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Resurgence

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21 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Stark’s World

Cartel Space

 

Sabrina Jones-Swann was one of the best operatives Torchwood had.

It was why she’d been one of the several put on the trail of the resurrected HYDRA.

She’d been well briefed on HYDRA.  No one had expected that organisation to ever be revived, not after SHIELD and the Avengers had destroyed their power base back in the 21st century.  Her boss and brother-by-mating, Phillip Coulson, had been involved in that mess, and while his memories were understandably foggy on certain events, he certainly could recall the havoc HYDRA had caused back then.  Melinda May, Phillip’s Second, as well as several other reincarnated souls who’d been alive then, had filled in a lot of the blanks and it had painted a picture that Sabrina took great offence at.

And now, they were back. 

They’d managed to stop their first major power play: an attempt to resurrect the Master, the mad Time Lord, using an evil, ancient magical book called the Darkhold.  Merlin, Sabrina’s nephew-by-mating, had hidden it on the abandoned Great Library, and it should have been safe there with the Vashta Nerada as guard over it. 

But it hadn’t been. 

Two HYDRA operatives – both reincarnations and with their memories intact – had managed to kidnap Merlin and attempted to steal the Darkhold.  They would have succeeded if not for Phillip, Merlin, and the Doctor, and then the three of them had almost lost their lives.  Phillip, especially, had been affected, but at least he was back to himself now physically, thanks to the Doctor going back and getting the information needed to reset the formula in his blood that made him immortal. 

No one had been able to figure out just how Lucy Saxon and Grant Ward had managed to regain the memories of their previous lives, but it was troubling to say the least.  As far as anyone had known until then, the only ones who had ever done that had been members of Sabrina’s family, or dear friends with strong connections to the Jones Clan.  To have it happen to two people – and at least one more they were aware of and one they suspected – who had been their opponents was something that Merlin was still investigating.

HYDRA had made several moves since then, most notably the terrorist attack on the Festival of the Masks on the planet, Euros.  Once again, it had involved members of Sabrina’s own family, and her nephew, Skylar, had come very close to being at ground zero of one of the four bombs that had gone off during the Festival.  Twenty people had been killed, forty-six injured, and the entire planet had been traumatised by the incident. 

There had also been an abortive attack on Thoros, the canister of deadly gas discovered before it could be set off.  A threat had been made against the government of Zygos Beta, which had caused a panic but had amounted to nothing, enforcement believing they’d somehow scared the terrorists off from doing whatever they’d planned by being prepared.  An attempt to kidnap the Imperial Crown Prince had been thwarted by the Shieldsmen, and each of the perpetrators had committed suicide after proudly admitting they were with the new HYDRA.

Phillip was certain things would escalate.  Her fathers agreed, as did Grand Master Rogers and her Imperial Majesty, along with her supporters. 

Sabrina knew in her gut that they were all correct.

She’d managed to pick up a few rumours about HYDRA on one of her sister’s, Cadi’s, favourite haunts: the Smugglers’ Moon.  It was one of fifteen moons that orbited the gas giant, Killian Two, and was the place to go if a person needed anything that was even vaguely illegal.  Sabrina had contacted Cadi immediately on hearing that HYDRA might have something planned for Stark’s World, to see if she could get a quick ride.  That piece of intel had come as a surprise, because so far HYDRA had contented itself on striking at Imperial targets, and Cartel Space was considered neutral territory. 

The Cartel was a loose conglomeration of business interests that had decided to carve out their own area of space, and the Empire had more or less left them to it.  The Cartel had its thumbs in so many different pies, and there were times with Imperial Intelligence would rely on contacts within their space.  The leaders of the Cartel didn’t care what the Empire did within its sector of space as long as they weren’t caught at it, and they didn’t attempt to annex any of their territory.

Although it was usually good form to ask permission beforehand, Sabrina hadn’t done that in this case, believing she could get in and out quietly with whatever she could dig up.  Then Phillip could approach the Central Computer, that ran Stark’s World, on behalf of Torchwood in order to do a proper investigation. 

Her Tad had once called Cartel Space the “Switzerland of the Twelve Galaxies”.  Sabrina had had to do a little research to find out just what that meant, and found it a perfect description for it.

Sabrina had immediately met with her sister, and managed to find someone who’d heard that HYDRA had, in fact, set up their own business holdings within Cartel Space; that it wasn’t a terrorist strike at all.  It wasn’t much, but it was enough to have Sabrina investigating.  Why they chose Stark’s World as a base, Sabrina didn’t know; it could have something to do with the types of tech that were coming out of the research suites located on the planet, or it might have even been a simple choice that HYDRA had made at the time, and the planet had just suited them for their purposes.

She supposed it didn’t matter.

Stark’s World was a technological mecca.  What came out of the fabrication plants and development hubs was usually sold to the Empire or its allies at fantastic profit.  The planet itself had been subsumed within the construction projects that had built the world up from a barren rock in space to its current state, which was really just one large, planetary, city. 

In many ways, it bothered Sabrina’s sensibilities.  Maybe it was the lack of any open spaces.  Stark’s World had an atmospheric shell, keeping in the breathable air and making the place habitable.  It was all metal, plastic, glass, and other materials; there was nothing natural about the place at all.  Oh, there were some trees spaced out along the sidewalk she was on, and she was aware of the immense hydroponic sections deep within the heart of the planet, but this place was pretty much sterile. 

It was also very clean.  Even the alley she was currently making her way down was gleaming with cleanliness.  Sabrina had a contact waiting for her behind the buildings that lined the street, and even though the alleys were under surveillance – there was a joke about Stark’s World being the Security Camera Capitol of the Universe, and it wasn’t because they were making breakthroughs in personal security all the time – it was still quite private and the perfect place to meet with someone who didn’t want to draw attention to themselves by meeting with a Torchwood operative.

Not that Sabrina looked like one at the moment.

She was wearing the red and gold uniform of Stark’s World Services.  Some might have found it tacky but Sabrina quite liked it; the colours reminded her of her great-nephew, Rory’s, scales.  It was a little form-fitting, but that wasn’t the first time that she’d worn something that showed off a little more than she might have been comfortable with.  She pulled it off with the aplomb she’d inherited from her father, Jack Harkness, and knew just how to ‘own’ the look.

Weapons were banned on Stark’s World, unless one was in Security or had special dispensation.  Sabrina hadn’t bothered much with a cover, only appropriating the uniform she was wearing in order to blend in.  Therefore, she wasn’t armed, but she was far from defenceless.  As well as her dragon strength, she was well-versed in a couple of different forms of hand-to-hand combat, and of course, she was nigh-on indestructible.  So, she wasn’t afraid as she made her way down the wide alleyway, the walls of the buildings that faced the street boxing her in a little bit. 

Still, she was a Star Dragon, and would have been able to defend herself quite handily in case of trouble.  She really didn’t want to tip off HYDRA that she was there, so she’d stay in human form as much as possible.  It wouldn’t do to show her hand too soon.

Besides, Cadi wasn’t that far away.  Her elder sister had been more than happy to give her a ride to Stark’s World, and luckily for them it wasn’t one of the many planets Cadi was wanted on, so she didn’t have to hide from the security forces.  Sabrina knew she could always call on her sister to come and get her out of any situation that Sabrina thought she wouldn’t be able to handle.

Still, if her contact had only news for her, it wouldn’t be necessary for any of that.

The alley was empty, but then Sabrina was early.  It made sense for her to get there before her contact; it was one of the things she’d inherited from her Tad: her need to get anywhere earlier than scheduled.  It also allowed her to check out her surroundings, and make certain there were no traps set…or to set her own, if she needed to. 

This trip, though, she wouldn’t need to.  All she had to do was wait.

It wasn’t too long before footsteps sounded from the other end of the alley.  Sabrina turned to look in that direction, setting herself in a ready position in case she needed to run or fight.

The man who approached her was also wearing the Stark’s World uniform.  He was short, and stout, and if Sabrina had to guess she would have put him as some sort of office worker.  He was completely and utterly normal looking, and would have given Phillip a run for his money in the blandness department.  He had mousy blond hair, pale eyes, and he was, on the whole, completely unremarkable.

Sabrina didn’t relax, though.  Because she knew Phillip, and knew the power of seeming unassuming.  It wouldn’t do to let her guard down until she was certain things weren’t going to go to hell.

The man came right up to her, stopping just a couple of feet away.  He looked nervous, his eyes darting around the alley as if he was waiting for someone to come and catch them at something.  Sabrina wanted to shake her head at it, but as this wasn’t the first time she’d ever met with a frightened contact so she knew she just had to look relaxed, and it would relax him as well.

“You Torchwood?” he asked, sounding almost belligerent despite his nerves.

Sabrina’s eyes narrowed.  “And you have information for me?” she countered.  Already, she wasn’t liking how this was going.

The man’s head bobbed.  “Yeah.  Something’s going on at Persephone Corporation.”

She’d heard of Persephone Corporation.  They specialised in terraforming systems, and Sabrina couldn’t figure out just why HYDRA would have anything to do with that sort of tech.  Still, it was her first real lead, and she was willing to check it out.

The man reached into a pocket of his uniform jacket, and Sabrina tensed slightly until it brought out a small data crystal.  “This is what I’ve been able to find.  It’s not much, and you might want to confirm it yourself…” he shrugged, stepping forward to hand her the crystal.

Sabrina held her hand out for it.  Yes, it might be nothing, but at this point she was willing to check out any sort of rumour.  So far, HYDRA had been hitting individual targets, and it was only a matter of time before they escalated.

Her contact went to hand her the data crystal, but it slipped out of his fingers.  “Shit, sorry,” he mumbled, going to pick it up.

Sabrina wasn’t expecting him to attack.

In fact, she was already dying before she even realised she’d been stabbed.

Dragons were well-nigh indestructible, but they still had weak points that could be exploited.

The man had lunged forward with a knife and had stabbed up under Sabrina’s armpit.  He had to have known, she thought as she felt the sting of the blade slide through her skin and down into her chest, aiming for that one tiny gap that would give the blade a direct route to her heart.

It really didn’t hurt all that much.

Sabrina wasn’t even aware of hitting the ground, only that the man was now standing over her, holding the blade that had killed her, her blood dripping from the knife in slow motion.  His face was grinning, the unholy smile turning that pleasant blandness into something truly evil.

“I am the Dragon Slayer,” she heard him speak, but it was like the words were coming from under deep water, muffled and cold, “and you are the first in my crusade to kill all of your kind.” 

Sabrina couldn’t speak.  She couldn’t even breathe.  The knife had struck true, and her heart was stopped. 

Darkness wiped away the visage of her murderer. 

And then there was bright music, calling her to her final home, and Sabrina followed. 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

21 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Luna University

The Moon

 

Ianto Jones was teaching his one class for the day when Phillip stepped into the back of the lecture hall.

The dragon hadn’t wanted to get back to his classes, but at the same time there really wasn’t anything he could do until they’d found some sort of lead on HYDRA.  It had been fine while Phillip had been down, after his magic had been overloaded, but once his son-by-mating had been cured there hadn’t been any real reason for him to stay on Hubworld. 

Ianto had been out of the game for far too long to really contribute anything to the investigation.  It had been difficult leaving, but while he usually didn’t mind waiting for things to happen, there were times when he really needed to keep himself occupied.  His classes at Luna University were just the ticket.

It hadn’t hurt that Jack had insisted.  His mate had convinced him to go back, even though Ianto would have preferred to stay.  HYDRA had been striking at random targets, and the dragon had thought there really would be something he could do to help.

He’d even tried to use the birth of his and Jack’s newest granddaughter as a lever to let him stay on Hubworld.  Phillip and Clint’s daughter, Daisy, had been born not even a month ago; she was a beautiful purple and white dragon child, and she’d come at a time when Phillip really couldn’t take the time off to spend with his mate and family.  Jack had offered to take over the investigation, but Phillip had insisted he was fine, and that had left Jack open for, not only his usual consulting work for Torchwood, but to be a willing sitter for the littlest dragon in their family. 

Ianto was a little put out that Jack had practically ordered him back to work, but the dragon knew now that it had been for the best.  Ianto loved teaching, especially since the subject was his own race, and it had given him a calm that he wasn’t even aware that he’d needed.

But then, Phillip had shown up in the middle of his class.

His son-by-mating looked…Ianto’s voice faded out as his eyes met Phillip’s, and his heart slammed painfully against his ribs.

Something was terribly wrong.

“I’m sorry for the interruption,” Phillip said into the sudden silence, his voice harsh as if his throat was aching, “but I need Professor Jones to come with me immediately.”

“Is it Jack?” Ianto demanded, rooted to the spot, his eyes changing into their dragon aspect out of his control.  There were several gasps from his students, but then they all knew who he really was, even if it had never been stated aloud.

