't hear what was going on, John knew that Banana was playing the idiot – and you may as well stick to what you're good at – and claiming to have lost his keycard. The guards on the door just looked at each other as Rhys started yelling, and Banana looked penitent. It convinced the guards to take the cash cart with Jenny inside through the cage doors, and on its way to the vault.
Owen was watching the guard who'd been assigned to take his case down to the vault. Without seeming to, he glanced at one of the other monitors; it showed a guard pushing a cash cart that he knew had to have Jenny in it. At least the Cardiff brothers had gotten the job done…
And then he caught sight of two very large goons, dragging Harkness down another hallway.
"As you can see," Copley was saying, "you can see your case every step of the way."
Owen started to sweat; he couldn't help himself. "Wonderful," he answered, keeping the sarcasm from his voice. He didn't know if he was saying that about the case, or about Jack Harkness getting his arse into trouble…
Mickey was barreling up the driveway of the parking garage, driving the hovervan just slowly enough to avoid scraping the sides. He was only a few feet from the top when he heard Toshiko calling to him over his earpiece. "You don't have to yell," he answered, swinging the vehicle into one of the empty parking spaces.
"What's your status?" she asked.
"I just parked." He swung the door open, going around to the back of the van, catching sight of the city of New Vegas almost under his feet. He grinned like a maniac, then got to work on the pinch. He just couldn't wait to set that sucker off…
Harold Saxon watched as two burly security men escorted the would-be Ophelia Blank out of the casino, with a warning never to let him see her face again.
The woman said something indeterminate, which was most likely some form of curse in his direction. Like he really cared. Her sort was below his notice.
That left him with Frobisher from the NVGC.
He had to admit; he'd been a bit suspicious of the nervous young man at first, but he'd known about Brian Green dying, and that wasn't something that a lot of people had been aware of. Saxon had genuinely liked Green. They'd been two of a kind, and Saxon had actually mourned when the man had died while in bed with two prostitutes and veins full of drugs. Not exactly how a high-ranking member of the Gaming Commission would have wanted to be found…
But, as much as he wanted to cooperate with the commission, he was now running very much behind. Ianto would be waiting in the restaurant, and Saxon didn't want him to be concerned. It might lead him to come and look for him, and quite honestly the casino owner didn't want that.
He waved Frobisher forward. "If you don't mind…?"
The man shook his head. "Of course."
Together, the two men started down the hallway. They'd only got about fifty feet when Frobisher began patting his pockets. "Goddess…my comm unit. I must have dropped it back during the tussle with Cooper…"
Saxon had learned a long time ago not to tempt fate by asking what else could go wrong. He was running so far behind now that there was no way he was going to get the time back.
He looked at the young man. He looked genuinely apologetic, but while he was a member of the NVGC, leaving him alone was a security risk. However, Saxon couldn't waste any more time.
A glance at the security cameras, and he was making his decision. "Can you find your way back?"
Frobisher nodded. "Not a problem. Enjoy the fight."
Saxon was walking away even as he thanked the man.
Andy watched Saxon walk away. He turned back toward the conference room…and where he knew the lifts were. The codes he'd lifted from Saxon felt like they were burning a hole in his pocket.
New Vegas City
Jack found himself in a room bare of pretty much everything, except for a metal table and a couple of chairs. It reminded him forcibly of the interrogation rooms he'd seen before and after his arrest, and it made him vaguely unsettled.
The two bulky security men who'd "escorted" him to this room stood on either side of the closed door, arms crossed and looking menacing. Jack leaned back against the table, examining them closely. "How much longer do you think Mr. Saxon will be?" he asked, just to make conversation.
Jack took a look around. "No cameras in this room, huh? I guess he doesn't want anyone seeing what happens here, does he?"
Still no answer.
Not like Jack was expecting an intelligent dissertation on the metaphors inherent in Shakespeare's Hamlet…
He barely stifled a sigh, taking a look at his chronometer. He'd been there for quite a while now. Which meant…"He's not coming, is he." Jack didn't even bother making it a question.
Both goons glanced at each other. That certainly got a reaction, which meant Jack was right on the money. "So…who is?" he asked.
As if on cue, there was a knock on the door. The right side goon pulled the door open, revealing a creature that would have given most people nightmares.
Of course, Jack recognized it.
Jack breathed out a laugh. "Guess Mr. Saxon really didn't want me talking to his guy."
That made one of the security men smile as they stepped from the room, leaving Jack alone with the slavering Weevil.
Jack opened his mouth to say something, but the Weevil backhanded him across the room. He hit the wall with a thump, the breath knocked out of him.
"Damnit, Janet!" he snapped, pulling himself painfully to his feet. "Save it for later, okay?"
The Weevil managed to look contrite…well, as contrite as an alien with huge teeth could look. "Sorry, Jack," she answered, a surprisingly delicate voice coming from such a toothy mouth. "I just got carried away."
"Not a problem." He shook himself, then went back to the table, taking one side and starting to drag it across the room. "How's the family?"
Janet moved to help him. "My wife's pregnant…again." If a Weevil could roll her eyes, Janet would have been doing that very thing.
Jack felt a bit bad for her. It seemed every time he managed to see the Weevil family, another kid had been added to the rather large clan. "Then we better get things started."
They maneuvered the table under a strategically placed air vent, and Jack hopped up onto it as soon as it was in position. He popped the grate, wriggled inside, then replaced it.
As he crawled away, he could hear noises coming from the room. Janet was making sure anyone believed he was getting the crap beat out of him.
Owen watched on the security monitors as both the fake cash cart and his briefcase are stored in the vault…but with the case set right on top of the Jenny's transport.
He barely managed to stifle his reaction. Oh, that was so not good…
"Does that satisfy you, Mr. Parker?" Copley asked.
"Yes," Owen said, wiping his sweating brow with his handkerchief. "I'm very satisfied." He felt literally like shit, and it wasn't going to get any better.
Copley gave the word for the guard to leave the vault, but Owen didn't pay any attention. His mouth was so dry he felt like he'd swallowed an entire desert, and his hands were shaking.
