21 January 2008
Toshiko slid her key into the lock, letting herself and Owen into Ianto's house. It was dark within, and if she didn't know better she would have sworn no one was home.
But she did know differently.
She ushered Owen inside, closing and locking the door behind them. The house might have looked deserted from the outside, but once inside they could both hear the faint sound of singing coming from the darkened loft.
She glanced at Owen, sadness causing a lump to grow in her throat. She recognized the song; it was the Song of Mourning, and Toshiko knew who he was singing it for.
It was for the dragon himself.
Toshiko hadn't heard what Ianto and Jack had talked about earlier in the day, but she knew how that conversation had ended: with Ianto leaving the Hub, and Jack actually looking smug about making the dragon retreat from the battle, the anguish on Ianto's face making her own eyes prickle with unshed tears. She'd wanted to follow her friend then and there, but Owen had stopped her, saying that they didn't want to tip Jack off to their leaving, and that it would bring too much attention to Ianto's departure. Plus, for some reason she really didn't want to leave Jack alone in the Hub, at least not before she secured several sensitive programs and routines. She simply didn't trust this new version of Jack; there was no telling what he might do.
Owen had told her everything about his tine since Diane had left, and once again Toshiko had wished she'd spoken up about the Fire Dragon's visit to her. Maybe they'd been able to figure out what was wrong with Owen before, if she hadn't been silent? Could they have stopped things from going so far out of control?
It was too late to ask those questions.
Toshiko had entertained going in and confronting Jack, but knew it wouldn't do any good. No, it would most likely make things worse, and until they figured out what was going on, that would be a mistake.
She would have to keep her righteous indignation under control for the time being.
Together they headed toward the stairs. "Ianto?" she called softly, not wanting to startle the dragon.
The singing stopped. "Tosh? Come up, please."
She headed upstairs, Owen at her heels. "Owen's here, too," she said.
"Yeah," the medic spoke up. "Wanted to check to see how you're doing."
The only light coming into the loft was from the skylight. It illuminated the coiled form of the dragon, lying on his bed of cushions, snout resting on his crossed front legs. His slitted blue eyes glittered in the light of the full moon. They were incredibly sad, but he gave them a dragon smile full of sharp teeth as they approached. "I'm fine," he rumbled, "as you can see."
"Bollocks, Dragon Boy," Owen snapped. "We don't know what went on in that office, but I know what Tosh told me about their little impromptu trip to the past, and I can guess you're anything but fine."
The dragon sighed, lifting his head. "You're right, of course," he admitted. "I'm having difficulty reconciling what I know of Jack, and what happened with the real Captain Harkness…and before you say anything, it's not because Jack kissed the man. Jack kisses people all the time. Nor am I jealous. I'm…disappointed, and angry, and I just can't believe Jack would put a man's life in danger like that."
Toshiko frowned. "What was in that diary, Ianto? What happened to Captain Harkness after we left?"
She sat down beside him, giving what comfort she could with her presence. Owen collected a chair from the other side of the room and joined them, listening as the dragon told them what had been written in the diary that Torchwood had collected.
After he was done, Toshiko couldn't help the tears. Captain Jack had been a good man, even though she hadn't known him all that long, and he hadn't deserved what happened to him. Owen was cursing a blue streak, calling Jack every name in the book.
"Harkness might be a bastard at times," Owen said, "but not even he would do something like that to someone. He knew what the penalties were back then."
"And yet," the dragon sighed, "he did. And a good man committed suicide because of it."
"From what I saw," Toshiko said, "Jack just seemed to change. He went from being suspicious of the circumstances of our arriving there; to accepting it and threatening to change time for the captain. It was…bizarre."
"Sounds like he was being influenced to me," Owen suggested.
Toshiko nodded. "That's what I thought, too." She decided that she needed to tell them about the warning. It might be too late to do anything about it, but it might shed more light onto what was going on.
And so, she admitted her seeing the Fire Dragon, and the warning she had given Toshiko. Her face flushed in shame as she recounted that meeting, and how she'd decided to keep things to herself instead of saying anything. Thinking about it now, she couldn't believe that she'd stayed silent, and not told at least Ianto what had happened, instead of simply telling Rhiannon and standing back to see what happened.
What might have been different if she's just said something?
"Bloody hell, Tosh," Owen exclaimed. "You know I don't go into that sort of mumbo-jumbo, but then our boss is an honest-to-shit dragon, so I can't call you delusional."
She rolled her eyes. "Gee, thanks Owen."
"The four Great Dragons are real," Ianto murmured. "Tosh also saw the Earth Dragon, and was Named his Friend. She has the mark to prove it." He turned his eyes to her. "I don't blame you for not saying anything. I can't, because at this moment I don't think we can differentiate between what's been our actual decisions, and what we've done under the influence of…something."
It didn't actually make her feel any better, but she had to agree. Toshiko didn't honestly know if her not saying anything was something she'd decided, or had been decided for her. "I have to think that Jack's being manipulated, as well. We all know he can be cold-blooded, but to actually condemn a good man like he did…I can't see it. There's also something else…well, a couple of things that I brought back from the past with me." She dug into her bag, and brought out the pictures and the strange key-like device she'd found in Bilis' office in 1941. "We'll need light…"
Owen got up and turned on the light near the large bed that took up a third of the loft, then rejoined them. He cursed as Toshiko showed them the photographs, Ianto's large head hovering over them the better to see them as well.
"And you found these in the past?" the dragon asked.
"Yeah," she answered. "It's pretty obvious that whoever's behind this can travel in time."
When they got to the last photo, it was time for Ianto to curse. "How did they get that without me seeing them?" he growled. "It looks like it's my own back garden!"
"Maybe your perceptions were messed with," Owen said. "Just like mine was, when I thought I kept seeing Diane all over town?"
"We're dealing with something very powerful," the dragon commented.
"It would have to be," Toshiko said. "You remember what Jack said, back when Mary had given me that pendant, and I couldn't read him?" At least she could mention that time now without blushing too badly.
The large head nodded. "I do."
"Care to fill me in?" Owen groused.
"Jack said he'd had pretty strong mental barriers," Toshiko clarified, "and he thought whatever it was making him come back from the dead also made him impossible to read telepathically."
"He was pretty confident," Ianto added.
"Yeah, well it wouldn't be the first time Harkness has been overconfident about something," Owen pointed out. "Sounds like to me that something got past those supposedly great shields of his."
Owen did have a point, as much as Toshiko didn't want to admit it.
"That has to be the explanation," the dragon said. "If not…then we have to face the fact that we didn't know Jack at all."
Owen snorted. "No, this isn't Harkness' usual self. Look, I might give you two grief, but even I can see he's nuts about you, Ianto. There's no chance in hell of him suddenly falling for another bloke, no matter how nice a guy he is, let alone do something to get the man killed. Like I said, he can be a bastard…but this isn't him."
"There was also this," Toshiko held out the device she'd found. "It looks almost like a Rift key – "
"It's not," the dragon rumbled angrily. "That's the key to the Rift Manipulator."
Toshiko was puzzled. She hadn't been aware that the Manipulator even needed a key, and she said so.
"When Jack and I took over Torchwood Three, we had to kick Yvonne Hartman's minions out first. But, they decided to do as much damage as possible without being obvious about it, and so they removed that," a claw pointed toward the key Toshiko held, "from the Manipulator. Yvonne felt that, if she couldn't have control over the Rift, then we couldn't either. Jack only noticed it about a month later, when we were going over the blueprints to do some preventative maintenance. By then, it was too late to do anything about it."
"But how did this Bilis Manger have it in his desk?" Toshiko asked. "It would mean he had an 'in' into Torchwood One!"
"Not necessarily," Owen said. "He could have scavenged the ruins after the battle, same as we did. And if this Manger guy is the one traveling in time, then he would have known to be there on that day."
"That's possible," Ianto said. "Jack had me search for it, but it had vanished from the London Archive. We'd just assumed it had gotten sucked into the Void with a lot of things that had been in the Tower. And I admit…I was a bit well, distracted, after I found Lisa."
Toshiko could understand that.
"All right," Ianto said, sitting up a bit. "It's safe to say that something – and I'm leaning toward this Bilis Manger person – has been manipulating this team for some reason we don't know yet. We've been spied on, and put into situations that would make us react in certain ways. The three of us in this room have most likely been victims, and we can safely say that Jack is the latest of us. Gwen, we don't know – "
"What about her Retconning her boyfriend?" Toshiko defended. "Certainly she wouldn't have done that to him if she'd been in her right mind!"
"We can't be sure," the dragon repeated. "She's new; we have no idea what she would do under the circumstances. Although, I will say this: when I'd pointed out to Owen that Diane was alive, he did eventually accept it. With Gwen…Jack and I both told her she was wrong, and I know you've been talking to her Tosh, and she has yet to admit she made a mistake. She hasn't accepted that she was wrong to do what she did."
"Neither has Jack," Toshiko pointed out.
"I'm with Dragon Boy," Owen said. "Gwen didn't have to start an affair with me, and she certainly didn't have to come clean. Besides, if Jack and Ianto hadn't caught her, we might never have known about it. It wouldn't have done whoever it was any good if it wasn't something that would have affected the team."
He was right, of course. Toshiko knew it, but at the same time she'd been hoping that Gwen hadn't been in her right mind when she'd used the Retcon. It was an action that didn't make sense to her; after all, you confess in order to gain forgiveness. You don't confess only to Retcon the reason out of the party you're asking the forgiveness from.
"All right," Ianto interrupted her thoughts. "There are some things we need to do. First, I want to make sure that while Jack is under this influence that he can't do anything damaging to the Rift or to the Hub – "
"I've already done some systems lockdowns," Toshiko answered. "I've taken my Rift program off the mainframe and locked it under multiple protections on my laptop, just in case. I've also reprogrammed the Manipulator to only accept retinal patterns and voice recognition, and it has to be all of us, not just one will work. Oh, and even though I can't access the Secure Archives, I've been able to add an extra wall of security…and I'll get you the new pass codes, Ianto."
The dragon looked impressed. "Well done, Tosh."