Phillip shook his head.  “Ianto, please…come with me.”

With a lurch, his muscles unlocked and Ianto was practically running toward Phillip, past the rows of students and up the steps leading to the rear of the hall.  He didn’t even hear the whispers that followed him, concentrating on Phillip’s presence and not even noticing just how cold it was at the back of the room.

Phillip didn’t say anything.  He simply turned and left, and Ianto had no choice but to follow.  For Phillip to be here, looking like he did…sad, and tired, and with fury and vengeance in his gaze…if it wasn’t Jack, it had to be someone else…Clint, maybe?  Or little Daisy?  Maybe one of their other children?  What was so terrible that Phillip had had to come in person to tell him?

Ianto ran, catching up with Phillip just as he turned the corner and headed toward the doors that led to the outside.  “What’s wrong?” he demanded, grabbing his son-by-mating by the arm and pulling him to a halt.

“We should go outside,” Phillip evaded.  “Something…” he shook his head.  “We need to go outside.”

Ianto released him, and without a word Phillip practically jogged the last bit of distance to the doors, flinging them both wide open and heading out into the quad beyond, seemingly not to care one whit about his own dignity, which would have been a clear sign if Ianto hadn’t already known that whatever Phillip was going to tell him was bad. 

The only reason for going outside would be that Phillip was afraid that Ianto would lose control and revert to his dragon form.

Fear crept up and lodged into his throat.  Ianto suddenly wanted to go back inside to his students, and continue the lesson without knowing what had brought Phillip all the way from Hubworld, and away from Torchwood and his family.  Ianto’s knees threatened to go out from under him, and it was only by sheer willpower that kept him from hitting the ground hard.

He knew, with dread, that this would change.

Phillip stopped right in the middle of the quad.  At this time of day, most students were in class, so the area was fairly clear.  Only a handful of people were about, laying on the short-cut grass, studying before their next lessons.

He turned and faced Ianto.  In that moment, the dragon could see that the man’s hands were trembling, and there were tears in his eyes.  “Ianto…I…” 

“Just tell me,” Ianto begged, horror nearly gagging him.

Phillip nodded jerkily, swallowing hard.  “It…it’s Sabrina…” 

Ianto suddenly couldn’t breathe around the pain in his chest.

“She…” Phillip continued, and the tears in his eyes began to fall.  “She was following up a lead on Stark’s World, when…Goddess, I’m so sorry…”

Sabrina.

Phillip didn’t have to finish. 

Ianto knew.

He knew.

Without even needing to trigger it, Ianto was transformed in a heartbeat, roaring out his agony into the artificial sky, the sound of it echoing from the very struts that supported the atmospheric dome over their heads.

The Song of Mourning broke forth, the dragon not even aware he was singing.

He sang for Sabrina, who was dead.

He sang for his family, who would also mourn the loss of their sister, aunt…friend.

He sang for his mate, Jack having carried her and gave birth to her.

He sang for himself, who had just lost a daughter, the child he’d decided to name for his sister, who’d also been killed so many centuries ago.

Other voices joined in the singing.  Rowena, and Abraham, and Jocelyn, now in their own dragon forms.  Phillip and Henry, not dragons by blood, but dragons in heart and soul.  

Their grief was public, and horrible, and those who were witnesses would be talking about it for days, and years, at how terrible it was when a dragon was lost to their loved ones. 

But Ianto didn’t care.

The dragon was once again mourning one of his own blood, and the universe would know of his grief, and his rage, and his vengeance against whoever had taken his child from him.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

21 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Ddraig Llyn

 

Jack was in his office when he heard the singing.

He’d been at work on some intelligence reports on some of HYDRA’s activities, hoping to spot some sort of pattern.  Along with Torchwood’s own findings, Jack had access to Steve’s reports, and some from ImpSec as well.  Although they were very comprehensive, they really didn’t tell them anything they didn’t already know, and it was getting frustrating that HYDRA had seemed to drop out of the universe entirely.

He was up and out of the house the moment he recognised the Song of Mourning, sung by the four Great Dragons.

They’d materialised on the shore of the lake.  Jack stared at them for a second, his heart beating wildly in terror, not knowing who they were mourning.  He wanted to ask, but there was a painful lump in his throat and he couldn’t breathe…

He didn’t even care that he was standing in the new snow that had fallen last night with bare feet. 

The Earth Dragon ceased singing to look down at Jack, sadness in his deep, dark eyes.  “My son, one of your children has gone to the Final Home.”

Jack couldn’t talk.  A small part of him was glad that it wasn’t Ianto, that somehow his mate had died and moved on without him.  But the far greater part wanted to demand which one of his children had been taken from their family, but nothing would pass his throat. 

Not even his changing into a dragon would dislodge the words.

He wasn’t alone in Ddraig Llyn.  The song had drawn the residents of the valley, as well as his two youngest, Alyce and Robyn, who were the only of their large family home at that moment.  As he stared at the Earth Dragon, the Song of Mourning was taken up by everyone around him, covering him like a comforting blanket, but he, himself, still couldn’t utter a single sound.

Jack heard Alyce ask the Earth Dragon who it was, and he wanted to thank her for it, but wasn’t able to. 

“It is Sabrina,” he answered, voice full of terrible grief. 

Sabrina.

His little girl, one of their children that he’d carried himself.

The one that Ianto has asked to be named after his long-lost sister, and Jack had gladly agreed.

Sabrina, who was only seven hundred and sixty-five years old, a child still in dragon years but one of the most accomplished young women Jack had ever had the pleasure of knowing and loving.

Maybe she’d find her mate once again; Belen had passed three decades ago, and there had been no sign of him having been reincarnated and remembering. 

Jack’s legs went out, and his bulky dragon form hit the ground, and he curled up into a ball of sorrow and pain.

Arms went around his neck, and without looking up he knew it was Alyce, then joined by Robyn, leaning against him, their tears wetting the blue-grey of his scales.  His own eyes were dry, but he knew it was only out of sheer shock, and that they wouldn’t stay that way for long.

Did Ianto know yet?  He needed to know, to get to his mate and share this grief with him.  But Ianto was on the Moon, and Jack didn’t have the strength to change back into his human form, not right then.  He was far too wrung out, his emotions all over the place, and all he could do was huddle onto the snowy ground in abject misery.

He had no idea how long he lay there, the Song of Mourning wrapping around him, but after a while he felt someone leaning against him; it was another human form, not dragon, and Jack managed to peel his eyes open just enough to see it was Clint, holding little Daisy in his arms, looking as devastated as Jack himself was feeling.

“Phillip went to tell Tad,” Clint whispered, just loud enough for Jack to hear.  “He’ll bring everyone he can back with him.  He also contacted the Doctor, and asked him to…” Clint’s voice choked, and he rested his cheek against Jack’s scaled side.  “Asked him to bring her home.”

Jack wanted to acknowledge his son, but the words still would not come.  He was glad – as glad as he could be, in that moment – that Phillip had done what Jack hadn’t been able to do, to go to Ianto and tell him that their precious girl was dead.

He’d lost so much over the millennia of his life: friends and family both.  His own family line that had begun with his first child, Alice, had long ago ended, when the last had been lost during one of the many wars the Empire had been involved in.  Each and every death had been as if little bits of Jack’s heart had been torn off, but this…

He’d taken his own children’s immortality too much for granted, and this was perhaps the greatest shock he’d suffered yet.  It brought home that yes, there were things out there that could still kill a dragon, and although he had no details as yet, it had to have been something terrible to have taken Sabrina’s life.

For the first time in a very long time, Jack was faced with the knowledge that he could still lose any of his family, at any time.

Certainly, they’d recently had to deal with the possibility of losing Phillip, and before that, it had been Merlin and the Doctor.  And perhaps it was wrong of Jack to think it, but they weren’t his blood children.  Sabrina had been, and her death was a blow it would take a long time to come to terms with. 

He knew he needed to contact the rest of the family.  Everyone needed to come home, and mourn their poor, lost Sabrina.

But he couldn’t.  Not yet.  Not when he could barely move from the weight of his own, terrible grief.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

21 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

New Avalon

 

Merlin could feel Arthur’s eyes rolling from halfway across the room.

“Honestly,” his mate growled, “I don’t see why that can’t wait until after dinner.  Great-grandmother actually cooked, Merlin, and it’s going to get cold if you don’t hurry up.”

Merlin managed to hide his grin at Arthur’s needling.  It wasn’t as if Gran Samara didn’t cook all the time; so it wasn’t a special treat or anything.  In fact, what would have been special was if Grandtad Rhys would have done the cooking, since he was by far the superior chef in the kitchen.

“I’m almost done,” he muttered, eyes not looking up from the book he was making notes from.  It was for an advanced class on weather control he was teaching, and he while he was quite proficient in nature magic there were some things he just wasn’t quite as good at as he wished.  The last thing he wanted to do was to accidentally whip up a storm or something.

Plus, he really enjoyed winding Arthur up.  After being mated to him for so long, Merlin knew just what buttons to push, and how far he could go, before Arthur got truly irritated.

Just as he was setting his stylus down, Merlin felt something…odd.

Truth to tell, he’d been feeling strange for over an hour now.  He couldn’t put his finger on it, only that it had made the task of writing out his lesson plan a little more difficult than usual.  It was as if the magic was trying to tell him something, and Merlin simply wasn’t getting it.  So this new sensation of oddness just piled on top of the rest of it all.

“What’s wrong?” Arthur asked sharply.  “You just went pale as a ghost.”

That was it.

It was as if a ghost had walked over his grave.

“Something’s happened,” Merlin answered.  He got up from his chair so fast the legs caught in the carpet that lined the floor of his study, dragging against the weave. 

“What is it?”  Arthur instantly lost his prickliness, and was at Merlin’s side in a heartbeat, his warm hand on the wizard’s shoulder.

“Don’t know.”  And Merlin hated not knowing.  It had to have been serious to even ping his magical senses, and yet he couldn’t pinpoint the problem…

“Boys,” the unmistakable voice of Merlin’s mother, River Song, shouted from the lounge.

The mates looked at one another, and then were both out of the study.  Merlin’s hearts were pounding, and something was telling him that this was it, that whatever had happened his mother had just found out. 

River and Merlin’s father, the Doctor, had come to visit from Hubworld, where they’d been staying in order to help out with the investigation into this new iteration of HYDRA.  After what had occurred at the Great Library, Merlin’s father had volunteered to stay around until they could get some leads, and he’d kept to his word.  Merlin had seen him fluctuate between the Oncoming Storm and the caring friend and father so many times over the last several months he’d almost felt as if he’d gotten some sort of mental whiplash.

Tonight, though, they were there with the family.  There wasn’t much the Doctor could do until more clues came in, and so they were actually spending time with Merlin and the rest of the family there on New Avalon. 

But, something was wrong.  Family time was about to end, Merlin just knew it.

River and the Doctor were standing in the middle of the lounge.  Rory, his and Arthur’s only child – so far – was also there, as was Arthur’s great-grandparents, Samara and Rhys.  They’d been joined by Nicole, Clint’s eldest daughter, now an instructor at the Magic School. 

Each and every one of them was staring at the Doctor, who held his psychic paper as if it was about to bite him.  The look on his face…oh, it was devastating, and Merlin’s instinct that something terrible had happened cemented into certainty.

“Dad?” Merlin asked tentatively, needing to hear but dreading the words.  Then, before he even realised what he was saying, he blurted, “Who died?”

His father’s sad, ancient eyes – even though Merlin was technically older than him at that moment, the Doctor always managed to look far more than his physical years – snapped up to his, acknowledging without saying a word that Merlin’s guess had been the correct one.

“Someone’s dead?” Samara gasped, her hand going to cover her mouth, as if she was trying to keep any other questions from popping out.

The Doctor nodded, and Merlin could tell he didn’t want to say who it was.  “Sabrina.”

Merlin felt the world suddenly skew sideways as his shock and horror overwhelmed him.

His Aunt Sabrina.

Beside him, Arthur roared, more dragon than man.  Nicole screamed, and sank to the floor, sobbing, and Samara joined her, wrapping her arms around her and rocking her if she was a little child, her own tears falling into Nicole’s dark hair.  Rhys began to curse, violently, and Merlin watched as his fist slammed into the wall as hard as he could punch.  Something cracked, but the wizard couldn’t tell if it was his great-grandfather’s hand, or the material of the wall.  It was most likely both.

Rory still stood, and was silent, but he was no less affected as the rest of the family.  River immediately went to her own grandson, tugging him into a fierce embrace, as if she could hold him together by sheer force of that hug.

And Merlin…

Merlin felt his magic react to the news.

It was all he could do to keep it contained.  It wanted to escape, and seek out whoever had been responsible for taking his aunt away from them.  Because, Merlin knew that someone had done this; that someone had found a way to slay a dragon, and that simply could not stand.