And then, despite his obvious distress, he caught a glimpse of Andy in one of the security cameras as he approached the vault lift.
Owen Harper crashed to the carpet, eyes rolled up in his head, successfully distracting everyone in the room away from the cameras.
Toshiko watched on her own monitors as Andy used the codes he'd gotten from Saxon to open the lift doors and enter the car. As the doors closed after him, he glanced up at the camera, giving Toshiko a small wave. She smirked, then typed in some commands on her computer. "Going to recording…now," she spoke into the mic connected to Andy's earpiece. There was a slight flicker on the monitor showing Andy; and then he was gone, the lift car appearing empty.
The tech expert quietly patted herself on the back for that simple piece of electrical prestidigitation, then turned back to her screens. The security office was in turmoil, everyone gathering around Owen. Someone was making motions that she interpreted as meaning that someone needed to call a doctor.
She smiled. Maybe after this was all over she'd ask him out for dinner. Yes, that would be nice…
Once he got the all-clear from Toshiko, Andy spun and made for the light fixture he knew hid the lift's trapdoor. He got the light down, and was just going to jump up and push the door open, when it flipped upward…
To reveal a grinning Jack Harkness.
Andy leapt backward, his heart going a mile a minute. The last thing he'd been expecting was someone on the lift roof, and to have the trapdoor spring open like that freaked him out. "Damnit!" he squeaked.
"You didn't really think I'd sit this one out, did you?" Jack asked.
"And you couldn't tell me, instead of giving me a freaking heart attack?"
Jack didn't answer. He reached down for Andy's hand; the younger man glanced at it, as if not sure about it, but accepted it and allowed himself to be pulled upward.
"How'd you get here?" he asked, starting to remove his jacket and shirt, to reveal the black undershirt.
Jack had already stripped down to his own dark shirt. "Crawlspace," he answered, pulling open his belt buckle to reveal the controls of the anti-gravity web that had been sewn into the leather. "Plus I had to give away a couple million."
That really didn't answer Andy's question, but he really didn't have much choice but accept it. "But what about that thing between you and John –"
The older conman simply smiled.
That infuriated Andy. "You could've told me! Didn't you trust me?"
"I do now." The look in Jack's eyes was as serious as Andy had ever seen. "Besides, John and I really didn't discuss it until after that row. And...to be honest, your dad threw me in feet-first; I thought I should do the same for you. There's only one good way to learn."
Andy considered Jack's words. Yes, that sounded very much like his father. Harry Sullivan was a very much 'learn as you go' sort of person, and had trained Andy that way himself. He could very well see him doing the same to someone else. He was still pissed about it, but could accept it.
He followed Jack's example, getting his own anti-gravity belt prepared. Once that was done, he moved behind Jack as the older man climbed around the stopped lift car and into the shaft itself.
Which was a really, really long drop…
John loved playing Doctor, but not in the way he found himself doing now.
Although, getting to give Owen Harper mouth-to-mouth was the highlight of his day so far…
He got a single good look at the monitors; Toshiko had done her job, there was no sign of Andy in the lift. He could just make out the cash cart and Owen's case in the vault, although he didn't like seeing that case on top of the actual cart. Jenny was going to have to do some careful maneuvering to keep it from hitting the floor and triggering the alarm. That was if she even knew it was there…
Sweet Goddess, could there be any more cock-ups?
He kept working on Owen, until he finally pulled back in seeming despair. "It's too late," he announced, in a sad Doctor-y type tone. "He's gone."
Just then the "medics" showed up…looking suspiciously like Rhys and Banana. They'd need to get the grifter out before anyone checked on him too closely.
Jack and Andy hung from the lift's undercarriage, their anti-gravs holding them in place.
He really hadn't worried about pushing Andy into the deep end of the con game pool. Harry had been convinced the boy had the stuff it took, and him being there proved that. He'd just needed that nudge, and Jack had been happy to give it to him.
"So," he said, as they hovered just above the first of the motion sensors, "who do you like tonight?"
"Huh?" Andy asked coherently.
"Lynch or Davis."
Jack nodded, grinning.
The grin turned into a pout.
"You like Lynch?" the younger man asked incredulously.
Jack nodded again.
Andy got a calculating look on his face. "How strongly do you feel about it?"
"You looking for action?" Oh, he knew then that he was just going to adore Andy Davidson.
Andy shrugged. "I'd go in for ten."
"Ten it is." Jack held out his hand, and Andy shook on it.
Jack then turned to look down the darkened shaft once more. He touched the comm. unit in his ear. "We're in position, Tosh."
Tosh didn't blink at hearing Jack's voice; she'd known he'd never be able to walk away from this. She acknowledged him, just as John called in to say his group was set as well.
She leaned over her mic. "Mickey, everything is a go."
Mickey was still working on the pinch as Toshiko's voice tickled his ear. He aimed his sonic screwdriver at it, making a tiny adjustment. "Give me a minute, Tosh."
"I hate to break it to you…but we don't have a minute. Jenny's going to be passing out in about thirteen seconds."
"Then give me thirteen seconds!"
He cursed, grabbing up a wire and sticking his head back into the belly of the beast…
Ianto stifled a sigh as the bell called the fight to begin. He just didn't want to be there; this sort of thing didn't impress him, but he knew Harry had wanted it.
And what Harold Saxon wanted, he got.
Harry leaned over and smiled; Ianto returned it, even as the first blow struck. They were at ringside, and it was all up close and personal. Goddess, he'd much rather have stayed in the penthouse tonight and start on that new James Bond book he'd bought last week…
But he was certainly not missing Jack Harkness. No, not at all.
Mickey realized he was about as done as he could be, in the time allowed. He took a deep breath and signaled Tosh. "Ready."
"Then hit it!"
The Idiot took several steps back, holding the remote activator. He simply looked at the bulky form of the EMP device, a part him totally psyched about setting off that baby in the middle of New Vegas City.
The other part though was scared as hell.
Without thinking about it, his free hand crept around and covered his crotch protectively.