She preened. "Thank you."
"I also think we need to see if we can't track down this Bilis Manger…" Ianto paused. "Wait a moment…Detective Swanson said the caretaker for the Ritz was named Manger…"
"I can do a quick search and see what I can come up with online on our mysterious Manger," Toshiko said, finally feeling like they were accomplishing something.
"Should we call in Gwen to help?" Owen asked.
Ianto considered. "No," he finally answered. "I want to keep her in reserve. As of this moment, she's about the only one who could possibly be free of any sort of control, and I'd like to keep it that way. Besides, she could very well still be under surveillance by Manger or whoever took those pictures. If we look as if things are fairly normal, then perhaps we can catch them by surprise."
"Do you still have the cameras and such up at her flat?" Toshiko asked.
"We do; after we suspended her we decided to keep them up."
"I could hack into those, see if she's been approached. I can also check the CCTV."
"Sounds good. If we need to pull her in then we should know if she's going to be bringing any unexpected guests with her."
"That's all well and good," Owen said, "but we're still gonna need some sort of back-up in case things go pear-shaped. And I also don't think any of us should be alone."
"You have a good point," Ianto said. "And I have just the person…
22 January 2008
"A double chocolate muffin and double espresso for the lovely detective this morning."
Kathy Swanson rolled her eyes, accepting Ianto's offering of breakfast. "Cut the flirting, Jones," she said lightly. "You really have been hanging around Himself too long."
Ianto barely hid his wince by sliding into the booth opposite the detective. He really didn't want to be reminded of Jack at the moment.
"So," Kathy went on, "you gonna share why you called me at God-awful-thirty this morning, and why I had to blow off the DCI in order to get off to meet you?" She took a bite of her muffin, making a pleased, humming sound.
The dragon didn't bother to hide his discomfiture this time. "If you need me to call and clear this – "
"Nah," she said. "I just said it was you asking, and he was fine with it." She looked at him shrewdly. "I'm guessing it's pretty urgent if you're coming to me for help?"
"You could say that." Ianto pulled a small device about the size of a lipstick from his pocket, thumbing it on and setting it on the table between them. When he'd asked her to meet him at their usual coffee shop, Ianto had realized that, if he was indeed under surveillance, asking Swanson to talk to him anywhere else might cause suspicion.
One expressive eyebrow went up. "Afraid we're going to be overheard, then?"
Her question startled him. "You know about this sort of tech?"
She shrugged. "I watch spy movies. You think you're being watched?"
"It's a very distinct possibility." This was one of the reasons he liked Kathy Swanson; she was sharp, and she picked up on things that other people might not. But then, this was what made her an excellent investigator.
"Don't you think, if you are, that they might get suspicious if we're suddenly under some sort of 'cone of silence'?"
It was a valid question, but this was alien tech. "Not with that," he answered. "It takes our conversation and makes it sound like we're talking about the weather, or somesuch."
"That's handy." She was impressed.
"It doesn't last long, but it will be long enough." Ianto took a drink of his own coffee. Kathy Swanson was one of the very few people he trusted outside both Torchwood and Ddraig Llyn; it was just approaching the subject in the right way that made him hesitate.
Swanson waited calmly, eating her muffin and making the odd pleasurable sound. If Jack had been in his right mind and present, he would have been making lewd comments.
No, he couldn't think of Jack…
"Who got the initial call-out on the Ritz Dance Hall?" he asked.
The detective cocked her head, looking at him closely. "It was Davidson and Smythe. They took the witness statements and poked around…until they heard the music themselves, then thought it was something Torchwood should handle. DCI Henderson asked me to call you in."
"Did you talk to the manager, Manger, personally?"
"No, I just relayed orders to Davidson onsite. So, I take it was something along your line?"
"It was." Ianto folded his hands on the table, linking his fingers around the Styrofoam cup. "And I needed to make certain you hadn't come into contact with Manger."
"Davidson did say the man creeped him out."
"PC Davidson has good intuition."
"Don't tell him that, it might go to his head."
Ianto felt a corner of his mouth twitching upward at that. "We think Manger is involved in a plot against Torchwood."
"So the callout was a hoax?"
"Not at all," he assured her. "Are you ready for another Torchwood history lesson?"
Swanson snorted. "I think you might find that I know more than you believe I do."
Ianto looked at her closely. "Have you been doing your research?"
"You could say I have a source."
The dragon frowned. Was someone talking out of turn? No; he trusted his teammates…well, as much as he could under the current circumstances.
The detective smirked. Swanson removed her black suit jacket, revealing the pale gold blouse underneath. As Ianto watched, she began to roll up her left sleeve…
His eyes flew wide, not believing what he was seeing.
Tattooed on her left wrist, just above the black leather of her watch band, was a small dragon, wreathed in flame, the red and orange of the design standing out against her dusky skin.
"You – " was all he could get out, so stunned was he that words simply wouldn't come. As Swanson rolled her sleeve back up, looking decidedly smug, Ianto tried to get his shocked mind working once more.
Kathy Swanson was a Dragon-Friend, and she'd been Marked by the Fire Dragon herself.
"When – " Ianto still struggled to speak.
"Only about a week," she answered, buttoning up her sleeve once more. "In fact, it was the night the Fire Dragon warned your Toshiko that something was going on. Gotta say, that was an interesting night…finding out a friend you've known for years is actually an honest-to-God dragon."
"I…" No, he had to get himself back together. Ianto had known there would be two more Dragon-Friends out there; it was just that one was Kathy Swanson was throwing him for a loop. "I've been wanting to tell you for years," he exclaimed. "But I didn't want you to have to lie to your superiors if ever asked if you knew secrets about Torchwood."
She waved him off. "It's fine, I figured it was something like that. But now you know you don't have to worry about that anymore."
Ianto slumped down in the plastic seat, relief doing strange things to his insides. He'd always known he could trust her, and now they shared a bond that went beyond friendship.
He really wanted to hug her, but decided to keep it professional in public.
Then Ianto grinned, thinking how jealous Jack was going to be with Kathy as a Dragon-Friend…but the smile faded quickly.
"I'm sure there was something behind that expression," she said shrewdly.
"There is, and I'll explain in a bit. All right, just how much did the Fire Dragon tell you?"
Kathy shrugged her jacket back on. "She gave me a rather condensed dragon history – which I'm looking forward to having you fill out in more detail – and about the Rift through Cardiff. I have to say, I kinda believed the Rift stuff before the dragon stuff."
Ianto had to laugh. "Even with a dragon made out of fire sitting in front of you?"
"Hey," she retorted, "I've lived in Cardiff and I've heard all the weird shit that happens around here, so I had a head start in the belief department where that was concerned! It certainly explains a lot, too."
She had a point, he reflected.
"She also told me about the warning," Kathy went on.
Ianto nodded. "We're pretty certain the one we're looking for is this Bilis Manger person."
He launched into everything that had been happening to the team, not holding anything back. It felt wonderful to be able to talk to someone who wasn't a member of Torchwood, and who he thought he could trust not to be under the influence of Manger or whoever was behind it all. He wasn't ashamed of asking for help, and with Kathy now bearing the Fire Dragon's mark, it made things so much easier.
As for Kathy, she listened to everything, not interrupting and taking it all in. Ianto could see her working things through, could see her putting pieces together and he hoped she would have a new perspective on what had been happening to the team in the last weeks.
"Look," she said, once he was done, "all of this time traveling and aliens and mysticism crap is beyond me. I'm just a copper who happens to live and work in one of the weirdest cities in Wales and who has a dragon for a friend."
"I know I'm chucking you into the deep end, but I really could use your input into this." Ianto valued her opinion highly, and he decided to let her have the time to process what he'd told her. At least the Fire Dragon had given him a bit of a head start in the explanation department.
She looked thoughtful. "And you're certain you've all been compromised?"
Ianto nodded. "It's obvious now that we look back at it." He'd thought about it last night, after Toshiko and Owen had left, and had come to the conclusion that he, too, had been manipulated; he'd known something was wrong, and had ignored or brushed off the feeling.
His mother would have been disappointed in him, for not remembering to listen to his heart.
"Owen was made to see Diane, who told him she'd been taken by the Rift when in fact she was actually in Alaska," he ticked off. "Tosh didn't say anything about the Fire Dragon, when she normally would have. As for me…let's just say I haven't been paying much attention to my instincts like I usually do. And now there's Jack…"
"I do trust you've taken precautions with him acting not like himself?"
"We have. And Owen and Tosh are watching him now." They'd agreed last night that the two would cover for him, while he spoke to Kathy.
"And there's no chance that this so-called influence won't get to them again?"
Ianto considered. That was also something they'd discussed. "None of us think so, now that we know it happened once we'll be on the lookout again."
He could tell she was chewing that one over. "And what about Cooper?"
Ianto sighed. "She's currently serving a suspension for misuse of Torchwood resources. She's due to come back Wednesday. As far as we know, she hasn't been approached or influenced in any way." Toshiko had also checked the recordings they'd made from the surveillance devices within the Cooper-Williams flat, and nothing looked out of the ordinary, although it was obvious that Gwen was going stir crazy.
Toshiko was planning to check CCTV later, after she went home for the evening.
It was evident that Kathy was trying very hard to keep her eye rolling under control. "Then why haven't you called her in on this?"
"Because, if we're still under some sort of surveillance," Ianto said, "I don't want whoever it is suspicious. If I met Gwen then that would be out of character for both of us…"
"Whereas you and I meet on a fairly regular basis," she finished. "Got it." She took a sip of her coffee, shuddering slightly. "Gone cold, and not a patch on yours. My treat, and then we can get back to business."
Ianto nodded, and Kathy headed up to the counter for another order. So much had changed, now that she was another Dragon-Friend. He couldn't help but feel relieved by knowing that someone he knew and trusted was now practically family. He didn't bother to hide his smile.
"Pleasant thoughts, I take it?" his friend said, setting down the two coffees she'd gotten them.
"Just thinking about welcoming you to the family," he answered.
Kathy gave him a sly smile. "Your family is too weird by half, Jones."