This was the strangeness he’d been feeling.  As a Dragonlord, he was keenly attuned to his dragon relations, and somewhere, deep within himself, he must have realised the moment that Sabrina had been killed. 

He just hadn’t been able to identify the sensation of a dragon leaving this universe.

Not that it would have done him any good if he’d known what it was.  Nothing he could have done would have been able to save her.  But still, he was furious at himself for not picking up on it, and his magic reacted to that as well.

“Son,” he heard his father’s voice, but it sounded far away, past his twin pulses pounding in his ears, “Merlin, you have to calm down.  Keep your magic under control, or you might hurt someone.”

He was right, of course.  Merlin gritted his teeth and forced his power back down, deep within himself, not wanting to do any more damage to his family that had already been done.  Now that he’d become aware of it, he could see that the lounge had suffered the brunt of his loss of control: the vidscreen on the wall over the fireplace that Arthur had insisted on having was sparking, a sure sign that his magic had gotten to the delicate electronics; and there were pillows blown all over the place.  Luckily, no one seemed to have been hurt by his mini tantrum.

Merlin had to swallow twice before he could speak.  “How?”

The Doctor sighed, and he rested both hands on Merlin’s shoulders, as if he was trying to ground him.  In the back of his mind the wizard knew he should have been with Arthur, comforting his mate, but he couldn’t move; all he could do was stare at his father, silently demanding answers that he wasn’t sure the elder Time Lord could give.

“I…don’t know,” his father finally admitted softly.  “Phillip sent the message to the psychic paper, just saying she was dead, and asking me to go and…bring her home.”

Of course, Phillip would have heard about it first.  Sabrina had been working for the Torchwood Institute, and any authorities would have contacted the Director first. 

“I’ve been feeling off for about an hour,” Merlin whispered, his voice rough with his trying to hold in the sudden, violent sob that wanted to break free.  “I…didn’t know what it was…but I must have sensed it, sensed Sabrina being…” 

No, he couldn’t say it.  Saying it would make it true.

“Even if you had known, you couldn’t have done anything.”

Merlin knew that, in his head.  He knew there would have been no way to save her; he’d felt her pass away, and that would have been too late to get to her, even if he’d known where she was. 

“I want to go with you.”

The Doctor shook his head.  “No, Merlin.  You need to take your mate and your son and the others and go home.  Go to Ddraig Llyn.  Jack and Ianto are going to need their family around them right now.  I’ll take care of Sabrina.”

Merlin wanted to argue, but he couldn’t.  He didn’t have the strength in him.  It didn’t hurt that his Dad was right, that the entire family needed to be there for his grandparents, who must have been even more destroyed by the news than Merlin himself was. 

“I’ll go with you, then,” Rhys spoke up. 

Merlin glanced around his Dad’s shoulder to see his great-grandfather standing there, his face stern and so very sad.  The Doctor turned to look at him.  “You should be with Jack and Ianto as well – “

“Brina saved my life,” Rhys growled.  “She was the one who helped get me home.  I might not be able to do the first for her, but I can sure as hell do the second.”

 The Doctor capitulated, understanding him completely.  “River, will you make sure everyone gets to the valley?”

“Of course, I will,” River declared.  She was now standing alone; Rory had gone to Arthur, and had wrapped his arms around his father, giving support and accepting it in return.  Merlin had never seen Arthur look so horribly shattered, and honestly the wizard never wanted to see it again.

“Let’s get you all a bag packed,” River said, ushering them out of the room with some help from Samara.  Merlin let himself be chivvied, not having the strength to argue about needing to let his assistant at the school know he was going to be out for a while.  He’d trust his mother to get the word out while he gathered his things together.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

26 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Ddraig Llyn

 

The day of the ceremony dawned with fresh snow on the ground, and the air crisp and cold against Ianto’s face as he made his way out of the house and down to the lake. 

Jack was already there, the black of his clothing stark against the brilliant white of the snow.

Ianto knew that his mate hadn’t slept the last several nights.  In the beginning of their relationship, Jack had claimed he didn’t sleep all that much; it had really been a combination of the nightmares he’d suffered and his lack of feeling particularly safe that had really kept him awake, and his immortality had compensated for it.  Once he and Jack had finally committed to each other, his mate had begun to sleep most of the night through, his rest unhampered by his fears and bad dreams any longer.  That wasn’t to say he’d never gotten them anymore; it was just that Jack had been able to trust in Ianto to help him through those times.

But now…neither of them were doing much sleeping. 

Ianto didn’t try to sneak up on Jack; in his mate’s current mood that would have most likely earned the dragon a punch to the face if he startled the immortal.  Instead, he telegraphed his movements, making certain that Jack would know he was there, and was coming up behind him.

He didn’t bother to ask if Jack was alright.  Ianto knew damned well he wasn’t.

The dragon stepped up beside his mate.  He reached out and pulled Jack against him, and his mate sighed, relaxing into his grasp. 

“I was just remembering,” Jack said softly, “the day Sabrina was born.  She was such a tiny, wrinkly little thing…”

“Yet we could see even then just how strong she was,” Ianto finished.  He laughed sadly.  “I didn’t think she was ever going to let go of my finger, once she had a hold of it.’

“She looked up at us, like she trusted us completely to keep her safe.”  Jack’s voice was sad, but there wasn’t any sign of more crying; they’d done a lot of that in the days since they’d gotten the news, and now – at least for Ianto – the loss had become a near-constant ache in his chest that he was certain would never entirely leave.  It rested there, next to the ones he’d lost before.

What he didn’t hear in his mate’s word were, And we failed in that duty.

But there hadn’t been anything they could have done.  Sabrina, while still technically a child in dragon years, had become an amazing woman who’d needed to do what she could to help, and that had led her to come one of the Torchwood’s top operatives.  They’d let her do what she was called to do, and that had led her to this…to leaving this universe far too young.

At his daughter’s age, Ianto had only travelled outside Ddraig Llyn a handful of times, always accompanied by his father.  He’d been mostly innocent of just how dangerous the world could be.  Sabrina, however, had gone out into the world with her eyes wide open, knowing that it was wild and crazy and that it might very well be the end of her someday.

Had he and Jack been too lenient with their children?  Had they let them leave too soon, trusting to more human age norms than dragon?  Had it been a mistake?

No, Ianto couldn’t think that.  Every single one of their children were intelligent, mature adults in their own right.  They knew what they were doing; had achieved so very much.  Sabrina had known the risks of her chosen profession, and had accepted them gladly. 

She had done her duty for Torchwood.

Just as he and Jack had once done.

Ianto was so very proud of her, even though he’d miss her for eternity.

The entire family was there, in the valley that each and every one of them called home.  It had been one of the hardest things Ianto had ever done: calling the clan home because one of their own was gone.  Today, they would finally lay Sabrina to rest in the place their ancestors had been born and had been brought back after their ends, when it was possible.  Ianto’s own family had been interred up on Pedair Dreigiau, their bones a part of the Earth once more.

He’d never forgotten that horrible day, when the men who’d called themselves Christian Knights had murdered his entire family, and had come close to killing Ianto himself.  Today, as he stood there, on the shore of the lake that had been his home for so very long, he could once again smell the ash and the blood, hear the laughter and the screams and the crackling of bright flame. 

His brother-by-mating, Marcus, a fierce red dragon, had found Ianto, surrounded by the charred bodies of the knights who hadn’t realised that they hadn’t managed to kill the youngest of the family of dragons they’d ambushed.  Marcus had come looking when they’d been late to arrive back home.  Ianto’s ears rang from the remembered sound of his roaring as he’d come across the scene; of Ianto’s sister, Marcus’ mate, and the burned corpses of Ianto’s parents.  Marcus had sworn vengeance, then had managed to get Ianto up and moving, even though Ianto had been badly injured, and had gotten them all back to Ddraig Llyn.  Ianto didn’t recall how, only that he’d been left in the care of the human family that had been dragon-friends for thousands of years and then Marcus had gone out to kill as many as he could, driven mad by grief.

Ianto had never seen Marcus again.  He didn’t even know where his brother-by-mating had been laid to rest.

And, all too soon, Ianto had become the Last, mourning every single member of his race.

Now, he wasn’t alone.  But still, he and Jack had lost a beloved child, and that was just wrong.  Sabrina had been taken from them far too soon.

They stood there, in not saying anything but simply supporting each other, the world silent as if waiting for something to happen.

After Ianto didn’t know how long, the Doctor joined them.

The dragon had been so pitifully grateful that the Time Lord had consented to bring their child home.  He’d also agreed to keep Sabrina in the TARDIS until the rest of the family could arrive, making certain that she would be…preserved…for the ceremony to come. 

The first thing that Ianto had done when the time machine had materialised in the lounge of their home was go inside and sit with her; Sabrina had regained her dragon form in death, the usually vibrant green of her scales now dull and brittle, the magic gone from her with the ending of her life.  One of those scales was resting in the box that held scales from his long-gone family, a piece of her that Ianto would keep with him for eternity.

The Doctor was unusually subdued as he came to stand beside them.  He was in his shirt sleeves, the cold affecting him not at all, his hands stuffed in his pockets as he, too, stared out over the calmness of the lake, pale eyes ancient and sad. 

“Thank you,” Jack murmured near-silently, “thank you for bringing her home, in case I haven’t said that already.”

The Time Lord hunched forward, as if someone had punched him in the stomach.  “There’s no need for that,” he said just as quietly.  “You’re my family, too.”

It had taken this happening for the Doctor to finally accept that he was as much a part of them as any of their blood relations.

“Let me know what you want me to do,” the Doctor went on. 

“We will,” Ianto promised.  They were going to find out what happened to their child, and make the ones responsible pay.

That was a vow that both he and Jack would keep.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

26 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Ddraig Llyn

 

There hadn’t been such a large crowd in Ddraig Llyn in Jack’s memory, and they were all gathered there for one thing.

The body of his daughter had been laid out carefully along the edge of the lake.  Sabrina looked peaceful, but at the same time death had changed her, diminished her in ways Jack didn’t want to think about.  He’d known, of course, that dragons faded after death, seen the now-delicate scales that Ianto had kept of his previous family, and how their strength had eroded away once their lives had been taken. 

Now, he was seeing this in his daughter. 

Sabrina had been born on a cloudy day in September.  She’d come all in a rush, as if she’d been in some sort of hurry to experience life outside of his womb: Jack had spent a total of two hours in labour, the fastest any of their children had been born.  They’d barely had time to get the incision made before Sabrina had signalled her arrival with such a loud cry that Ianto had joked about what a good singer she was going to be.

Of course, Morgan had turned into the true talent for that in the family, but Sabrina hadn’t been any sort of slouch, either.  None of their children were.

He and Ianto stood a little way to the front of the gathering, which had spread out in a silent throng along the side of the ancient lake, and back along the village green and the buildings that made up the village that was more a home to him than anywhere else had been.  So many, there to pay their respects to his brilliant, bold daughter, who’d only wanted to make the universe a safer place.

Family, and friends, those that Sabrina had touched in life.  They were there because of what Sabrina had meant to them. 

Even though he was facing his dear child, Jack knew that his family stood just behind him and Ianto, mourning as they themselves did.  He and Ianto had done good with them: children, and grandchildren, and their two great-grandchildren; his own sister, and mother and Rhys; nieces and nephews; mates of those he and Ianto had brought into this universe.  Family that he’d not believed he would ever have, back in the days before he’d met Ianto on the side of the mountain that was standing just behind and to the side of them, where he’d been singing a Song of Mourning.

Just as they would do today.

With a flurry of movement, the Great Dragons appeared, settling themselves with gentle solemnity onto the bank.  They, also, looked diminished, as if losing one lessened them all.  And, maybe it did.

As one, the Great Dragons began to sing.

The Song of Mourning echoed over the lake.  Jack found himself joining in, and Ianto beside him.  The Song was taken up by the throng behind them. 

Jack had never known how he’d gained the knowledge of this Song, and of the others he was familiar with.  It had come after the time he’d been buried under Cardiff, and was part of the magic that had so subtly changed him, allowed him to be able to take a dragon form for limited times and only in this magical place. 

Still, it made no matter.  Now, he sang out his pain and loss, along with those who knew his Sabrina, and who wished to honour her. 

He lost track of time in the Song.  Everyone there mourned along with him, and the ancient magic of the dragons surrounded him, supported him, and while the pain did not leave him, Jack felt as if it was being shared by every single person in the valley. 

Ianto’s hand was in his.  He held onto that lifeline tightly, and sang.

Eventually, the Song was done, and silence fell over Ddraig Llyn once more. 