He hit the switch.
The device made a loud whining sound, then it whooshed almost like a giant toilet. Intellectually Mickey knew he wouldn't feel a thing, but that didn't stop his imagination from conjuring up the press of the energy field as it exploded outward.
And the lights of New Vegas City went out.
Jack and Andy were ready.
The second the lights were gone, they activated their anti-gravs, flying down the pitch-black shaft at breakneck speed. Jack counted the seconds as they went, as well as keeping track of their altitude as they plummeted. After all, it wouldn't do to smack into the bottom of the shaft at full speed…
"Cut it!" Jack ordered as they reached eight seconds and twenty feet.
His hand moved on the controls, and the anti-grav snapped him to a halt. He glanced down…and saw the floor just under his feet.
He and Andy were hovering just above the concrete.
As they gently settled, the lights came back on.
Jack let out the breath he hadn't been aware he was holding.
"What the hell was that?" Saxon snapped, as the lights came back up.
Ianto was standing, and Saxon stood up as well. He did a quick survey; the crowd was practically apoplectic with varying degrees of fear, panic, and outrage.
Both fighters were still up, but that wasn't for long. Lynch immediately took advantage of his opponent's confusion, throwing a sucker punch at Davis that sent him to the mat. The referee waved Lynch off, and began counting. When he reached three, he grabbed Lynch's arm and raised it, proclaiming him the victor.
"In the first Goddess-damned round," he muttered, rubbing the bridge of his nose in disgust. He wondered vaguely how many refunds he'd be giving out after this debacle…
New Vegas City
Toshiko had her eyes on her monitors, so she didn't miss the false lid of the cash cart begin to rise. She'd already switched all of the pertinent monitors over to the recorded view, so she knew anyone currently watching the vault would see only what she wanted them to see.
She was just that good.
But currently she was concerned with what was going on down in the vault. The idiot guard had put Owen's case down on top of Jenny's cart, and there was a very distinct possibility that the entire job would be blown if the girl in the box couldn't stop the case from hitting the floor.
Which would cause a very loud alarm to go off.
"Are they in?"
Toshiko about jumped out of her skin. She glanced backward; Gwen stood there, absorbed with looking down at the monitors.
"I thought they kicked you out?" she asked.
Gwen simply shrugged, as if it weren't a big deal. Knowing the grifter the way she did, Toshiko thought it probably wasn't one.
She turned back toward the monitors. She had one more monitor to usurp; with a couple of key strokes, it was hers. "They'll be in shortly," she answered.
The monitors were split: one bank showed what was properly going on; the other bank with the dummied images Toshiko had spent the better part of a week recording. There was also a third set, showing various areas around the casino in real time. Most people would have been confused by it all, but Toshiko was truly in her element. This was what she loved doing; controlling the information that people saw, making it hers to command.
Most of the casino was still in chaos following Mickey's taking down of the power; Toshiko had talked to the demolitions man beforehand, and had managed to shield her gear from the EMP pulse. It was simple when one knew what to expect…
Her eyes went to the monitor where Jenny was pushing the cash cart open. The case was sliding closer to the edge, and it was only a quick grab that kept disaster from befalling. Toshiko let out a sigh she didn't even know she was holding.
The tech expert then turned her attention to the camera outside the vault, where two heavily armed guards were waiting…
Jack slid the lift doors open just enough to push the flash/bang grenade across the floor, toward the guards on duty. He let the door close once more, turning to Andy and silently counting down from five. There was a sudden thud; Andy went to pry the doors open again, but Jack stopped him with a hand on his arm.
There was a second thud, and Jack gave the okay to open the lift. He and Andy each pulled a door open; the two guards were on the floor and not moving. They hoisted themselves up to the level of the vault corridor floor, each taking one of the guards and trussing them up tightly. Then they made their way toward the doors that led to the vault.
Andy looked almost in awe: Jack stifled the urge to grin at the young man's expense. "Do you think Jenny made it out all right?"
"I'm sure she's fine." Jack really didn't know, but the job depended on it.
The pickpocket went up to the pad on the wall, and entered the code he'd stolen from Saxon. The door slid open….revealing the vault door.
Now the awe was obvious. "Goddess!"
"There's a small blonde girl with over one hundred sixty million credits behind that door. Let's get her out."
Jack raised his hand, then slapped the thick metal door with his palm.
Toshiko and Gwen were glued to the monitor as Jenny prepared for her leap. The gymnast was crouched on top of the cart, her arms relaxed.
"Ten says she shorts it," Gwen offered.
"No bet," Toshiko answered.
Jenny flexed her legs, and was suddenly airborne, flying toward the chip rack that was between her and the door. Toshiko held her breath, not even realizing she was doing it.
The leap took Jenny over the rack, and almost onto the floor beyond.
At the last moment, she used her good hand to catch herself, and made an elegant split with one foot on the chip rack, the other against the wall.
"Goddess," Gwen breathed.
Toshiko agreed completely.
They watched as Jenny echoed the slap that Jack had done on the other side of the door. Jack must have heard, because he and Andy got to work. On the opposite side of the door, Jenny did as well, using the door's interior mechanism to move about without touching the floor, her bandaged hand seeming not to give her too much trouble.
The door opened, and this time Toshiko wasn't surprised. She glanced up as Mickey came over to join them. "Going well?" he asked.
"So far," Toshiko answered, feeling a bit uncomfortable by her sudden audience but knowing there wasn't anything she could do about it.
The three watched as the crew members on the monitors continued to work. Jack and Andy were connecting what looked like small boxes on their side of the vault door; Jenny had the false Arcadian diamonds from Owen's case, and was doing the same from her side.
When Jenny finished they saw her slap the door twice. Jack and Andy reacted to the noise, and Jack returned the sound to the girl in the vault. As he and the pickpocket stepped away, Jenny moved as well…but the bandage on her injured hand was caught within the door's mechanism.
"Shit," Mickey muttered.
"Jack," Toshiko said into her mic, "hold up, Jenny's in trouble."
No response. Jack simply continued to prepare the detonator.