The dragon laughed.
"Okay," she went on, after taking a drink of the fresh coffee, "I want to look at everything you've told me in a logical manner. Frankly, I'm afraid you and the rest of your team are too close to it to see all the fiddly bits."
"You're right, of course."
"First of all," Kathy began, "you're assuming that this Manger is, if not behind it all, at least a major player."
Ianto nodded his agreement.
"That makes sense. Now, how do you think he's able to influence you all?"
"There are so many ways he could do it," the dragon said. "If it's alien tech, then we should be able to locate it and neutralize it. If it's something he's doing himself, then it's going to take finding him and making him stop in some way." He didn't add that 'some way' was most likely to be unpleasant.
"All right. Let's set that aside for the moment. What's his motive? What does he want? Is there anything in the scant evidence we have that points toward why?"
Ianto was quiet for a moment. There was only one thing, and it was what he had been thinking, back when Jack and Toshiko had been stranded in the past. "The Rift," he answered.
"But why?" she pressed. "What could he possibly want with this Rift? Can you control it?"
"No, we can't," Ianto admitted. "It's far too dangerous. We did use a program to open it successfully, to get Jack and Toshiko back from 1941, but there's not enough precision to even think about trying it again, unless it's an emergency. And even then, the equations wouldn't open the Rift fully." Opening the Rift completely could be a disaster.
"Then what about this key you said you found?"
A shiver ran down Ianto's spine. Of course. He sat up straighter. "Bilis had the Manipulator key. But he shouldn't have; it had been taken by Torchwood One, back when Jack and I took over Three."
"Then how did he get it, let alone know it existed?"
Ianto was suddenly even gladder that Kathy Swanson was on their side. "We talked about that last night, and Owen brought up the question of how he got it. We thought, if he could travel in time, then he would have known about the battle and could have gotten it afterward."
"Of course, this still doesn't answer the second question…how did he know it existed?"
And it dropped into place.
"Someone told him."
Kathy nodded. "That's obvious. Jesus, Jones…your mind really has been messed with. You're usually faster on the uptake."
Ianto cursed himself. She was right. That should have occurred to him as soon as Toshiko had shown him the key. "There were only two people in Cardiff who knew about the key and what had happened to it: myself and Jack."
"Then it had to be from one of you."
It made far too much sense to dismiss. Ianto couldn't recall the last time he'd been this frightened, that perhaps someone had taken control of his mind so thoroughly that he'd given out Torchwood secrets to a potential threat.
"I'm not saying it's you," Kathy hastened to add.
"But we can't rule me out."
"No. But I'm more leaning toward the captain than you at this point, simply because you say he's still under Bilis' control."
"Bilis could have found out about it in the past," Ianto mused, "come forward to the battle, and taken the key. In the chaos that followed I doubt he would have even been noticed, and he could have slipped back into the past easily."
"That sounds about right, especially if he was working on getting your captain under control at the time. He couldn't leave that part of his plan for too long."
"But why send Jack and Toshiko to the past in the first place? That seems far too complicated," Ianto asked. "He could have gotten to Jack here, surely?"
Kathy did roll her eyes then. "It's obvious, Jones…the perfect scene was set up in the past in order to get between you and Himself. And from what you've told me, he's done a damn fine job of doing just that."
22 January 2008
The moment Toshiko walked into the Hub that morning, she knew something was wrong.
She glanced at Owen, who had come in with her after the pair had stayed over at Ianto's last night. It had only made sense, after the trio had been up talking most of the night, trying to figure out what they were going to do about Jack. Owen had been all for tossing him into a cell then starting to deprogram him, but Ianto had overruled him, saying that while Jack was acting oddly he was still competent to lead the team. The dragon had said, though, that he would consider it if Jack ever became a threat to the team.
They would investigate first; Ianto had intended on asking Kathy Swanson if she'd check out some leads for them, and Toshiko hoped she'd agree. Swanson was a good cop, and could handle herself, although Ianto did have concerns that, whoever had gotten to them all would try at her. It would be up to the detective if she would help.
She and Owen had left Ianto's in plenty of time to visit their flats and get changed, and then drove in together. It felt good to have someone at her back, and Toshiko appreciated Owen's presence as they entered the Hub together. She shivered; overnight, the Hub had seemed to become more a place of shadows than it ever had been, and it bothered her that the place no longer felt like home to her.
Owen must have felt it too, judging from the small shudder he gave. "Still think we need to have an intervention," he murmured in her ear, before heading down toward the autopsy bay.
Toshiko was beginning to agree with him.
She glanced toward Jack's office; he was there, seated at his desk, doing something with his computer. Before all this happened, she would have teased him about internet porn, but now…she shivered again, moving to her own workstation and powering up the multiple monitors.
Tossing her bag under the desk, Toshiko ran her first checks of the day, mostly CCTV and Rift logs from the previous evening. She frowned; the internal CCTV didn't seem to be running, and judging from the system it had been down since a little after she and Owen had left the night before.
Another glance toward Jack's office cemented the thought in her mind that it must have been Jack who'd disabled the cameras, and while normally she would have assumed it was him and Ianto up for some fun, since she'd spent the night with the dragon Toshiko knew that wasn't the reason.
Jack was hiding something.
Since she couldn't see what was going on with the CCTV, Toshiko pulled up the scan logs for the night. She flipped through the various types of scan, finally settling for the heat scans, and keeping a surreptitious watch on her boss, Toshiko fast forwarded, tracking Jack's movements over the previous night.
It really didn't help; Jack appeared to have been all over the Hub last night, and so Toshiko shut it down. She turned instead to computer activity, wondering just what he was up to.
Toshiko didn't get very far when the Rift alarm went off.
Her eyes went wide as she took in the information her computers were giving her. This wasn't possible…
"What is it?" Jack's voice made her jump. He'd appeared at her shoulder as if by magic.
"It's the Rift," she said, wanting to take comfort in his presence and not being able to. Her mouth was dry as she did a second, then a third check, on what her monitors were saying. "It…the Rift, it's splintering."
This shouldn't have been happening. The Manipulator kept the Rift as calm as it could, and anything with this strength and outreach should simply have not been possible. There were cracks appearing all over Cardiff, branching out from the Hub itself and into the neighboring country, several faster moving cracks flowing across the Channel and into mainland Europe.
This was impossible.
"This is what happens when you mess with the Rift," Jack said ominously. "It should never have been opened."
Toshiko shook her head. She knew her manipulator program, and she knew exactly what it was capable of doing, and this wasn't it. If there'd been the slightest mistake in the calculations…but no, there hadn't been. She'd checked after Ianto had left yesterday, and the dragon had done everything absolutely correct.
"You're saying Ianto and me shouldn't have bothered bringing you back then?" Owen challenged, standing next to Toshiko in a show of support.
"We would have been fine," Jack snapped. "What are two lives against the destruction of the world? Opening the Rift has caused any cracks to widen, and to grow, and for Time to seep through."
"We'll find a way to stop it," Toshiko said, sounding more confident than she actually felt. "I'm going to run every scanning program we have, and see what I can find out." Her fingers flying over the keyboard, she put her plan into action, bringing the mainframe up to full computing power. There had to be another reason for this; something that didn't have anything to do with her equations.
Toshiko was proud of her work. She was very good at what she did, and wasn't afraid to say so. Ianto and Jack had often called her a genius, and it wasn't far off. While she'd never had her I.Q. tested, it had to be very high indeed.
But, she wasn't above admitting her mistakes. If she did something wrong, she would own up to it. If her equations had caused the enormity of the Rift fractures, she would say so. But as she ran her simulations she could see that what she'd done had worked the way it was supposed to have, and that her tiny opening hadn't contributed to what was going on.
It meant she had to find out what was going on.
"Toshiko," Jack interrupted.
"I need to figure this out," she answered, in far too harsh a tone than she usually used with her boss and friend.
"We know what caused it," Jack put in. "I want a meeting in the boardroom in five minutes."
A meeting wasn't going to help the situation. "I don't want to waste time," she growled, setting another simulation running. "We can't ask the world to stop ending while we talk about it!"
A hand landed on her shoulder, spinning her around in her chair. Jack's usually friendly blue eyes were glaring at her in a way that he'd never done before. "We know what caused the splintering," he reiterated. "Now we need to know how to stop it."
Toshiko shrugged his hand away. "What do you think I'm trying to fucking do?" she snapped. "I'm trying to work out just how to fix this before the world explodes!"
"Back off, Harkness," Owen stepped in, taking Toshiko's side, for which she was grateful. "You wanna stop the Rift, then let Tosh do her fucking job."
Jack's eyes glittered. "Is this insubordination from the pair of you?"
Toshiko's mouth fell open, and she didn't have to look at Owen to know he wore the same expression. "We're professionals, Jack," she said. "You hired us to do a job, and we're trying to do it. You want to know how to stop the Rift? Then I'm the one you need working on it, and I can't do that if you're calling useless meetings while the planet goes to hell!"
"Toshiko is right, sir."
She would have hugged Ianto at that point, if not for the fact that he was facing down Jack. Toshiko had no idea when he'd arrived in the Hub, but she was so happy to have him backing her up in this.
Jack turned away from her. Ianto was standing in just inside the main area of the Hub, and it was obvious that he'd come in from the garage entrance. The dragon's back was ramrod straight, the black of his suit echoing the mood within the Hub. He was wearing the professional mask that Toshiko hadn't seen him wearing ever since he and Jack had gotten together officially, and she wanted to cry at seeing it now.
"You hired us all for a reason, Captain" the dragon went on. "Let us do our jobs."
Jack stalked toward Ianto, stopping just within his personal space. "Your job was to look after the Rift, not tear it open."
Ianto looked Jack right in the eye, and Toshiko knew just how hard that had to be for him. "I did only what my commanding officer has always told us to do: never leave anyone behind. And I would do it again if the chance presented itself."
"Even though it means you've just condemned the world to destruction?" Jack challenged.
"Yes," the dragon answered. "Even if it means that. Especially if it meant saving my best friend and the man I love."