“It has been long since we have had to lay to rest one of our own,” the Earth Dragon began, his sadness as deep as the planetary core, “and this child, still so very young, cut down before her time…the Earth demands vengeance.”

Without even thinking about it, Jack stepped forward, knowing that Ianto was right beside him.  As Sabrina’s parents, it was their duty for what came next.

“As Patriarch of our Clan,” Ianto declared, his own voice strong with sorrow and anger, “I demand the Rite of Vengeance against the ones who have taken my child away from us.”

“And I,” Jack added just as strongly, “as the one who carried her and brought her into this universe, demand the Rite of Vengeance against the ones who have taken my child away from us.”

Magic swirled about them, prickling against Jack’s exposed skin.  It seemed impossible to him that, at one time, he hadn’t believed in such things.  Now, it was so very evident that magic had always existed, and that he was now very much a part of that world.

“So mote it be,” the four Great Dragons intoned.

“So mote it be,” agreed the rest of the people gathered there.

There was an almost audible crackle as the power reacted to the sealing of his and Ianto’s vow.  Jack had done this before, but this…this was something completely different, a more binding oath than he had ever made before, outside of his and Ianto’s mating. 

And, he was certain, that every single witness would help to make this promise come true.

“You have our blessing,” the Earth Dragon looked down on them both.  “Now, we will lay our slain child to rest on the holy mountain, where she will be with her ancestors.  Do you wish this?”

Jack wanted to say no.  He wanted to stay with Sabrina, and mourn her a little longer. 

But he couldn’t.  It was time to let her go.

“Please,” Ianto whispered, “inter her with the others of our family.”

“We shall,” the Earth Dragon promised.  “Her place had been prepared, beside those of her grandparents and the one she was named for.  She has done that name proud.”

The four spirits rose once more, hovering over Sabrina’s body.  Their forms seemed to shimmer in the sunlight, and then fade into a haze. 

That haze settled over the so-wrongly motionless form of Jack’s and Ianto’s child and, in the blink of an eye, they were all gone and the place where they’d laid Sabrina was empty.

Jack’s heart shuddered at it, but his eyes tracked upward to Pedair Dreigiau.  Light flared on the peak of the mountain, outshining the very sun for a split second.  There was a low rumble, and the ground shivered slightly, as if the very planet was also in mourning.

Maybe it was. 

Lightning flashed once, then a gout of flame as if the mountain were erupting.  The clouds swirled once, and then were still.

It was done. 

Sabrina was gone.

And, with her, a piece of Jack’s soul.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

26 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Ddraig Llyn

 

After the ceremony, it was by silent agreement that every single member of the clan gathered in the lounge of the family home.

Ianto wished it could have been under better circumstances.

He knew what they wanted: some sort of answer to what had happened to Sabrina.  They wanted to know what Jack and Ianto intended on doing to fulfil their vows against the one who’d taken her away from them. 

He, Jack, and Phillip hadn’t really discussed it, each of them too wrapped up in their grief to address it before that moment.  The dragon was well aware that Phillip was feeling so much guilt for it, because he’d been the one to send Sabrina out into the field.  Ianto and Jack themselves had often felt the same way in their tenures with Torchwood, so he could completely sympathise with how his son-by-mating was dealing with it…which wasn’t all that well at all.  It certainly wasn’t helping that Sabrina had also been Phillip’s sister.  If there was one thing Phillip took seriously, that was protecting his family.

Ianto honestly didn’t know what they were going to tell them all.

It turned out, he need not have worried.

Anwyn took the decision right out of their hands.

Their eldest daughter stood from where she’d been sitting on the floor, with Gwaine and Erik, and with Cadi cuddled up to her like she’d done when she’d been a child, her elder sister a source of comfort to her in the bad times.

Cadi had been the one to find Sabrina, and she wasn’t at all her usual, brash self, sitting silent and still as if turned to stone.  If it were possible for Ianto’s heart to hurt more than it did, it would for her.

Anwyn’s face was pale but resolute as her gaze fell on her parents.  “As the oldest,” she began, “I’ve been elected as the spokesperson for all of us children and grandchildren.  I think, each and every one of us, knows that you, Dad…Tad…Phillip…Doctor…are going to try to cut us out of this, playing the Torchwood card to get us to back down.  That might have worked in the past…but not now.  Because Sabrina was more ours than she ever was Torchwood’s, and we want to know everything.  We want to help bring her killer to vengeance, and we won’t let you go off on your own.  We are in this together, as a family, and we demand our rights as a family to do this.”

Jack was shaking his head in denial. “Sweetheart, this isn’t how this works – “

“No, Dad,” Anwyn argued.  “You forget: I was Torchwood as well, and I still do jobs if Phillip asks.  I know exactly how Torchwood works.  I still remember when Tad got sick, and you chose Torchwood over him.”

Jack didn’t even bother to hide his flinch.  “That was a long time ago, Anwyn.”

“I never blamed your father for that,” Ianto interjected.  “He did what he had to do.”  The dragon remembered, as well; when he’d first learned of the imperative to return to his native soil every six hundred years.  He’d been the one to insist that Jack stay and do his job, and Anwyn shouldn’t be throwing that back up in her Dad’s face like that.  And she wouldn’t have been, if it were under different circumstances.

“I’m just saying that each and every one of us was raised Torchwood,” Anwyn hastened to add.  “It doesn’t matter that you both were retired; we still all were taught the Torchwood way, because it’s so deeply ingrained in the two of you.  Yes, only a handful of us might have decided to take that to its ultimate conclusion and work there, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know what it means to be Torchwood.  And don’t get us started on dragon laws and such.  So, we understand what comes next.  We also know that you all fully intend to keep us out of whatever you’re planning.  And that will not stand.”

“You all have lives,” Ianto exclaimed, “families.  This could very well put them in danger.  Are you all willing to risk that?”

“You’re willing to walk into that danger, to do what’s right,” Clint spoke up.  He was seated on one of the sofas, with Nathan on one side, Nicole on the other, and Skylar and Lisa at his feet.  He was holding the youngest child there; even though Daisy wasn’t even six months old, it was obvious that she could tell something was very wrong by the fussing she was doing, her wings twitching helplessly.  “You’re our family, too.  Are we supposed to just let that happen?  Let you walk into trouble without any sort of back-up from us?”

“It’s not going to happen,” Alun vowed.  He was leaning against the wall, the black of his formal Adjudicator’s robes a blot of darkness against the paleness of the paint.  “Every single one of us has decided that we stand together as family.  You might have been the ones to swear your oaths of vengeance, but we’re also Sabrina’s family, and deserve the same right that you’ve claimed.”

“There’s nothing that you can do – “  Jack began.

“Bollocks that!”

Ianto’s eyebrows went up as Rhys stood, the look on his face one that he was very familiar with.  He was angry, and gearing up for one of his famous Rants.

“It’s not that there’s nothing they can do,” he snapped, “it’s that you don’t want to lose any of them the way you lost Brina.”

It was Ianto’s turn to flinch.  Because his old friend was correct. 

They didn’t want any of their other children hurt or killed by whoever it was who’d murdered Sabrina.

Jack had gone pale, and Phillip had his arms crossed over his chest, almost defensively, which wasn’t like him at all.  The Doctor was fiddling with the sleeves of his coat; he’d actually found a black one for the occasion, and a small part of Ianto thought that it didn’t suit him at all. 

“You’re trying to separate us from Torchwood,” Rhys went on, “and that’s just not gonna work.  Cause Anwyn’s right: your kids might not be officially Torchwood, but they were certainly raised that way, and in the dragon way. And in their turn, they brought up their own children with the same mindset.  You treat them pretty much the same way you used to those of us on your original team, only they don’t go out on Rift alerts, chase Weevils, and handle invasions like we did.  You never had to send them into danger, and you’ve gotten out of the habit.  I’m not saying that’s a bad thing,” he added quickly, when Jack opened his mouth in what had to have been a rebuttal, “but you’ve given them the same values you instilled in the rest of us, and now you’re expecting them to step back from those values and ignore the fact that something very bad happened to one of their own.  You’re telling them they can’t have their own vengeance because it’s too dangerous for them to go after it.”

Ianto hated it, but Rhys was speaking his mind and it was all truth. 

That old team – and the teams that came after, until Torchwood became so big it was impossible to – had been their family, and they’d treated them as such.  Back then, both he and Jack had believed they would never have blood children together, and they’d thrown themselves into Torchwood and had pretty much adopted every single person they’d recruited as brothers and sisters, and as children.  They’d loved and cherished almost every single one of them. 

Torchwood had been their lives.  Torchwood had been their family.

He could see it, now that Rhys had pointed it out to them.  They had raised their children with the same ethics and sense of responsibility to the universe that they, themselves, had felt.  It had led nearly every single one of them to become astonishingly brave and selfless adults; of them all, only Cadi could have been said to have rebelled, and yet even she did what she always thought was right, except what that was, was usually illegal. 

That had been passed onto the grandchildren, taught as stories of those old teams, and as lessons in the right way to give back to those who relied on them.  Even impetuous, uninhibited Abraham had his Grandfather Jack’s moral code when it came to doing the right thing for anyone who would ask. 

This didn’t even count what Ianto had told them of dragon society.  He’d been certain to teach them all about Pacts, and Vengeance, and the need to stand by family and clan. 

In their need to protect their loved ones, they were denying them the very things that made them all dragons.

Even the ones who didn’t have dragon blood in them were the very best of dragonkind.  Phillip, Merlin, Henry, Gwaine, Aymara…Rhys and Samara, and the mortal branch of the family that they’d been responsible for.  Each and every one of them followed the laws of Ianto’s people, and they did it gladly.  Even the Doctor and River, who were just now beginning to truly accept that they were as much of their clan as the rest, despite what had happened all those centuries ago with Ianto and his Vow of Vengeance against the Master.

“But I was the one who did just that,” Phillip whispered.  “I sent Sabrina out, and this was what happened.”

“Not your fault, mate,” Rhys reassured him, “and everyone here feels the same way.”

That got a round of nods and words of assurance, but Ianto knew Phillip, and knew his son-by-mating would be hard on himself over this for a long time to come.

“But there’s something else we need to consider,” Rhys went on, “and that’s whoever killed Brina knew she was a dragon, and knew just where to attack.”

That was a truth that Ianto hadn’t wanted to admit. 

It was the first thing he’d noticed when he’d gone to sit with his daughter; the single wound, right in one of the very few places where a mortal blow would take down a dragon with a minimum of damage to the person doing the deed.

“There was also magic involved,” Merlin added.   He and Arthur had taken one of the large chairs; Arthur in the chair itself, while Merlin perched on one of the arms.  Rory stood behind them, looking as angry as the rest of them in the room, the gold in his blue eyes glittering.  “I sensed it when I saw her.  The weapon whoever it was used was tainted with it.”

“They were ready to face a dragon,” Arthur put in.  “What’s to keep them from coming after another one of us?”

Ianto had thought of that, and he’d hoped that no one else had.  Trust Arthur, with his mind for tactics, to have come up with it.

“None of us are safe until we get the bastard who did this,” Anwyn pointed out.  “It’s in our best interests to do this together.”  She sounded vaguely triumphant, as if she knew she had them where their family wanted them.

Ianto wanted to argue.  He wanted to order them to keep out of this.

What he wasn’t expecting was Jack laughing.

It wasn’t a very strong laugh, not at all like his usual boisterousness.  The laugh was chagrined, and hesitant, as if it was a shy thing that really didn’t want to be heard.  Ianto stared at his mate as he ducked his head, shoulders shaking in that quiet laughter that had no right to exist. 

And Ianto wasn’t the only one staring.  Everyone in the room was, varying expressions of confusion and surprise aimed right at his mate.  It was just so unexpected, it pretty much stopped every single argument that was just waiting to be had.

Jack caught their staring, and he shrugged helplessly, glancing at Ianto with a tiny, sad smile on his face.

“They’re right,” he conceded.  “They’re absolutely right.”

Something within Ianto suddenly uncoiled, like a steel spring that had lost its tension.  He hadn’t even been aware of it until Jack admitted what he had.

Certainly, they were right.  It didn’t mean that Ianto would want to still keep each and every person in the room safe, but his family was absolutely correct.   No one was safe until they found whoever had done this.

The wry smile that tugged at his lips was a companion to Jack’s uncharacteristic laughter.

“Maybe it’s time to read everyone in on what’s going on,” Arthur suggested.  “Because you also have to have thought that everything dating from the Library to now is connected.”

That raised some muttering about the room.  “Are you saying what happened to Dad links to Aunt Sabrina?” Nathan demanded.

The explanation they’d given for the overdose of magic that had almost killed Phillip for good had been a terrible accident while on a Torchwood operation to the Great Library; only those involved knew the complete truth.  For one thing, the events were classified; and for another, Merlin was already blaming himself for what had happened, and no one had wanted any sort of perceived incriminations directed at the wizard.  Besides, it had all turned out alright, with the help of Daisy Johnson and her stealing the information they’d needed to recreate the GH325 formula.