Toshiko could hear Mickey counting down behind her… "Seventeen…sixteen…fifteen…"
Jenny was yanking as hard as she could, but didn't seem to be able to get free.
"Andy...Jack," Toshiko called, beginning to sound desperate, "do not blow the door!" She cursed, checking the connections quickly as Mickey continued to count down. Like she really needed that sort of distraction.
"What's going on?" Gwen asked.
"The EMP must have shorted out their comms," the tech answered, as she saw that everything was good on her end.
Toshiko desperately wanted to tell Mickey to shut the hell up, but she was frozen as she watched Jenny curl into herself while she prepared for the explosion…
Which didn't come.
Toshiko wanted to scream.
Something was apparently wrong with the detonator; Jack was fiddling with it, and Andy was watching over the man's shoulder.
"How's it going?"
Owen's arrival promptly freaked everyone out, so focused were they on the monitors. Gwen slapped him on the arm as he joined the crowd around the computer.
Jenny had managed to get herself free, and she was climbing racks and shelves to get a safe distance from the door. Jack must have figured out what was wrong; he messed with the detonator once more…
And the explosion blocked the watchers from seeing exactly what was going on down below.
Once the debris cleared, all four crew members leaned forward, to catch a glimpse of the destruction.
It was quite pretty.
Jack and Andy were in the middle of the vault; once the door had been blown the alarms in the floor had been wrecked. Jenny climbed out from the mound of bent and twisted carts, and she said something to the two men; judging from the expressions on their faces, what the young woman had said wasn't at all complimentary.
And then, they got to work.
"Have you ever seen anything quite so beautiful?" Owen whispered reverently.
A part of Tosh wished he was saying that to her, but really…she could completely understand what he meant. Seeing the three down in the vault, preparing all those hard credits for transport…
There was a strange beeping noise coming from nearby.
Saxon was inclined to ignore it. The night had gone to hell, and quite honestly he simply wanted to go back up to the penthouse and lick his bruised pride. The fight had ended badly, and already he could tell that the crowd was totally unhappy with the outcome.
But the beeping was driving him mad…
"Are you going to answer that?" he snapped at his companion, as they made their way out of the arena and back into the casino proper.
Ianto frowned. "I don't have a comm.," he answered, matching his strides to Saxon's own.
Saxon glowered, but accepted his word.
However, the beeping followed.
He stopped, and roughly began to search Ianto's pockets. The younger man protested, but allowed the indignity; not that he had much of a choice.
Saxon made a humming noise when he found what he was looking for.
Ianto's frown went deeper. "It's not mine," he denied as Saxon held up the comm. unit.
He handed it to his lover. "See who it is."
Ianto took it, holding it between thumb and index finger like it was a particularly nasty piece of something he'd scraped from under his shoe, but he answered it. "Yes?"
The younger man froze, then looked surprised. He held out the comm. "It's for you," he said.
Saxon took the comm., putting it to his own ear. "Who the hell is this?" he demanded.
"The man who's robbing you," said a voice on the other end of the line.
John looked across the room, to where Ianto and Saxon stood. He grinned, resisting the urge to wave at the pair.
The moment the surprise wore off, Saxon practically bolted toward the cages. Ianto glanced around, then followed.
He hadn't seen John, which suited the conman just fine.
Saxon stormed into the security office. The look on his face must have communicated just how he was feeling, because the men on monitor duty practically came to attention.
"What the hell is going on down in the vault?" he snarled.
"Nothing, sir," one the men said, gulping in fear. "It's all normal."
The security man waved toward the monitors…and he was right, everything looked just fine.
Saxon put the comm. back to his ear. "I'm afraid you're mistaken," he said coldly.
"Are you watching your monitors?" the voice asked.
"Of course I am."
"Then keep watching…"
The monitor showing the vault suddenly fuzzed out, and when it came back up the image had changed. Three masked men were now within, and there was a mess of chips and other debris all over the floor. The men were gathering together all the hard credit into a pile.
"Goddess on a stick!" Saxon swore as the room erupted into even greater chaos than the power failure had caused.
"In this town," the voice on the comm. said, "your luck can change just that quickly."
Saxon wanted nothing more than to strangle that smug tone out of the voice,
He turned to his casino manager, who'd just come into the office. "Find out how much money we have down there," he ordered harshly.
Copley moved to obey.
Saxon was so furious he didn't notice Ianto leave; but at that point, he had bigger things on his mind. "Alright," he snarled. "You've proven your point. You've broken into my vault. Congratulations. You're a dead man."
"Maybe," the voice said jovially.
"May I ask…just how do you plan on leaving here? Do you believe I'll simply allow you to parade bags of my money out my casino doors?"
"No…you're gonna carry it out for us."
Saxon laughed. "And why would I do that?"
"Take a closer look at your monitors…"
Saxon leaned forward. The three men in the vault had loaded up about half the money into black bags, each marked with a large white "X" on the end. But…there was another stack of money, and if the wires and boxes on the pile was what he thought they were…
Saxon couldn't believe it. Whoever this was, they'd simply walked into his bloody casino and got into his vault and was packing up his money as if they were entitled to it.
"As your manager's probably reported to you by now," the voice went on, very cheerfully, "you have a little over a hundred and sixty million credits in your vault tonight."
As if on cue, Copley handed Saxon a paper; the livid man took it, seeing the actual cash count on it: $163,156,759.
Saxon felt his blood positively boil.
"You may have noticed, but we're only taking half of that. The other half we're leaving in your vault, booby trapped, as a hostage…"
John was having the time of his life. He'd never felt this pleased with how things were going. Usually this would mean the ceiling would fall flat onto them, but he really had a good feeling about this. Goddess, just the ability to completely irritate Harold Saxon was worth it.
He was currently standing on the casino floor, and he knew the image he was projecting: a high roller, perhaps speaking to his banker…or ordering a pizza. Actually, food sounded good about now…
No, back to business. Food can wait.
"You let our eighty million go," he said into the comm. he held to his ear, "and you get to keep your eighty million. That's the deal. You try and stop us, and we'll blow both cash loads."