He said it with such a tone of tragic pride, that it broke Toshiko's heart. Owen wasn't unaffected, and she guessed he was thinking about Katie, and Diane. He would have been willing to tear the Rift apart to bring Diane back, when he'd thought she'd been taken by it. He'd admitted as much, during their talk last night.
"Even if that man doesn't love you back?" Jack asked, still challenging.
Ianto raised his head even higher. "Yes, even that." The pain in his ancient eyes was indescribable.
"Then I think you need to fix your mistake," Jack said, taking a step back.
Toshiko opened her mouth to defend her Second, but a look from Ianto stopped her. "If you'll let us do our jobs," he said, almost serenely, "then perhaps we can do just that."
"Fine," Jack answered. "I'll have to try to at least explain this mess to the PM and UNIT." With that, he stalked toward his office, and the distinct sound of the glass rattling as he slammed the door shut reverberated throughout the Hub.
Ianto joined Toshiko and Owen at the workstation. She reached out and took her friend's hand, and Ianto squeezed it back, accepting the comfort. Owen rested a hand on his black-clad shoulder as well, in a show of solidarity that had been missing from the Hub lately. "Show me what you've got," he said.
Toshiko proceeded to do so. She brought up all the readings she was getting, and together she and the dragon examined everything that they were being shown. "The equations didn't do this," she averred, standing behind her work. "Whatever is splintering the Rift is something completely different."
"I believe you, Tosh," Owen said. "Jack's talking outta his arse, if he thinks getting the two of you back is the reason for all this."
Ianto was looking confused. "This is not possible," he murmured, leaning over her shoulder to enter a few commands of his own into the mainframe. The readings stayed the same.
"That's what I think too," she answered. "This shouldn't be happening, with what you did to get us back."
The dragon shook his head. "No, that's not what I mean. What I mean is we shouldn't be getting these readings." His eyes suddenly changed to their dragon aspect. "Tosh, do you have your personal PDA with you?"
"Of course." She always carried it with her. Reaching under her desk, Toshiko pulled her bag out and rummaged around inside for her PDA.
"I want you to run a scan for Rift energy," Ianto said, once she had it in hand. "And don't let Jack see you do it."
Confused, Toshiko held the device below the level of her desk, switching it on and running the scan. Her eyes widened as she saw the results. "What the hell?"
The PDA was reading normal, background Rift energy.
With the amount of splintering her computer was telling her, the place should have been saturated in Rift stuff.
But there was nothing.
Ianto was nodding. "The Rift isn't out of control," he said. "If it were, I'd be able to feel it."
Of course. With Ianto's extrasensory perception of the Rift, he should have felt the wildness of the energy.
Toshiko swung back to her terminals, anger urging her on to find out what the hell was happening. Why were her computers giving her false readings? Had someone hacked into their systems?
When it hit her, her hands froze on her keyboard. She looked at Ianto. "Jack did this, didn't he?"
"What the hell?" Owen exclaimed.
"It has to be," Ianto said. "It's the only explanation."
"But why?" the medic questioned. "Why the fuck would he want to screw with us like that?"
"Jack is out of control," Toshiko said.
"It's time we relieved him of his command," Owen asserted. "This has gone on long enough."
"Wait." Ianto put his hand on Owen's arm. His face had gone pale.
"Why the hell for? He's obviously off his head. I can certify him non compos mentis, if needed – "
"That's not it," Ianto growled.
"Then what is it?" Toshiko pressed.
Ianto's face went from pained to furious in a single second. "The man in that office isn't Jack Harkness."
22 January 2008
Ianto couldn't believe what an idiot he'd been.
He'd been so caught up with what had happened in the past that he hadn't been paying attention to the here and now.
The dragon pulled his gun from its holster under his arm, striding toward Jack's office, knowing it was time to get some answers.
He didn't have to see to know that Toshiko and Owen were with him. If it hadn't been for the fake Rift warnings, and Toshiko's assumption that Jack had been behind them…how long would it have been before he'd checked his own senses for that tell-tale itching at the back of his mind that always accompanied Jack's presence?
He could try to make himself feel better by telling himself that the Rift energy that saturated both the fake Jack and Toshiko after their trip through time had masked that familiar tingle, but he wasn't into self-deception like that. No, Ianto hadn't sensed it because he hadn't wanted to, hadn't wanted to have Jack be within him even that tiny bit, still hurt over what had been done to the real Captain Jack Harkness back in the past.
It should have been obvious to him last night. The imposter wouldn't have had access to the Hub for as long as he had, of only he'd paid attention to his own sensory perception – or lack thereof – of his mate.
This explained so much. About the past, about the missing coat…and about Jack acting so far out of character in the first place. He really should have guessed, but he'd been so sure of simple manipulation that he'd been blind to any other explanation.
Well, he'd make up for that now.
Shoving the office door open, Ianto stormed inside, raising his gun and pointing it at the imposter, who sat behind Jack's desk, where he'd once again been working at the computer. The intruder's eyes widened as he took in the three present members of Torchwood Three, all ready to shoot if given the provocation.
And Ianto really, really wanted that provocation, for everything this person had put them all through.
"Get up and step away from the desk," Ianto ordered, thumbing off the safety of his weapon. "Keep your hands where we can see them."
The doppelganger did as Ianto bid, coming to stand in front of the desk, his hands raised in surrender. "What's going on, Ianto?" he demanded. "Why aren't you working on finding out how to close the Rift?"
"Because the Rift is just fine," the dragon spat. "It's perfectly normal."
"And what were those readings we were looking at then?" the man asked warily.
"A fake," he answered. "A very clever fake, but a fake nonetheless."
The imposter glanced over at Toshiko and Owen. "And you believe him?"
"I took a reading using my own personal PDA," Toshiko answered. "Energy readings are normal. There's no current Rift activity."
"Who the hell are you?" Owen asked sharply. "And what have you done with Harkness?"
Suddenly, the stranger smiled; a dark smile, one that looked completely wrong on Jack's face. He put his hands down, leaning against the desk almost insouciantly. "And here I thought my act had been nearly perfect."
Ianto shuddered at the tone of voice; it carried the promise of something horrible. It wasn't his mate's voice, even though it still was Jack's familiar accent and cadence. His finger tightened imperceptively on the trigger. "There were a few things that your surveillance couldn't have shown," Ianto answered, almost against his will. He stopped himself before giving all of his secrets away.
Then he frowned. Was this the manipulation that the entire team had gone through? Was whoever this was using it on them even now?
"I found the pictures," Toshiko said proudly. "We know you – or someone else – have been watching this team for a while now."
"Now, we're asking again," Ianto growled, "what have you done with my mate?"
The imposter simply stood there, smiling.
Ianto ground his teeth. The man wasn't going to cooperate. "Let's get him down into a cell. Maybe he'll agree to talk after being locked up for a while."
They relieved him of Jack's Webley, then manacled their intruder with a pair of handcuffs in Jack's desk – Owen making a snide comment about why the captain would keep them in that particular place, and Ianto not enlightening him – then the three hustled the prisoner into one of the nastier cells. Ianto removed the wrist strap from the man's wrist, not knowing if he actually knew how to use it, and then they tossed him inside after unlocking the cuffs, leaving him on his own.
"What about Jack?" Toshiko pressed, as they headed back up to the main Hub.
"It's obvious now that Jack didn't come back with you," Ianto answered, slipping the vortex manipulator into his pocket, hoping he could give it back to Jack soon.
Her hand flew up to her mouth. "Oh God, I left him back in 1941!"
Ianto nodded. "It wasn't your fault, Tosh." He hated the idea of his lover having to live through that time again, but wouldn't Jack have shown up already if he'd had to take the slow path from the past? "That dance hall was the last place he was seen," he said. "I think that's the first place we need to look." He looked at his teammates. "Tosh, I want you to go through the mainframe, and find out exactly how the intruder managed to program in all those false Rift readings. Get rid of every trace of him in the system."
"Done," she answered fiercely. If there was one thing Toshiko hated most of all, it was being fooled by her own tech.
"Owen," he turned to the medic. "I want you to search Jack's office for anything that shouldn't be there – "
"Like handcuffs?" Owen snarked.
Ianto rolled his eyes. "You know what I mean. I also want you to see if you can figure out what he was doing on Jack's computer. I know you're not as savvy at it as Tosh and I are…"
"Yeah, but even I know how to pull up the history."
"Right. And I'm going to call in a little back-up."
"Detective Swanson?" Toshiko guessed.
The dragon nodded. "Exactly. Off you both go." Once everything was settled he'd let Toshiko know about Kathy's being a Dragon-Friend, but right now they needed to take care of business first.
The two headed up, as Ianto pulled out his mobile. He speed-dialed his friend, absently tapping one highly polished shoe as he waited for her to answer.
"What's up, Jones?" she greeted him.
"Kathy, I need you to forget what I asked you to do. Something has come up and this is more important." He'd originally wanted her to investigate a couple of leads having to do with Bilis Manger, including checking out a shop at the mall that was ostensibly his.
He explained to her about Jack actually being an imposter.
"Why look like Harkness?" she asked.
"There are various security systems that do scans on anyone coming into the Hub," Ianto explained. "If they haven't been approved, then alarms will go off. Whoever this was needed to get in; who better to disguise yourself as the one person with unlimited access?"
It bothered Ianto that they didn't know what their prisoner had been up to. What had been the point of generating those false Rift signatures? He knew he didn't have every piece of the puzzle but this was one of the most confusing. Just what did anyone gain by trying to trick them into thinking that the world was in danger?
"You have a point," Kathy answered. "What's up then?"
"I need you to go to the dance hall first. That was the last place we know where Jack was."
"Jones…that was 1941. What makes you think there'd still be some trace of him there?"
That was just it: he didn't know. "It's the only place we can look at this point. If he'd been able to, he would have showed up at the Hub by now."
"He could be dead, Ianto," she said softly. "You need to accept that."
Ianto cursed to himself. Of course; he hadn't told Kathy that Jack was immortal. Certainly some of things he'd told her could have led her to the conclusion that Jack was very long-lived, but not having been around the odd and otherworldly for as long as he had, Kathy's imagination wasn't bent that way, even with her once saying she'd been exposed just because of living in Cardiff. She'd think he would have aged since being left behind.