They hadn’t explained about River, though, letting the family assume that she was there due to her usual time travel shenanigans.

Phillip pinched the bridge of his nose, sighing.  “I had sent Sabrina out in search of leads, yes.”

“She was supposed to be meeting a contact,” Cadi spoke up, her voice a shadow of its normal, confident self.  It was actually the first words Ianto had heard from his daughter all day.  “I…I was supposed to back her up.”  Tears glimmered in her eyes.  “But she told me she could handle it, and I stayed behind…”

“Oh sweetheart,” Jack murmured, weaving his way through the crowd of family to kneel down next to her.  He tucked her up against him, rocking her slightly.  “It wasn’t your fault.  There was no way Sabrina or you could have anticipated what happened.”

Jack was joined by Anwyn, who sat back down, and then Rowena, who wouldn’t have been able to handle seeing her twin in pain like that.  The four of them huddled together, and Ianto wished he could join them, but there wasn’t room for him. 

Ianto’s heart was aching at the sight of his usually confident child in such a state.  His entire family had been damaged by what had been done to Sabrina. 

Maybe it had been wrong to consider leaving them out of things. 

Arthur was right: it was time to let them in on everything.

The dragon glanced over at Phillip.  The Doctor had come to stand next to the other immortal, a hand on Phillip’s shoulder as if to ground him.  His son-by-mating looked as distraught as Ianto had ever seen him.

Ianto called his name.  Phillip met his eyes, and Ianto nodded slightly. 

Phillip swallowed, then nodded back in agreement.

“Let’s debrief,” the ice mage said, attempting to pull his emotions back under control; to be the Director of Torchwood, and to open up the floor for explanations. 

Ianto joined him, lending him his support, knowing this was going to be an even longer day than it had already been.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

28 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Stark’s World

Cartel Space

 

The TARDIS materialised in an unobtrusive alley, much like many other alleys on other worlds, only cleaner than most.

Everyone on the TARDIS knew exactly, though, that this alley was different.

The Doctor settled his time machine into park, eyes darting to the people who’d travelled with him.  Each one was quiet, their thoughts to the one they’d just recently lost, knowing that when they stepped outside they would be near the scene of crime.

He could feel his time machine’s sadness thrumming through his mind.  Ever since the Library, it seemed as if the TARDIS’ presence was getting stronger, until there were times when he could swear she was speaking directly to him.  He had no idea what was causing it, but to be honest he was enjoying the new sense of closeness he was sharing with his oldest companion, although it also concerned him greatly. 

He'd have to get to the bottom of things the moment he had the opportunity, although he suspected he knew the cause of it.

The Time Lord was bothered by the fact that he hadn’t really known Sabrina all that well.  However, that didn’t mean he still couldn’t mourn her.  After all, she was Jack and Ianto’s daughter, which made her death all the more tragic to him…and to the universe.

“I’m going to speak to the Central Computer,” Phillip said.  He was dressed completely in black; he wasn’t wearing his usual Torchwood uniform as he was currently on leave.  His face was pale, but unyielding, and the Doctor knew he was firmly in Director mode in that moment even if he wasn’t acting on behalf of the Institute in this. 

He was blaming himself for sending Sabrina out to dig up information on HYDRA, and it wouldn’t matter how many times Phillip was told it wasn’t his fault.  Sabrina had fully embraced the life of a Torchwood operative, and the danger that had come with it. 

But this was something different.  This was someone who must have known that Sabrina was a Star Dragon, and how to take her down easily, without her being able to fight back.  And they had to have led her into a trap, so this was quite deliberate murder.

“I’m coming with you,” Clint declared.  He was also dressed in black, only his tunic was broken up by dark purple piping at neckline, hem, and sleeves.  He also had his ever-present quiver at this back, his favourite bow looped into place over it.  “Someone needs to watch your back.”

It was a testament to Phillip’s mental state that he didn’t argue with his mate. 

The Doctor remembered the first time he’d met Clint Barton, back before reincarnation had brought him back as Jack and Ianto’s eldest son.  That had been in his Tenth regeneration, during that mess with the Daleks moving the Earth to the Medusa Cascade, back when he and Jack had been on the outs.  Clint had come with Jack back then, because Ianto hadn’t been able to do it. 

Clint and Donna had gotten along like a house on fire, and the pair of them had been involved in that metacrisis regeneration of his.  It had been Clint who’d used the weapon that had ended up defeating the Daleks, and the Doctor’s earlier self hadn’t been happy about it.  It had led to the last argument he’d had with Donna, that had had her leaving the TARDIS for good and going to work for SHIELD.

This version of himself hoped he’d gained a bit of perspective after four hundred years.

“I’ll go and get my ship.” Cadi murmured.  She’d left her ship to come home in the TARDIS, with her sister.

If the Doctor thought that Phillip was pale, then Cadi was positively ashen. 

Of all of Jack and Ianto’s children, Cadi was the most like Jack: brash, confident, and not afraid to break the rules if it meant doing the right thing.  She might have been wanted in several star systems, but it was always over her taking an action that would do the most good for those involved, no matter the cost.  Smuggling in vital supplies past tyrant regimes; saving people in danger from those in authority; instigating and aiding in various rebellions; those were the things that had Cadi as one of the most-wanted privateers in and out of the Twelve Galaxies.

He remembered the telling off she’d given him the first time he’d met her.  It hadn’t been the first time she’d met him, but he was used to the timey wimey of his life by now.  Cadi had been a child travelling with Anwyn on one of the elder’s Good Samaritan missions, and their ship had been attacked by pirates looking to steal the medical supplies they’d had on board.  And yet, in the midst of all that danger, Cadi Harkness-Jones had given him a piece of her mind, explaining to him that he needed to make up things with her Dads, and to return the ring his Tenth self had stolen back during that time with the Master.  She’d been right, of course, and it had led to them all being closer than ever.

This quiet person wasn’t the same Cadi who hadn’t been afraid to stand up to him, and the Doctor was worried about her. 

“I have some contacts in the galactic underworld,” she went on, “and I’m hoping they might have some sort of information about HYDRA.”

“And I’m coming with you,” Alun said.  The Adjudicator had taken time off from his duties, citing family business, and it had been freely given.  At the same time, he’d updated the alert that had been put out after the attempted kidnapping of the Imperial heir for any sort of HYDRA activity, and was hoping that the Adjudication Guild would be able to dig up something on the elusive organisation.

Cadi looked grateful, which was another tell that not everything was right with her.  The privateer was a solitary soul, for all her extrovert personality, so to accept company now was out of character for her.

The rest of the family had taken the information about HYDRA fairly well…in that there wasn’t too much shouting.  After the events at the Library, information had been restricted to only a few, mostly those who had become involved.  They’d ended up hand-waving River’s sudden appearance until the majority of the Jones clan thought her presence was just another instance of time travel, and not her being brought back to life by their son.  But now that truth was out in the open, and as the Doctor had thought no one had blamed Merlin for anything that had occurred then.

“We’ll need to get some scans of the scene,” Nicole added.  She was also dressed in black, just like everyone else, her outfit a severe-looking dress that hung to her ankles.  The gold of magic in her twin-pupiled eyes glittered in the light over the TARDIS’ console, which seemed to pick up a little of that matching golden colour. 

Even the Doctor had replaced his usual purple wool coat with a black frockcoat that he believed had once belonged to his First incarnation.  He felt it suited the circumstances.

“That’s where you and I come in,” the Time Lord answered.  “Me, with my tech, and you with your magic.  Hopefully, together we’ll find some sort of clue as to what we’re dealing with.”

He really hoped so.  Whoever this was, they needed to be stopped.  The Star Dragons had such a large part to play in the future, and anyone trying to destroy them had to be found before anything else happened.

Because the Doctor was certain this was just the first step in something horrible.

Of course, any plans they might have made didn’t quite survive the opening of the TARDIS doors, because outside a squad of security was awaiting them, resplendent in their red and gold uniforms, and with weapons aimed at them.

“Well,” the Time Lord muttered sarcastically, “this is certainly unexpected.”

When he’d arrived to fetch Cadi and to bring Sabrina home, the Doctor had been shown every courtesy.  Him and Rhys had had no problem whatsoever with claiming Sabrina’s body and taking Cadi with them.  Now, it looked as if circumstances had changed.  He wondered what had caused it.

Phillip pushed himself forward to face the leader of the security patrol.  “Take us to the Central Computer,” he demanded.

His words obviously took the man by surprise, because his mouth dropped open a little.

“You’re here to escort us there, correct?” Phillip pressed, very much in Director mode.

The leader visibly attempted to take back control of the situation he’d lost the moment Phillip had decided to address him directly.  “We’re here to take you into custody – “

“No, you’re here to take us to the Central Computer,” Phillip corrected firmly.  “We have done nothing wrong to warrant being arrested, and as Director of the Torchwood Institute I am entitled to every courtesy that would normally be extended to visiting dignitaries.”

The Doctor couldn’t help the grin.  Phillip Coulson-Jones would have made a fine Time Lord, only without the posturing and laziness that was the hallmark of most of his race.

“Leave your weapons in the machine,” the man once again tried to wrest control away from Phillip.

“No.  Clint Jones-Coulson is my personal bodyguard, and thus is permitted under Stark’s World law to be armed.  Captain-Owner ap Llyn has a permit to carry the weapon she is wearing.  Senior Adjudicator Alun ap Llyn is permitted to carry a weapon as a member of the Adjudicator Guild, even on a non-allied world like this one.  Nicole Jones-Coulson is a master wizard and thus dangerous in her own right, and the Doctor needs no introduction…and no weapons, as he’s perfectly capable of taking down this planet just with his intelligence alone.  Now, we are wasting time.  Please, escort us to the Central Computer.”

Phillip didn’t mention that he was also fairly dangerous, even unarmed, but then it really didn’t need to be said.  Anyone who took the immortal at face value was an idiot. 

Apparently, the security patrol leader wasn’t an idiot. 

The Doctor fell in next to Phillip as the patrol led them from the alley and out into the street beyond.  “I didn’t think we needed to push our luck by trying to convince him to let you and Nicole stay and take scans of the alley,” the ice mage murmured for the Doctor’s ears alone.  “I’m positive we’ll get permission from the Central Computer, after this has all been resolved.”

The made sense.  “That was nice work there,” the Doctor applauded quietly.  “I couldn’t have done better myself.”

That earned him a small smirk.  “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

The Doctor knew when he was being teased, and responded, “You should.  They’ll be calling you the Oncoming Storm Point Two in a couple of centuries.”

Phillip laughed, turning it into a cough when one of the security men gave him a pointed glare.  “I think I’ll leave that to you.”

Personally, the Doctor was glad to hear that laugh.  Phillip had become a close friend over the events at the Library, and would have made an excellent Companion if he could have talked the immortal into giving up his family and Torchwood…which he would never do, and would never happen anyway.  The Doctor was glad of it.  Still, maybe one day, when Daisy was old enough, he hoped he could convince Phillip to bring the family out for one trip. 

The Doctor had never been to Stark’s World before, so he paid close attention to the city as they were escorted toward an enormous tower with a stylised “S” on what resembled an upper deck.  The place was high-tech and very, very clean, with skyscrapers that reached up into the blue-purple atmosphere, almost scraping the top of the atmospheric dome.  The people who watched them pass were a mixture of human and non-human, many of them wearing a version of the red and gold colours that were the trademark of Stark’s World.

He'd never met the Tony Stark that the world had been named for, but he knew that Phillip had known the man back in the 21st century.  From what the Doctor did know, Stark had been a futurist, a genius, and had done a lot of good for the world both as a scientist and as his heroic alter-ego, Iron Man.  Sure, there was that dust-up with the Sokovia Accords, but everyone made mistakes, even when they’re trying to atone for ones they’d made themselves.

Stark Industries had been on the forefront of Earth’s first steps toward the stars.  The enormous conglomerate had eventually left for those self-same stars, carving out an entire world in what would become Cartel Space, a neutral sector made up of businesses who felt it easier to do their work while remaining outside any sort of Imperial control. 

But Stark’s World had been the first.  And it was still the best and brightest.

The main difference between this planet and the rest of the Cartel worlds was that it wasn’t run by the elected Cartel Board of Directors.

It was the Central Computer. 

The Central Computer saw everything that took place on Stark’s World.  Every terminal, every security camera, every handheld device that was on Stark’s World was linked into the Central Computer.  It rivalled the Data Core of the Great Library for sheer amount of knowledge; that would have changed, now that the Library was off limits to anyone.  Only the knowledge from Stark’s World was mostly scientific, and not the fanciful fiction that had also made up a great deal of what had been in the Library.