He was startled by a hard tapping on his shoulder; John spun, finding himself face-to-face with Ianto Harkness-Jones…who didn't look at all happy.
Of course Eye Candy had recognized his voice. Jack had said he would.
"Mr. Saxon," John went on, winking at the scowling man in front of him, "you can lose eighty million secretly tonight…or you can lose one hundred sixty million publicly. It's your decision." He pulled the comm. down from his ear, cupping the speaker so the man on the other end couldn't hear. He favored Ianto with a big grin. "Hey, Eye Candy. What's shaking, besides that delectable arse of yours?"
Saxon pulled the comm. away from his ear, letting his rage get the better of him. He kicked out at the desk, but all he got for his trouble was a sore foot. He knew he should just let the money go…but at the same time, no one ripped off Harold Saxon and got away with it. There really was no other choice…
He turned to Copley. "Make the call."
His manager nodded, pulling his own comm. from his pocket. "This is Mr. Copley at the Gallifrey…we have a situation here…"
Saxon nodded, knowing that calling in the local law enforcement was the best way out of this. He pulled the comm. back up to his own ear. "You have a deal…"
It had taken Ianto about a second to recognize John Hart's voice on the other end of the comm. that had mysteriously ended up in his jacket pocket.
Following that reasoning, the only way it could have gotten there was if Jack had put it there.
Because if there was one thing Ianto knew…where you found John Hart you inevitably found Jack Harkness…and vice versa.
He'd followed Harry to the casino's security office. He had to know what Jack was up to. When he saw the theft in progress he'd known instinctively that one of those men in the vault had been Jack. It had come down to betraying his ex-husband…
And Ianto didn't think he could do that.
He'd had to admit to himself over the last several days that he still had pretty intense feelings for Jack. He'd tried to tell himself otherwise, but he couldn't deny it. But he was with Harry now…and the problem with that was, that he honestly didn't know how he felt toward the casino owner. He knew exactly what Harold Saxon was…there was no ambiguity where that was concerned. Harry had been pretty much up front with Ianto almost from the moment they'd started sleeping together. And sometimes Harry was pretty dismissive of Ianto's feelings.
But he thought he knew exactly where he stood with Harry, and that was a nice change from his time with Jack, who swore that he'd loved Ianto and yet had lied about so many things. Jack thought it was just about being a thief; but really, he'd lied every time he'd gone out on a job with John Hart; he'd lied about what he'd done for an actual living; and to Ianto that meant that Jack simply couldn't be trusted with anything else. How could he believe that Jack loved him, when he was so ready to lie about so much else?
At least he knew Harry cared for him.
And so, feeling completely conflicted, Ianto had left the security office, knowing that John Hart had to be nearby if they really were robbing the casino. It hadn't taken long to find him; missing Hart in a crowd was like not recognizing a rock star among their fans. Hart simply stood out, which Ianto thought was something a good conman shouldn't do, yet Hart pulled it off.
And now, he was standing practically in John's face, staring him down as the man blatantly flirted with him.
Ianto didn't even dignify that comment with a response. "Where's Jack?" he demanded, as if he didn't already know.
John rolled his eyes. "He's fine. He wants you to go upstairs and watch the vidscreen."
Ianto's own eyes narrowed. "He does?"
"It's all right, Ianto," the man said, suddenly very serious. "I promise." John brought the comm. back to his ear, saying, "Good. Here's what you do. Five minutes from now, the men in the vault are going to deposit six bags in the vault lift…"
Ianto stepped back, not at all sure what he should do. Didn't he owe Harry his loyalty, after the time they'd spent together? But could he really condemn his ex-husband to whatever torments Harry could dish out? And Ianto didn't have any illusions at just how ruthless Harry could be. He'd heard stories long before they'd gotten together, and some of them had been truly horrible.
But Jack had betrayed him...and Harry hadn't.
With that thought, Ianto made up his mind.
New Vegas City
It was all Harold Saxon could do not to throw the comm. against the wall, he was so angry.
He absolutely hated being dictated to, and yet he had to put up with the cheerful voice on the other end of the communicator as he happily explained the terms of the robbery that was currently going on in his damned casino!
"Five minutes from now," that hated voice was saying, "the men in the vault are going to deposit six bags in the vault lift…"
Saxon turned his eyes to the camera feeds. He could see the men working, loading credits into the bags they'd brought with them.
He ground his teeth, then wondered if whoever was on the comm. could hear it.
"If they meet anyone," the voice went on, "we'll blow the credits in the bags and the credits in the vault."
Saxon relayed everything to Copley, who was his usual efficient self.
"One minute after that, the lift will rise to the cage level. Six of your guards will pick up the bags and carry them out into the casino. If they take more than twenty seconds to reach the casino floor or if there's any indication of a switch, we'll blow the money in the vault and in the bags."
He had to grudgingly admit that, whoever was doing this, they certainly had this timed out perfectly. Then he cursed himself for even thinking about being impressed by the arseholes stealing from him!
Over the comm., he heard the rather loud noise of a slot machine ringing. He smirked, leaning over toward Copley. "He's in the casino."
"Of course I'm in the casino," the voice laughed. "In fact, I've been staying in your hotel. And I have two words for you: mini bar." Then he was back to business. "Now, as soon as your guards hit the casino floor, a white unmarked hovervan is going to pull up to your valet station. Your guards will load the bags into the van's rear. If anyone so much as approaches the driver's door, we blow everything."
Saxon kept his eye on the monitors; everything was going according to the thief's instructions. He found himself grinding his teeth again, while visions of vengeance danced in his head. It suddenly occurred to him that Jack Harkness had to be involved somehow, and vowed once he'd gotten all his money back where it belonged that he and Mr. Harkness were going to have words.
He watched as the money was finally loaded into the white hovervan, and true to instructions none of the guards even tried to get a glimpse into the darkened driver's cab. Once the rear van doors were closed, the vehicle took off, and Saxon nodded to Copley, who relayed quiet instructions into his own comm.