Well, if she was going to hang around Torchwood more, she'd come to believe in the impossible. Even being a Named Dragon-Friend would mean accepting a lot of weird shit.
"Kathy," he assured her, "trust me when I say that old age isn't something Jack Harkness will ever have to worry about."
"O…kay," she said. "All right, once I get to the dance hall, just how am I going to find any sort of clues that aren't 60-odd years out of date?"
That was the issue. Ianto really didn't know.
He put his hand in his pocket, where he'd put his mate's vortex manipulator, hoping the worn leather would give him some sort of inspiration…only to discover it was gone.
Ianto knew damned well he'd slipped it into his jacket pocket once they'd left the prisoner's cell. He searched the floor, thinking maybe it had fallen out…
But it was nowhere to be seen.
Had he really taken it? Yes, Ianto was positive he had. He'd never have left something that potentially dangerous in the hands of someone who could try to use it to escape. He knew for certain that Jack had programmed many of the Hub's security codes into it, including the ones to the cell doors. He'd once teased Jack that it was a security breach waiting to happen, but his lover had brushed off his concerns.
He glanced back down the hallway toward the cell area. He knew that wasn't Jack…was it perhaps some sort of illusion, convincing him that he was actually seeing Jack when he wasn't? Had the vortex manipulator even existed? Damnit, he hated doubting himself like this!
But, why hadn't their imposter taken the original? He could have used it to gain entrance quite easily…it suddenly hit Ianto that the man hadn't known what it was. Perhaps he'd only thought it was some sort of affectation. If whoever it was had truly known, they wouldn't have needed to send in a doppelganger, because the strap could have overridden almost every security protocol in the place.
Ianto was brought out of his thoughts by Kathy's concerned voice. "Jones, you still there?"
"Yeah," he answered, inspiration striking him. "I have an idea. Are you in your car?"
"No," she answered. "I'd just gotten out at the mall when you called."
"Then I need you to do something for me. Do you have the scanner I gave you?" He'd lent her one of Torchwood's portable Rift locators, thinking she would need it to take readings at both the shop they'd discovered that Bilis had owned, and at the Ritz dance hall itself.
"Yeah." There was a muffled sound, and Ianto guessed she was getting the scanner out from wherever she'd put it.
"Okay, I'm going to talk you through reprogramming it to search for a particular energy signature." If that was a fake vortex manipulator, perhaps Jack still had his…it was a long shot, but one he was willing to take to get his mate back.
"Hell, Jones, you sure have a lot of faith in my abilities!"
"Yes, Kathy…I do. Now, put your phone on speaker and we'll start…"
It didn't take long to reprogram the scanner. Kathy did it, only asking a couple of questions – one of them insightful, the other showing that she was more than a bit nervous about the whole situation – and it was no time at all before it was done. Even as he was talking her through it, a sense of hope grew within the dragon, and the more convinced he became that Jack still had to be at the dance hall somewhere. If he was out and wandering about, surely he would have tried to warn them? Yes, Ianto understood all about timelines, but it was now past the point when Toshiko and the imposter had been returned. If Jack were free, he would have come back to the Hub, knowing the coast had to be clear.
No. Somehow Jack had been detained within the Ritz dance hall. The more he considered it, the more certain he was. He just didn't know what condition Jack was in, if Kathy did find him there.
"All right," Kathy sighed. "I think I got it. I'll head out to the dance hall and see what I can find. You do realize you're chasing a fairly nebulous bone here, right?"
"I do, yes. But it's worth a chance. Be careful, all right?" He was beginning to wonder if he shouldn't have called Gwen in on this as back-up. Sending Kathy into that place alone seemed the height of stupidity…
But, at the same time, Kathy Swanson was the only one he was certain of that hadn't been manipulated in some way. Gods, he himself had just been convinced that he'd taken a non-existent wrist strap from their interloper!
"I'll be fine," she assured him. "I also have the gun you gave me. I'm not going to ask how you knew I'd had gun training, since I don't actually carry on the job…"
Ianto smirked, even though she wouldn't have been able to see it. "Because I thoroughly vetted you years ago, Detective. I know all about your father and his love of guns." It was why he'd trusted her with one of the Torchwood-issue service weapons, knowing that she could tell which one was the end most likely to go off if she needed to use it.
"That's just plain creepy, Jones," she snorted. "Gotta go, I'll call if I find something."
"Thank you for doing this, Kathy," he said sincerely.
"Are you kidding? I love getting Torchwood out of trouble. It increases my own rep like you wouldn't believe!"
She hung up, and Ianto flipped his own phone closed, putting it in his pocket. He found himself praying to any and every God, Goddess, and to the Great Dragons themselves that Jack would be all right, and that Kathy would be able to save him.
He was so distracted by his own thoughts that he didn't notice the shadows in the hall moving.
Ianto was suddenly grabbed, and before he could even react something was pushed up against his armpit, and pain tore through him like a cyclone. His heartbeat juddered horribly, and his limbs followed along, dancing and twisting helplessly.
22 January 2008
There was nothing but darkness.
He couldn't remember when there wasn't darkness, but then it was better than pain.
But, suddenly there was the oh-so familiar feeling of ground glass scraping against every inch of him, and the light returned, accompanied by that first large gulp of air.
This time though, that gasp didn't drown out the very loud curse, practically shrieked by a female voice that was very familiar.
Jack's eyes flew open, and he coughed roughly, feeling as if his entire throat had been coated in dust. He rolled over and spat, trying to clear the dryness away, and carefully levered himself up.
He found himself in a dark, rubble-strewn space, the mustiness of years hanging heavy in the air. From what he could tell, it was some sort of cellar…or an abandoned air-raid shelter, since the last thing he remembered was being tossed back in time with –
"Toshiko!" he tried to shout, but all that came out was a harsh croak.
"She's fine," the feminine voice answered. "Jesus Christ, Harkness, you really know how to freak a person out!"
Jack blinked in the direction of the voice. His eyes widened in surprise as he took in Detective Inspector Kathy Swanson, kneeling not too far away, her face pale in shock. "What the hell are you doing here?" he asked, confusion making it come out a bit harsher than he'd intended.
"Jones sent me," she answered, brushing her dark coat down and standing. "Only he didn't see fit to warn me that you'd pop back up like some sort of weird jack-in-the-box!"
"He sent you back in time?" Jack frowned. Why would Ianto do that, especially with a civilian? That didn't make any sense.
"Hell, no," she answered. "It's 2008, not 1941."
Jack stilled, staring at her. "What?" The very last thing he remembered was being asked into the manager's office, and then…pain. He rubbed his chest where the pain had been, and his hand came away with flaky, old blood. Confusion floated among the very hazy recollections he had of his time in the past. "What the hell happened?"
"Let's get the hell out of here," Swanson urged, taking him by the arm and urging him toward the shadowed opening where the entrance to the underground room.
Jack let her lead, trying to dredge up the memories of how he'd gotten where he was. He could recall following the real Jack Harkness somewhere…them meeting that manager, Bilis Manger…the captain shook his head, rubbing his chest once more. Had he been stabbed?
Weak light flooded Jack's eyes, and he blinked to clear his vision as he and his escort made their way up unto the dance hall proper. It was as he remembered from when he and Toshiko had first arrived: run down, dusty, smelling of must and decay. Dust moats rose in the air as they moved on, and it was preternaturally silent, as if they were walking through another world. Jack shivered, suddenly spooked and wanting to get out of the building as soon as they could.
Swanson led him outside, and to a sedan that had 'unmarked police car' written all over it. He stopped, and she stopped with him, just as they reached the vehicle. "What's going on?" he demanded, pulling the fragments of his captain persona around himself as best he could, not really wanting her to see how upset he was. "And why did Ianto send you, and not someone from Torchwood?"
The detective nodded. She glanced up, then down, the street, as if trying to suss out the territory. "All right," Swanson said. "Maybe if you knew why Jones trusted me to come looking for you, you'll accept the rest of the story."
With those words, she shrugged the left sleeve of her coat off, followed by the jacket underneath. She pulled up the cuff of her shirt…to reveal a small tattoo of a flaming dragon.
To say he was shocked was an understatement. Kathy Swanson…a Dragon-Friend? When had that happened? Had Ianto known, and not told him? No, his mate would have said something before the big reveal. A part of Jack was glad that Ianto had a friend outside the Hub he could trust; but there was another part who would always be a bit jealous of their closeness, which was irrational considering that Ianto was fully committed to him, and no one else.
"So," he said, as she put herself back together, "when did this happen?"
"Only about a week ago," Swanson answered. "Finding out one of my closest friends is actually a dragon was not what I was expecting, let me tell you."
Jack nodded. "Okay, I can see why Ianto trusted you."
Swanson opened the drivers' side door. "Let's get in the car where it's warm, and I can tell you what's been going on."
Jack climbed in after her, watched as she wriggled around, pulling out a Torchwood-issue weapon and a Rift activity locator out of her pockets and setting them on the dash. Seeing both of those really brought it home that Ianto had truly trusted Swanson on this mission, and he wondered why it hadn't been any of the others…or Ianto himself.
His memories were still vague, and once again he rubbed his chest. His shirt was a mess, and Jack knew he must have died at some point. His Webley was missing, which bothered him; but at least he still had his vortex manipulator.
Swanson turned in her seat, and began. As the story progressed, Jack became more and more disturbed by it. All of this had been going on, right under his nose! Owen had been manipulated into thinking Diane had been taken by the Rift; Toshiko so that she actually withheld an important warning; and Ianto…this was a disaster.
And the story got worse.
By the time Swanson had gotten up through her breakfast with Ianto that morning, Jack's jaw was clenching so hard he vaguely wondered if he'd need to regrow his teeth. He wanted to find whoever had impersonated him and kill them, slowly and in creative ways. That they'd hurt Ianto in the process…had broken his heart while the dragon had thought it was Jack doing it… And Jack didn't even want to consider the real Jack Harkness, and what he'd gone through. The man had been a hero on paper, and Jack had taken his name because it had suited his purposes. To know that he, even peripherally, had been involved in the man's downfall…
More guilt for him to deal with.