All-in-all, the Doctor was impressed by what he was seeing.  He’d have to come back for a visit when things settled down.

They were escorted into the tower.  Even the interior was gleaming, the brightness of chrome and precious metals against the white of stone and other man-made materials, all with the inevitable red and gold accents.  There was an enormous reception desk that they bypassed, which was manned by a holographic receptionist, heading toward the bank of lifts that ran down the centre of the building.  People made way as they approached, giving the group odd looks; out of the corner of his eye, the Doctor could see Clint giving each and every one of them a big grin that was the supreme definition of ‘shit-eating’.

The lift car was packed as they and their ‘escorts’ all got inside; the leader of the security patrol used a wrist computer to activate the lift, sending it upward.  The ride was smooth, the Doctor realising it was a repulsor-powered system instead of the usual anti-grav platform.

That made sense, considering that Tony Stark had invented repulsor technology and had been stingy with its use beyond his own applications, unlike the arc reactors he’d created and that were still in use all over the Empire.

They didn’t go to the top floor, which was what the Doctor had been expecting.  Instead, the lift stopped on the 75th floor, the glass doors sliding silently open onto an open-planned room with a rich, red carpet and windowed walls that looked out onto the city below.  There were comfortable chairs and sofas around the space, and a large bar near the far windows built of a reddish wood with gold embellishments and a row of stools around the perimeter. 

The room was empty of people.

“You will remain here,” the security leader ordered, once again trying to regain some form of control over proceedings.

Phillip graced the man with a bland smile.  “Certainly.  Is the bar fully stocked?”

Not that Phillip meant to use it, the Doctor knew.  While he was certain his friend did enjoy a drink every once in a while, in this situation he would have refrained. 

The wide-eyed stare the security leader gave him was funny.  The Doctor himself didn’t laugh, but he could tell that Clint was choking back his own laughter, as was Alun.  Nicole simply smirked at her father’s antics.  Cadi wasn’t smiling, but there was a touch of humour in her blue eyes that the Doctor was very pleased to see.

“You should be getting on with your duties, yes?” the Doctor couldn’t help it, he had to say something; he couldn’t let Phillip have all the fun.  “I’m sure we’ll be just fine here all by ourselves.”

He made a shooing motion with his hands, which actually worked.  The entire security troop filed back into the lift, leaving them alone.

“Nice place,” Clint observed.  “You can see Stark’s hand in the decorating.”

Before the Doctor could question that comment, a sarcastic voice sounded from a discrete set of speakers in the ceiling.

“Thanks, Legolas.  I’d tell the people who did all the work you said so except they’re all long dead now, although I did have a proverbial hand in the design back when the Tower was built.”

Nicole and Alun both looked as startled as the Doctor felt at the American accented voice.  It was obviously the voice of the Central Computer, but… “Legolas?” he blurted, surprised.  Of course, it could have been making note of the bow and quiver that Clint had with him but, while Tolkien was still a classic during this century, it wasn’t something he would have expected a computer to know.

“It’s been a long time since anyone’s called me that,” Clint commented with a small smirk.  “How’s it going, Shellhead?”

“Can’t complain.  And hey, Agent…how’s it hanging?  Although I expect Barton to know more about that than I’d ever care to.”

Just how did the computer know Clint’s original last name was Barton?  The Doctor was certain that had been something that had been kept within the family.  And what was this, calling Phillip, ‘agent’?

Phillip was pinching the bridge of his nose, as if trying to hold onto his patience with that simple movement.  And the Doctor was beginning to suspect that he, himself, had a very unattractive goldfish expression on his face.

Phillip sighed, a put-upon sound.  “Did you have to try to arrest us?”

“Sure I did.  But I knew you’d have them marching to your orders before they even realised they were doing it.  It’s that badass factor you have going, Coulson.  You going to introduce your friends to me, or do I have to play Twenty Questions?”

“You knew who they were the moment you caught us on your security network,” Phillip pointed out.

“Well, sure…but then I know pretty much everything that goes on around here.  Still, you’re the polite one.  I thought you’d want to make it official.”

The immortal squared his shoulders, as if accepting the inevitable.  “You already know my mate, Clint Jones- Coulson.”

“He’ll always be Clint Barton to me.”

“Wait,” the Doctor interjected, “but how does it know that?”

It?  I am appalled that the infamous Doctor can’t recognise a living computer when he sees one.  Well, hears one, I suppose…”

“And this is my daughter, Nicole Jones-Coulson,” Phillip went on, holding out a hand to Nicole, who smiled and took it.  The simple look of pride on his face was touching.

“You’re part Margath, right?” the Central Computer asked.  “I had no idea that Birdbrain would make such gorgeous kids.”

Now, that comment did have Nicole rolling her eyes, which was an impressive sight in a person with a double-pupiled optical system.  She didn’t seem to be taking offence at the computer calling Clint what could have been construed as a rude nickname, but then Clint obviously wasn’t, judging by the playful smirk he was wearing.

The Doctor was beginning to suspect there was a lot more going on than he was aware of, which was a sensation he didn’t much care for.  It was apparent that Phillip had spoken with the Central Computer before, and that it was far more than rumours had claimed.  He’d expected some sort of artificial intelligence, but nothing like this irreverent, snarky voice from the ceiling.

Phillip went on to introduce Cadi and Alun.  The computer congratulated Cadi on being wanted in fifteen systems now, while being impressed by her work on Altara Two.  The Doctor wasn’t aware of those events, and he made a mental note to ask about them when he got a chance.

“And a Senior Adjudicator in my house,” the computer went on, clearly amused.  “Honestly, officer, I didn’t mean to crash that flitter into the lake, I swear!”

“That’s what they all say,” Alun snorted, playing along.

The computer laughed at that.  “I think I’m gonna like you.”

“And,” Phillip concluded, “you obviously know the Doctor.”

“Who doesn’t?” the computer returned smartly.  “Doctor, I’m a big fan of your work.”

“Thank you,” the Time Lord answered politely.  “I’m sure I’d be a fan of yours if I knew exactly who you were.”  Being sassed by a living computer was a fascinating experience, really.

Phillip was staring at him, a surprised and curious light in his pale eyes.

“I’m hurt that you haven’t figured it out yet.  Agent, tell him.”

Phillip shook his head, and the gesture was almost fond.  “Everyone, I’d like you to meet Tony Stark, the Central Computer of Stark’s World.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

28 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Imperial Throneworld

 

“Welcome back to Throneworld,” Steve Rogers VII, the current Grand Master of the Imperial Shieldsmen, greeted as Jack and Ianto left the airlock of the shuttle that had brought them planetside. “I just wish it were under better circumstances.”

It had been Phillip’s idea that they come to Throneworld, to brief Her Imperial Majesty on what had happened and the resurgence of HYDRA.  Certainly, they’d sent reports along, but with Sabrina’s passing and the Star Dragons ready to declare war on HYDRA, Ianto’s son-by-mating had thought it prudent to warn the Throne of what was going on.

Steve was the direct descendant of the original Captain America, and it was evident in his physical appearance.  At close to three hundred years old, Steve was just now beginning to go grey, and his physique was still that of a man who was in top condition.  At well over six standard feet tall, Steve was an imposing figure in his Shieldsman uniform, the shield generator prominent on his left arm.

Ianto remembered Captain America, although those memories were tinged by time gone by.  This Steve was very much like his ancestor, although the Super Soldier serum was beginning to dilute within the bloodline.  One day, the Rogers family would be just as mortal as most everyone else in the universe.

But for now, Steve was greeting them warmly.  “Her Imperial Majesty asked that I meet you and bring you to her.  She would have come herself, but one of the Councillors demanded her attention at the last minute.”

“I’m just glad she agreed to see us on such short notice,” Jack returned. 

“The Empire owes Torchwood such a debt that this last-minute meeting isn’t even going to put a dent in it,” Steve assured him. 

Ianto and Jack followed Steve through the spaceport and toward transport that was waiting them outside, a sleek silver groundcar with the Shieldsmen coat of arms on the doors.  The Imperial Throneworld had a teleport-proof shield; no one could land on the planet through any sort of teleport or transmat, only by ship from the orbital platform that was an immense space dock for every ship that had business on Throneworld.  All who wanted to physically land had to go through an extremely rigorous security check and the shuttle system.

Jack and Ianto had transmatted to the space station, and from there taken the shuttle service down.  Truthfully, Torchwood was perhaps the only organisation with unlimited teleport rights to Throneworld, in case of emergency, but it was simply polite to use the normal channels when seeking an audience with the Empress.

Besides, using the special codes that would allow them to come through the shield made Ianto physically ill.  As much as he hated space travel, the dragon preferred it to using the faster way when coming to the Imperial Seat.

Throneworld itself was a smaller planet near Galactic Centre.  When humanity had gotten their foothold in space, it was decided that the nascent Empire be ruled from somewhere centrally; Earth was too far away from the major space lanes and most of the more powerful planets to be an effective base from which to run things. 

There was only one city on the Throneworld, and that was the capitol of the entire Human Empire.  The Palace was at the direct centre of the city, in the tallest building, spires and a single minaret stabbing upward into the clear blue sky.  Delicate seeming walkways spanned between the encircling buildings, and the entire place resembled an intricate web of glass and steel. 

Steve drove them himself toward the place, through the bustling streets.  Throneworld also was one of the few planets that didn’t allow flying vehicles, so the air was clear of any sort of transport.  Everything was street-level, and that meant traffic was a little heavy, but Steve navigated with ease of familiarity.

He kept up a steady line of small talk, and Ianto listened politely, even though he wasn’t at all interested in the newest gossip among the Royal Family and the Imperial Council.  His mind was a million lightyears away, on what the other members of his family was up to.  Each had tasks to perform, even if they were simply keeping up appearances or getting their affairs in order so they could come home for the time being. 

He hated having his family involved, but at the same time Rhys and the others had been right.  This did concern them all; it wasn’t just Torchwood anymore, and keeping them out of it would only come back to bite them in the end.  Plus, not being honest would only put them in danger, in case whoever had killed Sabrina came after one of them, and they weren’t prepared.

It all came down to the fact that this was a vengeance that couldn’t just fall to one or a couple of people.  The entire family had lost Sabrina, and it was up to the entire family to do something about it.

Steve drove their car up to the main checkpoint going into the parking area of the Imperial Palace – the guards not only checking Jack and Ianto’s access privileges via DNA, but Steve’s as well, which only made sense to Ianto with the plethora of shape-changing species in the universe – and then under the immense Palace itself, down several underground levels until they reached the main parking bay for the Empire’s official vehicles.  He pulled into an available spot within a group of like-marked groundcars.

“The Empress asked that you meet her in her private audience chamber,” Steve said as they exited the groundcar.  He led them toward the single lift that serviced this level of the car park, using the retinal scanner to call the lift car down to them. 

Ianto was glad of it.  He didn’t want their family business aired in the public court, and was grateful that Her Imperial Majesty had understood the tone of their request. 

Steve glanced at the pair of them as they waited.  “Jack, I’m sorry…but I’ve never seen you without your greatcoat.  I understand why you’re not wearing it…”

Ianto knew that Jack’s all-black ensemble wasn’t just because his mate was in mourning, although he could understand Steve’s confusion over it.  Personally, Ianto didn’t care for it at all, seeing Jack in the formal coat and trousers, it just wasn’t his mate’s usually outgoing personality.  It made Jack look pale and severe, and so unlike himself that the dragon was somewhat startled every time he looked at his mate.  The only concession to Jack’s normal wear was the ever-present Vortex Manipulator, and the ring that Ianto had given him when he’d committed to the immortal, all those centuries ago.

“The greatcoat is a symbol for Torchwood’s Director, and that’s not why we’re here,” Jack answered calmly.  “We’re here on Jones Clan business, as the Patriarchs of the Star Dragons.”

Steve nodded, accepting the slight rebuke as the lift car arrived.  They stepped inside, and the ride upward into the tower was silent. 

Once past the concrete and stone of the car park the lift car, which was all glass, showed the spectacular vista of Throneworld as they arose.  Ianto would have normally been interested in the view, but not today.  Today, he was still hurting, and the architecture wasn’t as interesting as it would have been on a normal visit.

The lift took them all the way to the top of the Imperial Palace, where the Empress and her family had their residences.  When the Palace had been originally built, Jack had protested at putting the Rulers of the Empire up that high, arguing that it would make them even more a target as they would usually be as the most powerful family in the Human Empire, but he’d been overruled.  Ianto was aware of the extreme security of the tower, and how the upper floors were shielded and warded as much as possible, but it still seemed like it was asking for trouble.  There had been several attempts on the Imperial family, but none had been successful. 