There was no way Saxon was letting his money out of his sight.
On the periphery of the monitor showing the hovervan, he could just make out the shadowy forms of several dark filtters ghosting in around the departing vehicle. His men were professionals; they would keep the van under surveillance.
The van had barely pulled away, when a dark SecGov Enforcement vehicle pulled up in the place where the thieves' van had been parked. Figures in black uniforms with face-obscuring helmets climbed out, weapons slung over their shoulders and equipment bags in hand.
Saxon smiled at the professionalism of it all. Even on a monitor the cops looked damned good. He certainly paid them enough.
"Now what?" he asked into the comm. as the enforcement detail filed into the casino.
"Now," the voice answered, "when I get word that the van hasn't been followed, and that the money is secure, my men will exit the building. Once their safety is confirmed, you'll get your vault back."
Copley was still on his communicator, but his interest was focused on the SecGov team making their way toward the cages. It wouldn't be long now, and Saxon was looking forward to all the excitement.
"I've complied with you every request, have I not?" he asked the thief on the comm.
"Yes, you have. I'm quite impressed."
"Good. Now I have one of my own."
Saxon let every bit of anger and venom within him show in his voice. "Run and hide. If you get picked up next week for buying an expensive flitter on New Earth, I'll be very disappointed. Because I want my people to find you. And rest assured…when they do, they won't be handing you over to the police." He paused for dramatic effect. "Run and hide. That's all I ask."
There was no answer; only the sounds of the casino echoed through the connection, and Saxon knew that whoever had been speaking with him had set the comm. down and left. It irritated Saxon, because he'd really wanted the man to listen to his rant and to take it to heart.
Saxon tossed the now useless comm. down onto the security desk. "Yes?"
"The guys tailing the hovervan say it's approaching the spaceport."
"Get everyone into position. I want my vault back before that van hits the tarmac."
The monitors followed the SecGov team as they made their way through the cage corridors. Saxon watched in satisfaction as the men moved gracefully even under all that body armor. They'd be able to get those bastards who were currently pacing in his vault, waiting for their signal to leave.
A signal that they would never get, if Saxon had his way.
No one stole from Harold Saxon and got away with it.
Wait a second…
Someone was missing.
"Where's Parker?" he asked, turning to his manager.
Copley was liaising with the SecGov team, and he looked surprised – and strangely guilty. "Um…he's…he died."
Saxon shot him a disbelieving look. Another piece of the puzzle snapped into place, and he suddenly realized that, whoever Henry Parker had been, that he'd been somehow involved in the robbery. And he seriously doubted the man was actually dead.
This whole thing had been a lot more complicated than Saxon had first believed, and he had to wonder just how many were in on the theft. The three in the vault…the one on the phone…the ersatz Henry Parker…that was five. How many more? Perhaps Jack Harkness?
Copley apparently didn't notice his boss' distraction, and he ordered the man on the desk to deactivate the motion sensors in the lift shaft. In the gloom of the shaft Saxon could see them moving into position, using antigravs to make their way down the shaft so as not to alert the men in the vault by using the actual lift car.
Copley leaned over the desk, and turned up the sound on the monitors in the vault area. They could hear the SecGov troop leader giving orders. "Security office, prepare to cut power."
"Ready when you are," Copley answered the request.
Saxon bounced on the balls of his feet. Why weren't that getting on with it? "Do it," he whispered, urging them on.
"Cut it," the squad leader ordered, almost at the same time.
The vault monitors went black.
Shouting started up; panicked cries merged with calm orders. There was a brief spurt of gunfire…
And then the one sound Saxon hadn't wanted to hear….an explosion.
"We need lights!" the leader shouted. "NOW!"
Destruction greeted the watchers as the monitors came back online. Smoke filled the vault as two of the troops pushed into the area, while two more help the fallen guards. Paper floated through the air, and chips rained down like hail.
Saxon growled. He grabbed the comm. from Copley. "What the hells' going on down there?"
"They blew it!" The man's voice was disbelieving. "They blew the…Goddess, if there was anyone in there, they're not in one piece anymore…"
Saxon felt cheated. Yes, the credits had been the most important thing, but he'd really wanted to hurt the people who'd dared to break into his vault. And now, he was out half of what was inside. Well, he wasn't going to lose the other half.
He turned to Copley, handing the comm. back. "Tell them to take the van. I'm going down there. Oh, and find out how they fiddled with our cameras."
The vault lift door opened, and Saxon found himself surrounded by thick smoke and the SecGov team. He ignored the guards who'd been overpowered, walking almost hesitantly into what was left of his vault.
The room was practically decimated.
Nothing could have survived that explosion. Nothing…and no one.
Not only was his money gone, but so was his chance for vengeance.
He turned to glare at the SecGov cop who'd approached him; he couldn't make out the man's features under the helmet, but he really didn't want to know the face of the man who'd so completely fucked up and cost him credits and prisoners. He'd be able to find out who he was later, when he was calmer and wanted to deal with the screw-up.
"We couldn't find any survivors," the man said, a tinge of fear in his voice. "Or, I'm afraid, any of the credits. I'm sorry, sir."
It took all of Saxon's self-control not to strangle the man. "Get out. Take your men out now,"
The man stepped away, calling the troops out of the vault and gathering them in the hallway. Saxon completely disregarded them, reaching into his pocket for another comm. that he'd picked up on his way out of the security suite. "Copley…how are we with the van?"
There was silence over the connection, and that concerned Saxon. Usually Copley would report right away…he knew, even before his manager's voice finally answered, that he wasn't going to like what the man was going to say.
"They…took the van," came the reply.
"And?" Saxon prompted, knowing he was going to hear the worst.
"They blew up the bags, sir."
"Shit!" Saxon wanted more than anything to rant and rave and kill someone. Anyone would do. He kicked some of the wreckage of one of the chip racks and just ended up hurting his foot…again.
Copley's voice penetrated the red haze that had fallen over the casino owner, and he put the comm. back up to his ear. "What?" he ground out.
"They say it doesn't look like there were any credits in the bags, sir."