"When did Ianto know that wasn't me?" Jack asked, in a moment when Swanson had taken a breath.
"He called me just as I was following up a lead at the mall," she explained. "Somehow they'd figured out that Manger had a shop there, and Jones gave me that thing – " she pointed at the portable Rift detector "– and showed me how to use it. He also gave me the gun, cause apparently he knows more about me than I thought."
"That's Ianto," Jack said proudly. His mate was quite good at digging up things about other people.
"Yeah, I should know better than to underestimate him," she agreed. "But he told me that they'd worked out that whoever was back at your base wasn't you, and he told me to come here to look for you, since this was where you'd last been seen, even though it was 60 years ago." She rolled her eyes. "I really didn't expect to find you."
Jack picked up the scanner, reading what Ianto had asked Swanson to scan for. Once more he felt proud of the dragon, choosing to look for his vortex manipulator. He was just glad that whoever had taken his place hadn't taken it as well as his Webley. It would have been a mess otherwise.
He recalled every conversation he'd had with Ianto over Jack's insistence at storing all of the Hub codes in his wrist strap. The dragon could have been right, about someone getting their hands on it and using it to gain access to the Hub, but at least this time it hadn't happened. He'd have to apologize for arguing about it later.
"We need to get back to the Hub," he said, reaching around and pulling on his seatbelt.
"Wait!" she exclaimed. "I found you, and you were dead with a spike in your chest. It looked like you hadn't been dead long, so I pulled it out, but you were dead! How did you come back?"
Jack barely stifled a sigh. "Let's just say death doesn't like me very much, all right? I'm not sure how it works." So that was what had happened. Bilis must have killed him, and then used a spike through his heart to make sure that organ couldn't regenerate. Without a way to repair itself around a spike, even if he had revived it wouldn't have been for long.
He'd been dead since 1941. Somehow, it hadn't felt that long, and yet it had seemed like forever.
Of course, it made him wonder just how the man had known he was immortal.
It was one of the many questions he intended to ask, once they caught up with him. Or maybe Jack could take his frustrations out on whoever the imposter in the Hub was.
"Why did you take the spike out?" he asked curiously, as Swanson started the car.
A faint blush colored her skin. "It's no secret how he feels about you, Harkness," she answered. "I didn't want him to see you like that."
Jack reached over and rested his hand on hers. "Thanks," he said sincerely.
"Yeah, well…spare me the gushing, okay? Let's get you back to your base and find out what the hell's going on."
That sounded like the best idea Jack had heard in over 60 years.
He had Swanson pull into the garage and park next to the SUV. At first, Jack had considered not showing her the Hub, but she'd earned it after coming to his rescue. Plus, being a Dragon-Friend, gave her a few extra privileges in Jack's book than most visitors got.
After gathering up the gun and the scanner, Jack led Swanson through the garage entrance, and down the corridor toward the main Hub. Swanson walked beside him, and he could tell she was trying very hard not to stare. Jack failed to hide the smirk from his face, and she ended up punching him in the arm.
It actually hurt, but Jack flatly refused to rub the area.
Myfanwy's cry met them as they entered the work area. Swanson muttered something about 'how the sightings were true' and Jack laughed.
Before he knew it, Toshiko was hugging him. How she'd gotten from her work station to where Jack and Swanson were so quickly he'd never know.
He hugged her back, glad that she was all right. Owen joined them, clapping Jack on the back a little rougher than was strictly necessary. Jack was glad that his team was safe, and that it seemed as if they'd weathered the storm that had been brought upon them.
"Where's Ianto?" he asked, needing to see his mate.
"In your office," Owen answered. "Your imposter was messing around in there, and he's checking your computer out."
Jack turned to look toward his office…
His eyes narrowed.
He pulled the gun he'd put in his pocket, and ran toward the office.
To the imposter sitting in his chair.
"Jack!" Toshiko shouted, and he knew they were following him.
Bilis Manger – it was him at Jack's desk – must have noticed something was going on, because he suddenly stood, as Jack charged into the office.
"What the fuck are you doing?" Owen demanded.
"That's not Ianto," Jack snarled, aiming the weapon straight at the man who'd killed him back in 1941. He didn't know why his team was seeing Ianto, but there was no way the bastard was going to fool him.
Manger smiled, a strange, twisted thing, his dark eyes narrowed. "Welcome back, Captain," he practically purred.
Jack didn't answer. He pulled the trigger.
Manger was knocked backward as the bullet struck him high in the chest, blood blossoming against his brocade jacket. The man hit the floor hard, and Jack was around the desk in moments, the Torchwood-issue automatic pointing directly at their intruder.
He heard Toshiko gasp and Owen swear, and Jack realized they could now see the man they'd thought was Ianto. He ignored his team for the moment, keeping his attention on Manger, who was holding his shoulder and grimacing in pain. "Where's Ianto?" he growled, racking the slide with a bit more violence than was entire necessary, but he was worried about his mate.
Manger simply smiled.
Then he was gone, the spot on the floor he'd been occupying suddenly empty.
Jack swore loudly and vociferously. "We need to find Ianto," he ordered.
"I'm running scans now," Toshiko shouted, leaving the office.
"That was our fucking intruder," Owen snapped, kicking the side of Jack's desk in frustration. "How the fuck did he look like you or Ianto? Shape-changer?"
"I don't much care," Jack answered, dumping the gun back into his greatcoat pocket. "We need to know what he was up to."
"He reprogrammed all the sensors to show a Rift rupture," Owen answered. "Tosh was working on tracking all the hacking when you walked it. I thought Ianto was doing the same up here…Damnit!"
A Rift rupture? Why did he want to do that…?
And then something occurred to him.
Jack turned back to Swanson, who'd been watching from the doorway. She looked worried, and he could understand why. Jack himself was terrified that something had happened to his mate, and it would only be when he saw Ianto once more that he'd feel better.
"Detective," he said, "Ianto told you about the Rift Manipulator key."
She nodded. "Jones said that only you and him knew about it."
Jack nodded. That was true; they'd discovered it missing after Torchwood One had been tossed out on their collective asses.
"Owen," he went on, "do you know where the key is?"
The medic shook his head. "Ianto hid it after Tosh showed it to him. He didn't tell us where it was."
"That key is the only way to open the Rift halfway safely," Jack said. "Frankly, I didn't mind One having it at all; I didn't want the temptation in the Hub. But, if Manger was faking the Rift tearing itself open…Owen, he convinced you that Diane had been taken by the Rift, most likely to get you to open it for him, if he couldn't get into the Hub proper."
"You're saying that bastard wants you all to open this Rift," Swanson said.
"Excuse me," Owen said, "but what is she doing here?"
"Because I trust her," Jack answered, leaving the office. "Tell me you found him, Toshiko!" he called down to her.
Toshiko nodded. "There's a heat source down in the corridor off the cells." She looked up, worry in her eyes. "It has to be him, but he's not warm enough…"
Jack cursed, and Owen echoed him. "Getting my kit," the doctor said, splitting off and heading toward the autopsy bay.
Jack didn't wait. He tore off down toward the cells, and he knew that Swanson followed him. He was so afraid, it leant speed to his feet as he raced toward his lover, not knowing what he'd find. Manger had to have incapacitated him in some way, and the words 'not warm enough' gave his imagination all sorts of horrific pictures and he shoved them out of his brain, concentrating on getting to his mate as quickly as possible.
Skidding around a corner, Jack's heart crashed into his stomach as he found the motionless body of his mate crumpled onto the cold flood.
22 January 2008
Torn between going to find her best friend and making certain the Hub was secure, Toshiko watched as both Jack and Kathy Swanson tore down toward the cells, while Owen dashed into the autopsy bay, going after his medical kit, coming back out almost immediately and following the others.
When Jack had appeared in the Hub with Swanson, it had been a surprise. Toshiko had never been happier to see anyone, and she was looking forward to finding out just what had happened to Jack in 1941, and what had managed to keep him away from the Hub.
The ugly surprise had been when Jack had accused Ianto of not actually being Ianto.
Toshiko had no idea how Jack had known. It had taken her a short while to figure out how Ianto had realized the Jack before had been an imposter; when she had, she'd wondered how he hadn't known immediately. She'd even asked the false Ianto about it, and he'd simply shrugged it off…and she'd been fine with the lack of answer.
She hated doubting herself.
And when, Ianto had suddenly become the man she'd known as Bilis Manger, much of what was going on had snapped into place in her mind, and she'd figured out that it had been him all along, manipulating them all into doing whatever it was that he'd wanted.
Although, they still didn't know what that was, only that it must have to do with the Rift.
Making her decision, Toshiko went back to her workstation, and was greeted by a flashing warning: 'TEMPORAL ENERGY SIGNATURE DETECTED'. Frowning, she tracked down the source…and found it had been in Jack's office.
Another piece went into place: Bilis Manger himself was the time traveler.
Well, there were ways to make sure he didn't get away with finding his way back into the Hub undetected.
Toshiko quickly fed the energy signature into the scanners, making certain that the intruder alarm went off if it reappeared. She wasn't even aware of the small smile of victory that crossed her face as she made sure that Bilis Manger could not get back in without anyone knowing about it.
She locked her computer down, and went to check on her friend.
Owen was kneeling on the floor of the corridor, examining a very pale Ianto who lay in a crumpled heap, body twisted uncomfortably. She gasped; she couldn't help it. Toshiko wasn't used to seeing him like that; she was so used to the strong, practically indestructible dragon, and she could feel tears in her eyes that she hastily brushed away.
Jack was next to the fallen dragon, one of Ianto's hands in his. Kathy was hovering, and she was chewing on a fingernail as she watched Owen checking pulse and respiration. He didn't look happy at what he was finding. "Help me open his shirt," the medic commanded, and Jack obeyed without question, hastily unbuttoning the dark blue shirt – wrestling with the leather shoulder holster – and revealing the pale human skin underneath.