The only incursion that had been even remotely successful had been the one against Phillip, nearly a century ago, when Juno Bayl had tried to change Torchwood’s future by negating Phillip’s personal timeline.  That had been aided and abetted by an insider, who’d been dealt with harshly.  However, it had not been aimed at the Imperial family at all, so there hadn’t been any sort of breach of the upper levels of the Palace.

The lift finally opened up into a panel-lined hallway, with rich blue carpeting.  Steve took them to the right, and past several closed, unmarked doors, portraits interspersed between each, likenesses of family members past and present staring out at them as they walked by. 

Several doors down, there as a single open door, and Steve ushered them inside. 

The room was comfortable, with overstuffed chairs and a single sofa, facing a faux fireplace that was radiating heat from its glowing, artificial logs.  The carpet was a pale yellow, matching the pattern of flowers in the furniture’s upholstery. 

There was a low coffee table in the centre of the sofa and chair configuration, and a man in the blue and silver of the Imperial uniform was just setting a tray with a pot, cups, and a decanter of a pale golden liqueur down onto it; it was joining another tray of small cakes and sandwiches.  He glanced up as they entered, and once his burden was on the table he bowed to them and left, shutting the door as he went.

Steve touched the comm in his ear, letting someone know that they’d arrived.  Ianto didn’t sit, not yet, knowing that he’d just have to get up again once the Empress arrived.  Jack went to the large bay window that overlooked the city beyond, silent and still in a way his mate usually wasn’t, arms crossed over his chest almost defensively.

The last couple of days had been so very hard on both of them.  Losing a child was one of the things Ianto never wanted to experience again, and yet he was aware that it could happen.  Many of their children were in dangerous professions, but it had never occurred to either him or Jack that they might outlive any of them.  And Ianto really should have known better, having lost family in the past.  He knew that dragons could be killed, but for some reason he’d never given it all that much thought.

Now, it loomed over him like a blackness that would take a very long time to dispel. 

It wasn’t like when they’d lost Alice and Patrick, and Steven, Gracie, and Canton, and their descendants until the very mortal Harkness family line had ended very abruptly, centuries ago, when their several times great-grandchild had been killed in a war the Empire really had had no business fighting.  It had distressed both himself and Jack, but at the time they’d come to terms with the fact that they’d go on long after any of Jack’s blood kin would. 

This…this was different.

Sabrina had been as close to immortal as Ianto himself was.  There were only certain ways a dragon could be killed, and those who knew would never have dreamed of using that knowledge.  Now, there was someone out there who’d somehow figured it out, and had apparently led their daughter into a trap. 

They were looking into that now, and Ianto had hope that Phillip and his team would be able to find something on Stark’s World that would give them a trail to follow.

He also hoped that the other leads his family was following up on would pan out, as well.

The door opened, and Ianto turned at the sound.  He bowed low, as did Jack and Steve, as the Supreme Ruler of the Human Empire entered the room.

Danielle, Her Imperial Majesty, was young by human terms, at thirty standard years of age.  She had porcelain skin, grey eyes, and fiery red hair that fell to her waist and was twisted into an ornate braid, blue ribbons threaded through the vibrant strands, matching the sleeveless blouse she wore over white trousers.  She was all of five foot nothing, but she had an aura of power about her that made her seem much taller. 

She was also from a long line of Inhumans.

It wasn’t a secret that the Imperial family were Inhumans, and could trace their family back to before the Sokovia Accords.  In fact, what only a couple of people knew – and those people were Jack and Ianto – was that she was a direct descendant from their old Torchwood colleague, Joshua Gates.  When Danielle had turned sixteen, she’d chosen to be exposed to Terrigen, which had activated the Inhuman genes and giving her a form of telekinesis, only over small mechanical objects down to the molecular level.  It didn’t seem like much of a power, except it could be deadly under the right circumstances. 

“Gentlemen,” she greeted them, closing the door and coming forward to shake their hands.  “Thank you for waiting.”

“Thank you for seeing us at such short notice,” Ianto responded.

“You wouldn’t have asked for an audience if it wasn’t important.”  Danielle waved them toward the seats. 

Ianto and Jack sat next to each other on the sofa, his dragon weight sinking him into the cushions almost uncomfortably.  Danielle took one of the chairs, while Steve busied himself by serving the tea.

“I didn’t order coffee,” Her Imperial Majesty went on, “because I know how much of a coffee snob you are, Ianto.”

The dragon couldn’t help the smirk that curled his lips.  “And you would be correct, Your Majesty,” he said, accepting the cup from Steve but refusing the food.  He hadn’t been very hungry since the ceremony for Sabrina.

“Please,” she said, “you and Jack and Phillip have known me since I was in diapers.  Her Majesty is just too formal for all that.”

“But our business isn’t,” Jack added sombrely. 

Danielle lost her smile.  “I was afraid of that.  I take it, it’s not Torchwood business.”

Trust her to pick up on the reason for his and Jack’s formal attire.  “No, it isn’t,” Jack confirmed.

“I was very sorry to hear about Sabrina.  Can I guess your visit has something to do with that?”

There was a reason Danielle was Supreme Ruler of the Human Empire, besides birth.  “How up to date are you on your Torchwood briefings?” Ianto asked.

That earned him a frown, and he couldn’t blame her.  After all, they’d claimed this didn’t have anything to do with Torchwood, so opening with that would have been a bit confusing.

“Fairly, I should say,” she answered.  “But this isn’t Torchwood…”

“No,” Jack confirmed, “but it started like that.”

“We suspect HYDRA had a hand in Sabrina’s death,” Ianto murmured, his throat tight.

Danielle stiffened.  The dragon knew that Her Majesty was very much aware of HYDRA’s appearance; there had been an attempt to kidnap the Imperial Heir, Joshua, a couple of months previously as he was at school.  The Shieldsmen had stopped it from getting very far, but the kidnappers had all proudly proclaimed themselves HYDRA before committing suicide. 

“This is why you wanted to know if I was up to date on my Torchwood briefings,” she said.  “You wanted to know if I was aware of Torchwood’s involvement from the start.”  She sat back in her own chair.  “I know about the Library, and what happened there.  I’m guessing that Sabrina was investigating leads?”

“She was,” Jack confirmed.  “We suspect she was led into a trap, and we’re also certain that whoever…killed her, knew what she was and knew where to strike.”

That had Steve taking a harsh breath, and Danielle sitting forward once more in shock.  “And you suspect HYDRA?” the Grand Master demanded.

“We do.” Ianto said.  “Sabrina was looking for leads on Stark’s World.  Phillip has gone there with the Doctor and others, trying to discover what happened.”

“And they now know how to murder a dragon,” Her Majesty hissed angrily.  The teapot shivered under the sudden influx of her power, and Ianto could see her visibly rein her abilities back in.

“Our entire family has sworn a Vow of Vengeance against HYDRA,” Jack declared.  “If they are responsible, then the Star Dragons are going to war.”

Danielle nodded.  “Yes, I understand why you’ve come to see me.”

“We need to make you aware of our intent on declaring war on HYDRA,” Ianto confirmed.  “Torchwood is not involved in this action.  Phillip has taken a leave of absence, leaving his Second, Melinda May, in charge, so there won’t be any accusations or recriminations against the Institute.”

“That is within your rights, as a sovereign people within the Empire,” Her Majesty replied.  “The Star Dragons have been recognised as an independent race within the Human Empire since my five-times great-grandfather’s time, and your laws would withstand dispute within the courts.  Any sort of Vow of Vengeance you may make will be fully backed by the Imperial Seat.”

“But you’re afraid there might be repercussions for the Empire,” Steve pointed out.

“There already have been,” Jack said.  “The terrorist attack on Euros; the aborted gas attack on Thoros…Zygos Beta, but that hasn’t been officially confirmed yet.  The attempted kidnapping of Crown Prince Joshua…they’re already striking at the Empire, and it has nothing to do with our clan.  But they have a way of killing dragons, and Sabrina didn’t stand a chance against their assassin.  You might have put out your own feelers for any sort of HYDRA intel, but this is now personal.  If we take steps against HYDRA they could very well come back against citizens of the Empire with even worse atrocities.”

“And Earth might catch the brunt,” Danielle mused.  “It’s very well known that the Star Dragons call Earth their home.”

The Empress did have a point.  And Ianto had been the one to disseminate a lot of that information, in his classes at Luna University.

Ianto shook his head.  “That would be true anyway, if they know how to kill dragons they could very well come after us, no matter where we are.”

“We know for a fact that at least some of the reincarnated souls supposedly involved with this new version of HYDRA have axes to grind with Torchwood,” Jack added, “and the Institute is doubly damned because Phillip is the Director now.”

“He was the Director of SHIELD back when HYDRA was taken down in the 21st century,” Steve agreed.  “I think we can honestly say HYDRA would come after targets on Earth even if the Star Dragons didn’t call Ddraig Llyn their home.  I believe the only reason they haven’t already is that Earth is too far from Galactic Centre to draw all that much attention if something did happen there.”

“If anyone tried to attack us in our valley,” the dragon continued, “they wouldn’t get very far.  There’s too much magic in Ddraig Llyn, and the Great Dragons won’t let any harm come to anyone there as long as they can protect them.”

Danielle looked thoughtful.  “This might not be the time to consider it, but have you given any thought to having your own world?”

Ianto felt his jaw drop.  Their own planet?  A planet for dragons?  “Of course we haven’t,” he exclaimed.  “Jack and I found out the hard way that any Earth-born dragons are too connected with the planet to stay away for more than six hundred years.  I did that, living on Hubworld, until it began to affect me.”

“Couldn’t magic help out with that?” she asked.  “I would assume it’s your personal magic that connects you to Earth?”

“I…never thought that far,” the dragon allowed.  “I just know, after about six hundred years, I began to get sick.  I felt the planet calling me home, and I had no choice but to follow that call or die.  And any of our adopted children would feel the same.”

“But there’s still the Great Dragons,” Jack pointed out.  “If Ianto and the younger children are bound to the Earth, then the Great Dragon are practically tied down to it.  They’re as much a part of the planet as the trees or the air.”

“But trees can be transplanted,” Danielle replied.  “It’s done all the time.  Certainly something could be figured out to get them moved?”

Ianto didn’t want to even consider this now.  There were other things to be done, and perhaps there had been once when he thought he’d never live on Earth again.  Now, though…no, this wasn’t the time for wild flights of fancy. 

“It doesn’t do any good to even contemplate such a thing right now,” Jack growled.  “Once we find out where we can find HYDRA and the bastard who killed Sabrina, the Jones Clan is going to war.  We wanted to warn you about it, so if anything happens you won’t be taken by surprise.”

“We’re still going to try to hunt down HYDRA on our own,” Steve swore.  “They made an attempt on our Crown Prince, and that makes them a serious threat to the Empire.  However, anything that we find out, we’ll gladly pass along to the Star Dragons, just as I hope you’ll do the same with us.”

“We can do that,” Jack agreed.  “But HYDRA is ours.”

“Yes, Jack,” Danielle pledged.  “We shall let the Star Dragons fulfil their Vow of Vengeance.”

“Thank you, Danielle,” Ianto said, heartfelt.

The Empress gave him a sweet, yet sad, smile.  “You’re welcome, Ianto.  Just please…be careful.  The universe can’t lose any more of your family.”

Ianto didn’t add out loud that he, himself, couldn’t stand to lose any more of his family, either.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

28 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Stormcage Prison

 

Merlin hated the Stormcage.

He’d been, several times, when his mother had been incarcerated there.  He’d had to be careful; there had been an earlier version of her hadn’t had him yet, and he couldn’t risk giving away any spoilers by seeing her before his time.

It hadn’t helped that she’d been in Stormcage for killing his, Merlin’s, own father, even though she’d been innocent.  River had gone willingly, in order to protect her husband from forces that had wanted to destroy him.  It still bothered Merlin that the Doctor had let her do it, but then for the longest time his Dad hadn’t even known that he was supposed to have been the one that River had murdered in cold blood.

Merlin might have been part Time Lord, but he absolutely hated time travel, too used to walking the slow path through his own life to be happy with living out of synch with his family.

Today, though, he wasn’t alone, and he wasn’t there to see the mother who’d been the only one ever to escape from Stormcage; in fact, River was with him, as was Arthur, and they were there to see someone very different.

The guard looked at River as if she was going to eat him, and Merlin’s mother winked at him saucily, as if daring him to say something.  The man swallowed hard, and it was all Merlin could do not to roll his eyes.  Yes, he could understand her wanting to tease them; after all, they hadn’t been able to keep her in her cell, the only reason River had for hanging around was that she wanted to protect the Doctor.  It had been the Doctor who’d taken her away ninety-five percent of the time, and no one even realised it.  Or it was her stolen Vortex Manipulator, which she’d kept in her cell and no one had been able to find it.