"What?" No, he wasn't going to admit that was a screech.
"They say the bags were filled with fliers…for escorts."
"What do you mean, there was no money in the bags?" He went suddenly still…which was when he was at his most dangerous.
"That's what they said, sir. I don't understand it; we both saw them putting the credits inside those bags."
Saxon's mind went into overdrive. Copley was right; they'd seen the thieves stuffing his credits into those bags…
And it suddenly clicked.
He glanced around the vault, his eyes falling onto the large floor tile that said "Gallifrey" like a huge welcome mat into the vault itself.
Saxon couldn't decide if he wanted to laugh, or scream. "Copley, cue up the recording of the robbery."
He waited – patiently for him – until Copley confirmed that he'd done just that.
"Does it say 'Gallifrey' on the floor of the vault?"
There was a pause. "No, it doesn't. I…I don't understand…"
"I just had that flooring installed four days ago. The image we saw of the men robbing us was a recording." Oh, how brilliant. If it hadn't happened to him, Saxon would have been totally impressed.
"What?" The confusion in his manager's voice was palpable.
"Someone built a double of my vault, then made a recording of it being robbed. When we saw them putting the credits into those bags, it wasn't really happening."
"Then sir…what happened to all those credits?"
Everything slotted into place. There was only one way that money had gotten out of the casino…and that phony SecGov team would be long gone by now.
But he still had one ace in the hole…
Saxon growled. "Harkness…"
The two security men he'd put on Harkness earlier in the evening were standing guard outside the storeroom, managing to wipe the bored looks off their faces as their boss approached.
"Harkness in there?" Saxon asked, receiving a pair of nods in return.
Saxon knew he had to be calm for this. There was actually the very slim possibility that Harkness might not have had anything to do with the robbery, although that was getting less and less an option by the minute. Someone had to have put that comm. in Ianto's pocket, and while Saxon knew this lover well enough to trust him not to play around, he simply couldn't trust Harkness not to get up close and personal.
A heavy thud sounded from inside the room, and Saxon took a deep breath, shooting his cuffs. Then he pulled the door open.
He was just in time to see Janet the Weevil haul off and slam Jack Harkness into the wall.
The man was bloody; obviously Janet had been enjoying herself. Harkness must have noticed Saxon enter, because he pulled himself into a sitting position against the wall, holding one arm against his ribs. "Heya, Saxon," the man said, sounding a bit groggy as he spat blood from his mouth, "how's the other fight going?"
Janet turned, and at a nod from Saxon she left the room. Saxon stood over the injured man, trying to use his presence to loom over Harkness. "Did you have a hand in this?" he asked, trying very hard to keep his cool, but he really wanted to take his own shot at the man curled up on the floor.
Harkness' blue eyes were puzzled. "Huh?" he answered intelligibly.
"Did you have a hand in this?" he repeated.
"Did I have a hand in what?" Harkness asked.
Saxon scrutinized Harkness closely; he couldn't tell if the man was lying, but the he'd apparently made a living out of doing just that. But…he'd been in this room with Janet, and two guards just outside. How could he have gotten out of the room without any of them noticing?
The anger didn't leave him, but Saxon knew that, with no proof of Harkness' involvement, he wouldn't get any satisfaction out of killing him. He'd already stolen his husband; he didn't need to do anything else.
"Get him out of here," he snapped, motioning to the security men.
Ianto had gone back up to his and Harry's suite, and had taken up pacing to get his nerves under control. It hadn't worked, but at least the repetitive motion had cleared his head a bit.
He'd decided not to tell Harry about Jack's involvement with the robbery. After tonight, chances were he'd never see Jack again, and all his conflicted feelings would go back into their box where they'd escaped in the first place. He was with Harry, and Harry hadn't betrayed him. He knew exactly where he stood with the man, and that security was just what Ianto craved.
The room's communicator chirped.
It made Ianto jump. He went over and picked it up, thinking it must be Harry…
But it wasn't. It was an unfamiliar female voice. "Turn to channel 500," she said, then hung up.
Ianto put the phone down, absently chewing on his lip. John had said to come back here and watch the vidscreen…this was apparently what he'd meant.
But the request had come from Jack, and anything that had to do with Jack Harkness couldn't be good…
He turned the screen on anyway, to the channel the woman had said.
Ianto knew that corridor. It was one of the hallways in the cage area, and as he watched he saw Harry walking just behind two very large security men…and a bloodied Jack Harkness.
He heart lurched. Had Harry found out about Jack's involvement with the robbery? Or was this something else?
Ianto completely disregarded that. Why would Harry have Jack beaten over anything else? It had to have been the vault robbery.
But that thought was disregarded as he heard Jack say, "You get robbed or something, Saxon? Geez, that's a shame."
"Stop there," Harry ordered the men. They did so, spinning Jack around to face an angry Harold Saxon. "Where is my money?" he snarled.
Even though Ianto couldn't see Jack's face, he knew the patented Harkness grin was in place. "What makes you think I know where it is?"
"Where is it, Harkness? And you might just get out of here alive."
The two men stared at each other for several pregnant moments.
Then Jack spoke. Any hint of good mood was gone, and he sounded as serious as Ianto had ever heard him. "What would you say if I told you you could get your credits back…if you gave up Ianto?"
The young man watching sank onto the couch, hand on his chest. Jack would give up that much money? For him?
"What would you say?" Jack asked.
There was a pause.
Certainly Harry wouldn't …
"I would say yes," Ianto Harkness-Jones' lover answer, with no hesitation in his voice.
It shouldn't surprise Ianto, but in a way it did. He'd thought that he'd meant something to Harold Saxon, perhaps worth a little thought before being traded to another man for fucking credits.
As if Ianto was some sort of slave, to be sold to whoever gave the best price.
And then it hit him: Jack knew that Ianto was watching. He'd wanted to show his former husband just how far Harry was willing to go to get back what he considered his. He'd arranged this entire thing in order to prove that Saxon was as big a liar has Jack Harkness had ever been.