Toshiko couldn't help but gasp at the red mark that extended from under Ianto's arm and across his chest.
Owen checked it over carefully, cursing at the extent of what looked like a bad burn. "That bastard used a stun gun on him," he reported angrily.
"But that's…" Toshiko broke off, glancing at Swanson and not wanting to say too much in her presence.
Jack didn't look up. "Show them, Kathy," he requested.
"I'm starting to feel like a bloody stripper," the detective sighed. She slipped out of her coat, and then her jacket, rolling up her sleeve to expose her wrist.
No wonder Jack had let her into the Hub.
Toshiko nodded, acknowledging the tattoo. They'd talk later, but at that moment Ianto was the most important.
"That's one of the areas that you can hit to kill him," she finished, knowing she could trust the other woman now.
"No shit," Owen commented. "Manger must have done his homework to know that particular fact. And I'd have to say it was set on its highest setting."
"Can you help him?" Jack asked, his eyes haunted. He ran a hand down Ianto's too-pale face.
"Hitting that spot isn't a guarantee you're gonna kill him, and our standard issue stun guns aren't powerful enough. I doubt even a lightning bolt getting just the right place is gonna do that. Ianto's gonna be one pissed off dragon when he wakes up, but he'll be fine enough to make the coffee in the morning. He's just not gonna be moving too fast when he does it."
Jack looked relieved, and Toshiko felt the same thing. It just wasn't right, seeing Ianto like that.
"Let's get him off this cold floor," Jack said. "Help me lift him."
Owen snorted. "He's so gonna owe me for lugging his heavy arse self around…"
Yes, Ianto was going to be fine if Owen was joking about lifting him.
Between them both, Jack and Owen got Ianto carried into the autopsy bay. Toshiko went ahead, gathering up some blankets in order to make the metal table a bit more comfortable for her friend. By the time they were laying him down carefully, the autopsy table had been covered by an old quilt, and she was ready with another one to cover him with. His skin was a bit cold to the touch, and she asked Owen about it as he was pulling out his equipment in order to treat the burn mark left from the attack.
"It was still a shock to his system, to get stunned like that," the medic answered. "Enough to put him down for the count. When the body goes into shock, its temperature can drop a bit, as blood rushes toward the affected areas. That's why Dragon Boy is cold. He'll be all warmed up once he recovers. Or else Harkness can warm him up himself."
Jack leered; the expression had a lot more life in it than his face had had, back in the corridor. "Anything I can do to aid in the recovery of a team member." He took his place once more at Ianto's side, keeping as much out of Owen's way as possible.
"Medicinal purposes only, Harkness," Owen answered back.
Kathy was opening her mouth to say something, when the sudden shrill of the internal alarms interrupted her.
Toshiko's heart raced, and she couldn't help the grin on her face. She spun and headed up the steps to the main area, knowing that her teammates would be following her. She really wanted a chance at Manger, for putting her friends and teammates through everything he had. To her, it didn't matter what his motivation was; he'd tried to kill her best friend, he'd somehow trapped Jack in the past, and had convinced Owen that the woman he loved had been taken by the Rift. There was no excuse for the manipulation he'd done.
The main Hub was empty.
Toshiko was quite disappointed.
"What the hell was that?" Owen shouted from the autopsy bay steps.
She sighed, turning the alarm off. "I set an alert using the temporal signature Manger used to vanish from Jack's office. That was him, trying to get back in."
"Well done, Toshiko," Jack praised. He was holding the gun that he'd used to shoot Manger, and was searching the Hub for any trace. Toshiko knew he wanted to get a second chance at the man himself, for what he'd done.
Suddenly, the alarm went off again.
Only, this time she felt someone grab her from behind, and pull her roughly toward the Rift Manipulator. Cold metal pressed against her side.
"Drop your weapon, Captain," a voice purred past her ear.
Toshiko hated being taken hostage.
The least he could have done was let her turn off the alarm.
Jack was lowering his gun, although he wasn't getting rid of it. Toshiko looked at him and rolled her eyes, and one side of his mouth turned up before he must have remembered he needed to be serious. Jack was well aware that she could take care of herself; Manger was injured, she could tell by the dampness seeping into her blouse from the back. It would be fairly simple to duck out of his grasp by exploiting that bullet wound, but let him think she was helpless. As much as she wanted to hurt him for hurting Ianto, she knew Jack would want to get as much information out of him as he could. Then, Toshiko could act.
"Just tell us what you want," Jack said, in the tone he always adopted for negotiations…well, it was actually him wanting to get some answers by playing into the bad guys' obvious need for gloating and ranting, disguised as a negotiation tactic.
"I want the Rift Manipulator key," Manger demanded. "I know our Ms Sato took it from my office, and I want to know where it is."
"You incapacitated the only person who knew where it was," Owen broke in. This was the medic's usual attempt at belittling the bad guy and trying to get them all killed. "Dragon Boy hid it, and he didn't bother to tell anyone else.
Toshiko felt Manger's grip tighten on her. "You're lying," he accused.
"Why would I lie about it?" Owen snorted.
"Why do you want to open the Rift?" Kathy asked.
It was a very logical question, and she could see Jack spear a look in her direction, as if she'd somehow stomped all over his favorite rose garden.
"I wish to release my Master," he answered, and Toshiko didn't like the tone of complete worship in the voice. "The son of the Great Beast, cast out of time, chained in rock and imprisoned below the Rift."
"Now that didn't sound half crazy," Owen said sarcastically.
"Who are you talking about?" Jack asked, confused. "There's nothing beneath the Rift."
"There is!" Manger insisted. "Abaddon, the Great Devourer, who will feast on all life once he is freed from his prison."
"We can't let you open the Rift," Jack said. "It could destroy the world."
"What do I care of the world, when my Master will be free?"
Toshiko knew that Jack wanted to get answers for what had happened, but she was beginning to wish he'd shoot Manger and get it over with.
Then she saw movement by the autopsy bay, and she tensed, waiting for the right moment…
She got it.
Toshiko moved, pushing back against her captor's chest, making certain she hit the wound that Jack's earlier gunshot had caused. Manger released his grasp on her as he gasped in agony, and she ducked away, rolling across the hard metal grill of the floor, not caring about any bruises she might get from it.
A shot rang out, and a bit of blood hit her cheek as she turned to look back.
A perfect hole had formed in Bilis Manger's head.
There was such a look of shock on the man's face as he fell backward, colliding with the Rift Manipulator on the way down.
"That was for fucking with my family," a rough, Welsh-accented voice echoed in the silence after the shot.
Toshiko stood up, grinning as she made eye contact with Ianto. He stood on the steps of the autopsy bay, gun held in a steady hand, the barrel still pointing toward where Manger had been standing. His face was still far too pale, his eyes were in their dragon aspect, and his shirt was open and revealing the ugly mark of the stun gun on his chest. But he looked absolutely wonderful, and it was all Toshiko could do not to run up and hug him. She didn't think he would be able to handle the pressure on his injury.
Then his arm lowered, and she saw him flip the safety just before the gun clattered to the floor. "I'd appreciate some help," he requested, sounding suddenly weak. He swayed, his hip bumping against the steps' railing.
Jack shook off his apparent surprise, moving to Ianto's side. He looped an arm around the dragon's waist. "Even in shock you have the second-best eye in the place," he joked, grinning.
Ianto raised an eyebrow, but even that usually normal movement looked tired. "Second-best? Who would be the first then?"
"That would be me," Owen bragged, moving to Ianto's other side. "Let's get you looked at, then Harkness can take you home."
Ianto nodded wearily, although the look he gave Owen spoke volumes as to what he thought about the medic's claim. He glanced at Toshiko, his eyes checking her over for any injuries. "I'm fine," she answered. "Although I think it's someone else's turn to act as hostage next time."
"I'll be glad to take the next turn," the dragon offered. "But not until I feel better, all right?"
"Is this what passes for a normal day for Torchwood?" Kathy asked sarcastically.
"Hell no," Jack answered happily. "This is a relatively quiet day. You interested in a place on the team, Detective?"
"You're kidding, right?" she scoffed. "I think I'll stick with being a plain, simple copper."
"There's nothing plain about you, Kathy," Ianto said. Gratitude gave a bit of color to his face.
"C'mon, Dragon Boy," Owen ordered, "down and back on the table. You're not going anywhere until I'm satisfied you're not gonna keel over."
Jack and Owen helped Ianto back down the steps, and Toshiko went with them. Kathy stood for a second, her eyes narrowed. "Oi!" she shouted. "You didn't argue with me about being simple!"
Ianto's laughter floated through the Hub.
Toshiko smiled. Everything was going to be fine.
22 January 2008
Jack stayed with Ianto until he was asleep. He tucked the old quilt around the slumbering dragon, caressing a pale cheek before heading out of the autopsy bay, glad that Ianto's human skin was getting back to its much warmer state. After he saw to the rest of the team, he would take Ianto home where he could transform back into his dragon shape, and all Jack wanted to do was to curl up next to him and sleep.
He could have lost them all. That thought followed him as he headed up toward the main Hub. He could have lost Ianto. But he hadn't, and his team had acted as best they could under the circumstances they'd found themselves in, just because a madman had wanted to destroy the world.
Just another day for Torchwood.
Manger's body had been removed, and someone had cleaned up the blood and brain that had been splattered all over the Rift Manipulator. One man had caused all the grief they'd been through; it was almost mind-boggling what a person would do for something they believed in. But of course, his own people were the same, in that they would do whatever it took to keep this planet safe, because it was what they believed in.
Jack believed in them just as strongly.
Toshiko, Owen, and Kathy were gathered around the technician's station, talking quietly. Toshiko looked up and must have seen Jack approach; she nodded, and it drew the attention of the other two to Jack. He returned the nod and joined them, standing next to Owen and putting his hand on the medic's shoulder. "Good to have you back," he said sincerely.
Owen nodded, looking contrite. "Yeah, I'm sorry about everything I said to you – "
"No apologies needed. It wasn't you."
"But still, I feel bad about it. I should have said something, instead of just blaming you for something you didn't do."
Jack squeezed his shoulder in comfort. Manger had gotten under all of their skins. There really hadn't been anything anyone could have done about it.
"I want you both to take tomorrow off," he said. "We've all been through hell the last couple of days, and we deserve the time. I don't want to see either of you within miles of this place tomorrow, unless the world is ending."
"You don't have to tell me twice," Owen said, "but if Dragon Boy complains of shortness of breath, his heart starts fluttering, or he develops a fever or chills, I want you to call me, Jack."
"I will, don't worry." He was planning on driving his mate home and taking care of him.
Toshiko moved forward and hugged him. "Thank God you're all right," she whispered.
Jack returned it. "I'm always all right."
She pulled back just enough to look him in the eye. "No, Jack…you aren't. You might come back from the dead, but that doesn't mean you're all right. Let Ianto look after you too, okay?"
He was touched by her words. "I will, gorgeous. Thanks for everything." He kissed her forehead.
Then he turned to Kathy Swanson. Jack wanted to hug her as well, but thought he knew her well enough that the gesture wouldn't be appreciated. "Thank you, detective," he said. "You helped my team and most likely helped stop the end of the world."
Kathy huffed. "Well, I'd say it was all in a days' work, but I've never actually saved the world before. I don't know how you all do it day in, day out."
"It's what we do," Toshiko answered, shrugging. "Someone has to."
"Are you sure you wouldn't want a place on my team?" Jack asked. "You'd be very welcome." He hoped she'd say yes. It occurred to Jack that he'd hired the wrong copper, and that Kathy would be an incredible asset to Torchwood.
"No, sorry," she replied. "I'm fine with helping you out when you need it, but you lot are just too weird to hang out with every day. And really, I'm not too sure about some of your practices. Besides, you might need a friendly face on the force."
Jack nodded, disappointed. "Fair enough." He held out a hand to her. "Thanks again, Detective. I'm sure we'll be seeing each other again, especially with you being a Dragon-Friend."
Surprisingly, Kathy did embrace him then. "You hurt him," she whispered in his ear, "and I'll find a way to make you stay dead. Got it?"
Jack couldn't help but grin. "Got it," he answered, hugging her back. He felt lucky that Ianto had such good friends as her, although he also felt that small twinge of jealousy that he always did around her.
Kathy stepped back, as if embarrassed by the show of emotion. "We might not always see eye-to-eye, Harkness," she said, "but I can't help but feel like you really got a raw deal with this not dying thing. It must be a bitch."
"It is." He was very grateful for her words. Kathy seemed to grasp that his apparent immortality was a curse, unlike some. "But at least I have someone to share the centuries with now."
"Better get off," the detective said. "I'm sure the DCI is wondering what the hell I'm up to." She turned to Toshiko. "I'll call you, yeah?"
"You better," Toshiko said in a mock-growl. "I think this could be the start of a great friendship."
Kathy grinned. "Yeah. We even have something in common. Besides, I wanna know all about this Dragon-Friend lark. I don't think the Fire Dragon gave me all the details, to be honest."
"Better you two than me," Owen sniffed. "There's just something screwy about metaphysical dragons dropping by for unexpected visits. Our Dragon Boy is enough for me."
In perfect harmony both Toshiko and Kathy rolled their eyes. Ianto would have been proud.
"On that note," Kathy said, "I'm outta here. I'd like to say it's been fun, but dealing with my DCI is a lot less stressful."
"If you'll wait a second," Toshiko said, "I'll walk out with you." She gathered her things and the two Dragon-Friends exited together.
"C'mon," Owen said, "let's get Ianto out to his car so you can get him home."
That was the best idea Jack had heard yet.
Jack supported Ianto as they entered the house, his arm around the dragon's human waist and holding him as close as possible. He was warmer, and more responsive, but Jack didn't want to let go.
He never thought of himself as particularly needy, but tonight it was coming out in him full stop. For perhaps the very first time, he was facing the very real idea that he could have lost his team…and his mate. He'd fallen into Manger's trap back in the past, and while he couldn't really remember what had happened, Jack felt it was somehow his fault. That he'd been weak in some way, and had endangered the team because of it. As for the real Captain Harkness…Jack mourned him, as he had Gray. The man had been an innocent, drawn into events by Manger and his designs to break himself and Ianto apart. And Jack had taken his name based on a lie.
He felt dirty, and that the filth would never wash off.
"Stop thinking so loud," Ianto chastised softly. "You're taking the blame and you shouldn't be."
Jack maneuvered his lover through the lounge, toward the stairs. "I don't want to think about that," he said honestly. "I just want to take care of you tonight."
"I think we need to take care of each other," Ianto said, his own arm tightening around Jack's waist.
"Let's get you upstairs and into a bath," he answered.
"Will you join me?" the dragon asked coyly.
Jack rolled his eyes. "For a bath only," he replied. "We're both too tired for anything else, and I don't want Owen on my ass if something happens to all that good work he did on your chest." He needed to clean himself up; he felt decades of grime on his skin, and Jack was well aware that Manger had kept his body stored in the old bomb shelter ever since his 'death' in 1941.
"Agreed," Ianto murmured. "I doubt I'm up to more tonight. I never knew a stun gun could hurt me like that."
"He knew your weak area." That frightened Jack more than anything. Ianto might be very long lived – for all intents and purposes, immortal – but he wasn't like Jack, and certain things could take him away at any time. That was the last thing Jack wanted; he needed Ianto in his life, and losing him simply wasn't an option.
"You're thinking too hard again."
Jack started, smiling softly at the dragon in his hold. "Yeah, I know. Let's get comfortable, okay? You have a seat, and I'll run the bath."
It was a sign of the dragon's tiredness that he didn't argue, and in fact took a seat on the human bed in his loft, bending over carefully to remove his shoes one-handed, the sling that Owen had given him a definite hindrance.
Jack left him for as long as it took for him to go into the en-suite, and begin to fill the tub, adding some of the lavender bath salts Ianto enjoyed. He knew that Ianto would have preferred to change to dragon-form and clean his scales first by using the hose in the back garden, but in his weakened condition Jack didn't trust him not to come down with a cold in the winter weather. A regular, human bath would have to do.
As the bath was running, he went back out into the loft to help Ianto remove the suit he'd been wearing. It was a testament to the dragon's frame of mind that he'd chosen to wear all black that morning; he must have been truly hurt by the fake Jack, and that caused an ache to settle into Jack's chest.
"I knew it wasn't you," Ianto murmured as Jack slowly stripped the clothing layers away. "Well, not at first…but I thought it was just because of all the Rift energy that had saturated you as you'd traveled through time. But this morning, when I'd arrived at the Hub…I could tell it wasn't you. But I have to be honest…I was so hurt by what had happened back in the past that I didn't even try to sense you. Once I did though…Jack, I'm sorry I doubted you. I didn't want to think you'd done something like that, or that you'd turned your back on us – "
Jack put a finger over Ianto's lips, stopping the flow of words. "I don't blame you for doubting. But it's over now, and I promise you this: I will never hurt you intentionally." Jack removed his finger, replacing it with his lips. The kiss was soft, and warm, and it held the promise that Jack had made verbally. He didn't want Ianto to ever doubt him again.
He eventually broke away. He reveled in the look of happiness on Ianto's face, and the sparkle in his blue eyes. "Bath time for you," he said, taking the dragon by the hand.
"For both of us," Ianto answered, following willingly.
Jack turned the taps off, glad that they'd broken the kiss when they had; he didn't want to have to clean up a minor flood if the bath had run over.
He helped Ianto to get in, trying to not to dwell on the ugly redness and bruising on the pale torso. It had gotten worse as time had gone on, and Jack didn't like that his dragon had been hurt.
Once Ianto was settled, Jack removed his own clothes and got in behind him, glad that the bathtub was large enough to accommodate both of them. He urged Ianto to rest against his chest, as he found the flannel and began to carefully wash his lover, fingers lightly stroking over the injury, trying to soothe and not hurt. Judging from the purring the dragon was making, he was succeeding.
This felt right, having Ianto in his arms…in his life. Before meeting the dragon, Jack had always believed that, in the end, he would be alone. That he would live on and on, losing everyone he'd ever loved to death, unless he could find the Doctor and be fixed.
But now…Ianto would be with him, hopefully for the eternity that dragons mate for. That was why he wanted this mating so very badly; Ianto had grown so important to him, that he couldn't see not being without him. He would do anything to make sure Ianto would be there, by his side, forever.
The dragon relaxed completely against him, and Jack knew that if Ianto fell asleep again in human form that it would make things worse for his recovery. He gently roused his lover, chivvying him out of the bath and drying him with the soft red towels that Ianto loved so well. "Go on in," he urged. "I'll be in as soon as I get dry myself."
Ianto followed the instructions placidly, giving away just how tired he was. Jack could make out the golden glow of him changing into his natural form as he toweled his body off, then after he'd pulled the plug on the tub he padded naked into the loft. He found his lover sprawled on his side, facing the large skylight, his wings splayed out on the carpet instead of curled against his powerful body as he usually rested them. The dragon was obviously trying to keep pressure off his injured chest, and Jack had to hide his chuckles at just how boneless he looked. It was almost like watching a large, green-scaled cat.
Kneeling beside the large head, Jack began to stroke the dragon's snout, in the way he knew Ianto liked. With a sigh of contentment his slitted blue eyes slid closed, and he quietly began to sing.
Jack didn't recognize the song, but it was sweet-sounding, the dragon-words floating about them with an almost airless quality. He continued to run his fingers along the fine green scales, warm and alive under his touch. The song permeated his very soul, and Jack found himself laying down on the pillows and cushions that made up the dragon's bed, his body pressed against the sinuous neck, still touching his lover. He closed his eyes and let the song take him up, to another place, where two dragons flew together, forever.
It was the one thing he wanted more than anything, to truly mate with this wonderful dragon.
The song faded as Ianto gave in to sleep, and Jack wrapped his arms around his lover's neck, snuggling himself against the one being he loved more than anything, and let sleep take him as well.