"Well," Jack's easy drawl echoed from the vidscreen, "that's very interesting…" He paused, and Ianto swore it was for his benefit, to give him time to think about what had just been revealed, "but I didn't have anything to do with it."
Harry simply glared at Jack. "Escort Mr. Harkness to the exit. And contact the sector police, I would imagine he's in violation of his parole."
That sentence wasn't even finished before Ianto was out the door.
Harry was outside of the lift door as it opened onto the casino floor.
Ianto looked at him. Finally looked past the façade of businessman and casino owner and lover, and saw Harold Saxon for the first time. He'd gone into the relationship with his eyes open…or so he'd thought. But that little show Jack had arranged had shown Ianto a side to his lover – ex-lover, now – that he should have known was there.
He breezed right out of the lift, past Harry without saying anything.
"Ianto – "
He turned, stared Harry straight in the eye. "You above all people should know Harry…in your hotel there's always someone watching."
He waited a heartbeat, seeing realization flood Harry's features. Then he turned and kept walking.
There were ten of them.
They leaned against the railing overlooking the ornate fountain outside the Gallifrey casino, looking like a group of high-rollers who'd just had a very good night at the tables.
How right that impression was.
One-by-one, the group splintered off, heading in different directions. Until only two remained: a young man who would have passed as a starving student in the right clothes; and an older man, hip cocked insouciantly against the railing and a flirtatious smile on his face.
The two men shook hands, then parted.
Ianto exited the front of the Gallifrey, looking for the one person he really wanted to see.
There was a break in the crowd, and he caught sight of him, being escorted away by two dark-dressed sector police, limping slightly between to the two larger men. A police flitter was parked just at the curb, its light strobing out over the crowd.
He took off after the trio, shouting at them to stop. To his surprise, they didn't, and so Ianto had to catch up to them. He did just as they were getting ready to put Jack in the back of the flitter.
"That's my husband!" Ianto snapped, as he approached.
That got the cops to back off…at least a couple of steps.
Ianto looked at Jack for a long moment. "Jack…"
Jack smiled around his torn lips. "I knew what I was doing."
"I didn't," Ianto confessed. It was true, and not just about the last couple of weeks. He was swiftly coming to realize there was a lot he hadn't known, the most important being just how he felt about Jack Harkness. "How long with you be?"
"Three to six months, I should think," he answered.
That was all they got a chance to say. The police officers pushed Jack into the back of the vehicle, and the last sight of Jack that Ianto had was a brilliant – if bloody – smile.
The New New York Confederated Prison
Three to Six months later
Jack Harkness once again walked out of prison, wearing the same tuxedo he'd worn the night he'd been arrested outside the Gallifrey casino. He would have had a sense of déjà vu, if the circumstances wouldn't have been a bit different. Last time, he'd come out with a plan. This time…
Well, it wasn't cold this time.
John Hart was waiting for him, leaning against the wall just beyond the gate. He was just finishing off what looked like some sort of burger, crumpling the paper and blatantly littering on prison grounds. Jack smirked, wondering if there was a litter rehab, and if it could survive John's presence in it.
He eyed his friend. "Hotblack Desiato called, and he wants his shirt back." It was the best comeback he had to that monstrosity John was wearing. Then again, it did look like something that eccentric rocker would wear, with its clashing concentric patterns.
John returned the smirk. "I really hope you were the groom, Jack," returning the eye-up and the teasing. "Otherwise I'd lose all respect for you."
Jack shot him a gesture he'd learned from a Patrexian while inside, and the meaning was impossible to misconstrue.
His friend snorted. "In my dreams, lover. Cause you certainly won't in real life."
They fell into step, walking across the flitter lot toward the beat-up piece of crap John had had back on New Cali, when Jack had first gone to him about the Saxon job. "Thirteen million and you have that shipped all the way here just to pick me up?"
"Spent it all on the shirt," John shot back calmly.
"Life…is a roomful of pillows."
Jack rolled his eyes, not about to ask what the hell John meant by that.
"Where do you want to go first?"
"To a vid," Jack answered. "I have a call to make."
"Oh," his partner said, "I stopped and picked up your personal effects. They're in the back seat."
"What?" Jack asked puzzled. He couldn't see into the back of the flitter; the top was up on the convertible, and the sun was in his eyes.
He walked around to the passenger side and opened the door. Taking a glance into the back, Jack smiled slightly. "I'm not sure these belong to me."
Ianto Harkness-Jones rolled his eyes. "Don't be an idiot, Jack," he scolded, pushing the front seat up so Jack could crawl into the back with him. He was dressed casually, in a dark red shirt and jeans. Jack wanted to get him to the nearest available room and not leave it for days.
Instead, he settled for a kiss. Ianto's lips parted for him, and Jack remapped his husband's mouth with his tongue, reveling in the softness and the heat and the intimacy once more. He sent a prayer up to the Goddess, thankful that his plan had worked and that he hadn't lost this man forever.
Jack only pulled away when he heard the flitter's engine start. He glanced forward; he could just see John's eyes in the rearview mirror, and the look in them was both happy and envious.
"We need to get John laid," Ianto said. "All the way here he kept going on about a threesome."
"You're not up to sharing, Eye Candy?" John mock-teased.
"Nope." He popped the "p" in just the way Jack thought was adorable.
"Well, we could always wait around here for a bit, see who comes out next…" Contradicting the words, John put the flitter into gear and drove off.
Jack reached over and took Ianto's hand…and noticed the platinum band on the ring finger. He held it up. "I thought you said you threw this into a black hole."
"That is indeed what I said," Ianto agreed, smirking.
"Liar," Jack accused softly.
"Thief," Ianto returned, layers of meaning in that single word.
Without losing eye contact with his husband, Jack asked John, "We being followed?"
"Yep," he answered. "Dark sedan, coming up on the left."
Jack didn't even bother to look. Instead, he kept his attention fully on the man he'd done all this for. He wrapped his arm around Ianto and pulled him close, claiming his lips once more.
He didn't even notice when John put the flitter's top down. But then, he had other things on his mind.