Security had gotten a lot better since his mother had been released.  Which was a good thing, or else Merlin would have had the woman they were visiting placed somewhere else.

It didn’t hurt that no one could keep River Song where she didn’t want to be.

They’d tried to take Excalibur away from Arthur.  His mate had laughed at that, because no one could take his magical sword without Arthur’s permission, and once he’d explained that he’d been able to keep it.  It gave Merlin a feeling of security, more than his magic ever would.

River had handed over her blaster without complaint, though.  Honestly, she didn’t need it to be perfectly dangerous.

Merlin himself wasn’t armed, but he had his magic, which made him his own category of dangerous. 

The guard who’d been assigned to show them to the prisoner’s cell shied away from River slightly, although Merlin didn’t know why.  He was far too young to have been a guard at Stormcage while his mother had been there.  Perhaps the name River Song held a sort of power over them all?  It was most likely a story told to scare new personnel…

“Has she caused any sort of trouble?” Arthur asked calmly.

It was a blatant attempt to get the guard to relax, and it seemed to work.  “No, not at all, Sir.  She’s been quiet as a lamb.”

“Any visitors?”

“None at all.”

Not that Merlin expected the prisoner to have had any.  Once the plan at the Library had failed, HYDRA would have left her to her own devices.  They hadn’t found any sort of suicide capsules or devices on her when she’d been captured, so the wizard doubted she’d even considered a chance that their plan wouldn’t have succeeded.

The curving, wide corridor was lined with cells along one side, the other bare metal.  The lighting glared against the exposed pipes in the ceiling and the smooth surface of the floor, and the lightning of the ever-present storm outside strobed from the windows of the various cells as they passed.  It was obviously a prison, not built for comfort. 

The guard stopped before one of the closed cells.  “Here we are.”

Merlin stepped up to the bars to regard the woman within.  Her blonde hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail, highlighting a round face and large, dark eyes.  She was attractive, even in the prison-issue coveralls, and she was sitting on the bed, turning when she realised someone was there to see her.

The wizard barely concealed his shiver at the insanity in those eyes.

Lucy Cole had been one of his most promising students.  Her gift had been in weather magic, but she’d shown aptitude in other disciplines.  She might have, one day, even come close to equalling Merlin in power.

But Lucy had asked too many questions that should never have been answered, and she’d turned to dark magic in order to resurrect the man she’d loved in a previous life.

The evil, insane Time Lord known as the Master.

To be honest, Merlin hadn’t really known all that much about the Master; no one had wanted to really talk about him, and now that the wizard knew about the Time Lord he could understand why.  From what his father had claimed, the Master had once been a childhood friend, a fellow student at the Prydonian Academy, but he’d been slowly going insane from the moment he’d been shown the Untempered Schism, and had eventually snapped and had become a renegade. 

The Master had been responsible for a lot of death and destruction.  He’d tortured and killed his Granddad Jack for a solid year. Merlin felt that Ianto had been in the right to fulfil his Vow of Vengeance against him for what he’d done. 

Apparently, his Dad’s former incarnation hadn’t, and it had led to a lot of bad feeling between the three of them.  Merlin was glad he’d never met this Tenth version of his father, because he would have given him a piece of his mind.

Lucy’s lips curled upward into a sly smile.  “Visitors?  What brings you here?”  Her eyes were for Merlin only; she seemed to completely disregard both Arthur and River.

Merlin didn’t want to be there, but there was no choice.  “We’re here to ask you some questions…about HYDRA.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the woman denied.  She stood, slowly walking toward the bars of the cell.  Her eyes darted toward Arthur, giving Merlin’s mate a flirty wink.  Arthur ignored it completely. 

The she noticed River.

Lucy’s jaw dropped slightly, and then her eyes narrowed, and she laughed.  “And you’re so ready to condemn me for trying to raise my Harry?”

Of course, Lucy would be able to see the magic.  Merlin should have realised it before now.

Truth to tell, as much as Merlin loved having his mother back, the magic he’d had to use to do it had been created through the deaths of millions of Vashta Nerada.  It should never have been utilised, but Merlin hadn’t had a choice really.  He’d tried to take the magic into himself and to share some of it with Phillip, but that had just overloaded the delicate balance of magic and GH325 in his uncle’s cells, nearly killing him.  Merlin hadn’t been able to hold the rest, and it had to go somewhere.

It had gone into the body of his mother, bringing River back to life.

Merlin couldn’t regret it.  Even though there would always be that little sliver of darkness within him for actually doing it.  And he had no idea just what sort of repercussions there would be because of what he’d done.

And there would be.  He had no doubt of that.  It was the nature of magic, for there to be consequences for what he’d done, even though it had been done with the best of intentions.

River had been staying around, as well, when before she wouldn’t have hesitated in leaving after a couple of weeks. Merlin was pitifully grateful that his mother wanted to be there, and he’d treasure this time for as long as it lasted.

“I’m not the one who was responsible for the deaths of all of those Vashta Nerada,” Merlin reminded her sharply.

Lucy simply shrugged, as if it wasn’t a big deal. 

“Open the cell, please,” Arthur requested of the guard.

The man looked uncertain.  “You can’t go in there with a weapon…”

Merlin’s mate rolled his eyes.  “This is Excalibur, and no one can take it from me.  The sword won’t let them.”

Now the guard’s expression turned dubious, but before he could once again put his foot in it and insult Arthur further, River stepped in. 

“You do know who the Once and Future King is, don’t you?” she asked sweetly.  “I’m certain you might have read about him in school…if you went to school, that is?”

The guard bristled at her insinuation, and this time it was Merlin getting between their guide and a member of his family.  “Open the door, please,” he said.  “You know Arthur wouldn’t have been able to bring Excalibur in here without the permission of the warden.”

He was trying to sound logical and calm, and it must have worked because the guard keyed the cell door open. 

Merlin thanked the guard, then said, “We’ll call if we need anything.”

The guard nodded and, once the three of them were in the cell with Lucy, shut and re-locked the door.  Merlin didn’t have to turn around to know that they were being left alone with the prisoner; the guard’s rather heavy footsteps receded into the distance as he headed back to the control centre.

Lucy sat back on the bunk, leaning back against the wall, pulling her legs up into the bed and tucking her feet under her thighs.  “So, you wanted to ask me questions about something I don’t know anything about?”  Her words were haughty, as if they were the prisoners and she wasn’t.

“Ms Cole,” Arthur began.

Only to be interrupted by, “Mrs Saxon.”

Arthur’s lip curled up slightly in a superior sneer.  “Legally, it’s Lucy Cole.  So, Ms Cole…we know you were attempting to resurrect the Master for HYDRA, so there’s no need to deny it. What we want to know is, where are your compatriots and how deeply do your actual plans go?”

Lucy gave him a smile that wasn’t quite as superior as Arthur’s expression, but then Arthur had been the King of Albion at one point, and no one could out-superior him.  “I’m afraid you’ve wasted your time.  I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.”

“You’re lying,” River said bluntly.  “We have enough evidence that HYDRA exists.  We know you were planning on bringing back the Master for them.  Now,” she stepped right into Lucy’s personal space, looming over the prisoner, her face implacable, “you’re going to tell us everything you know.  Contacts, places…everything.”

Lucy didn’t look at all intimidated, which Merlin thought was a really big mistake.  He was River’s son, and he was intimidated.

“You do know what Merlin did, don’t you?” Lucy taunted.  “All that death magic…and here you are, standing here, threatening me.”  She laughed, a thin echo of madness in it.  “I can see it…he might have taken my magic away, but I can still see it, the darkness of it, just under your skin…waiting to erupt free.  It’s only going to be a matter of time…”

It was all Merlin could do not to flinch.  Of course, his mother knew what he’d done.  Merlin would have to live with the knowledge of that for the rest of his life.

He also had to live with stripping Lucy of her magic, although it was the only thing he could have done under the circumstances.  The spell involved had been powerful and borderline dark in its own way, but no place would have been able to hold her if he’d allowed her to be locked away with the magic she’d had.  They simply couldn’t risk her getting away, not with the knowledge that she’d seen in the Darkhold.

River’s lips curved up into a cruel smirk.  “See, what you don’t understand is that this darkness has always been a part of me.  I’m just aware it’s there and know how to use it when I need to.”

“Mum,” Merlin warned.

Instantly, the wizard realised he’d made a mistake giving Lucy that particular piece of information. 

Lucy’s eyes went wide, and she looked extremely pleased.  “The infamous River Song?  Oh, this is delicious!  I should have guessed who you were.”

“If you think that’s delicious,” River snarled, “then maybe you should see how this tastes.”

Merlin had no idea where his mother had hidden the gun that suddenly appeared in her hand, and he really didn’t want to know.

The tiny, snub-nosed blaster was aimed directly between Lucy’s eyes, and the woman went a little cross-eyed trying to focus on it.

He should have been doing something about that gun, but Merlin found himself stepping back and letting his mother handle things.  Arthur seemed to have the same opinion; his mate stood there, arms folded over his chest, watching River with stern features that belied the humour dancing in his blue eyes.

Arthur must have realised that River would pull something.  Merlin wondered when he’d gotten to know Merlin’s own mother better than Merlin did.

“You see,” River mused, as if it was just another day of the week, “my sons would have a problem with using whatever means necessary to get the information out of you.  Me, on the other hand, I really don’t care as long as you tell us what you know.  After all, you tortured my son, and my friend, and as far as I’m concerned you don’t deserve any sort of basic courtesy.  Like not beating the shit out of an unarmed prisoner.  Or putting a stream of ions through various parts of your body, just to hear you scream, like Phillip screamed.”

Merlin was aware that his mother hadn’t been the same River that was in the Library’s Data Core.  She wouldn’t have witnessed Phillip being under the mind probe like her data ghost had.  However, she knew the story, and understood what Phillip had gone through, and the Doctor had to have mentioned the screaming.  It wasn’t like it was something his Dad could have easily forgotten.

“Or maybe we should bring in a mind probe,” Arthur suggested, “so she knows what it feels like.”

The wizard himself had also been subjected to the mind probe, and all he could recall was the memory of pain.  He had, however, heard Phillip screaming from where he, himself, had been trapped within the Data Core, and he couldn’t help the shiver that travelled down his spine.

Arthur must have noticed, because he pressed his shoulder against Merlin’s offering some comfort, and then drew away, giving Lucy what Merlin called his “Royal Prat” stare.

Lucy laughed.

It was just a little bit frightening.

“Do whatever you like,” she taunted.  “You can even kill me, and I’ll just come back.  I’ll just reincarnate again, and I’ll come and hunt you all down and get what’s mine back.”

“Are you so sure of that?” Arthur taunted right back.  “Are you so sure you’ll simply reincarnate with all your memories intact?”

It was something Merlin wanted to know, as well.  The only people who seemed to remember any past lives were either members of his family or affiliated with the Jones clan.  How had a group of people, wholly unrelated to any of them, come back with all of their memories? 

Something out there was bringing back these former lives, and it was something Merlin needed to find out about.  As well as how HYDRA even could figure out who was who in the first place, like they had with Suzie Costello.

And he was positive that Lucy knew all about it.

She was magic, and it could have only been an act of magic that would have been able to reveal just what soul belonged to who, and to bring those ancient personalities back to the forefront of memory. Merlin would have been willing to bet much of his mate’s horde that it had been Lucy herself who, if not coming up with the very ceremonies to do just that, had been one of the major players in the original casting. 

Lucy had that superior look back on her pretty face.  “I’ll always come back,” she boasted.  “Nothing you can do will stop me from reincarnating.  And, when I do, I’ll get the Darkhold and bring my Harry back.”

Merlin snorted.  “You’ll never get the Darkhold again.”

“You won’t be able to hide it from me forever!” Lucy shouted.  For the first time in this interview, she looked ready to attack, and it was only River’s mini blaster that was keeping her from jumping at Merlin. 

“We can,” Merlin averred.  “After we retrieved it, we put it in the one place you’ll never be able to reach it.  We tossed it into the heart of a sun.”

It really had been a brilliant idea, one that Merlin wished he’d come up with.  Everything that had happened at the Library could have been avoided if he’d just gotten rid of the damned thing the moment he’d started feeling the pull to use it.

But then, if he’d done that, he never would have gotten his mother back.  And River had seemed very content to hang around the family for a while this time.

With that pronouncement, Lucy screamed.  She jerked forward, hands outstretched, fingers curled into claws.  She didn’t manage to get past the blaster, however, and River used it to force her back onto the bunk, the round barrel pressing deeply into the crazed woman’s forehead. 

It was going to leave a bruise, but Lucy didn’t seem to even notice.

She tried to launch herself at Merlin once again, and this time Arthur had Excalibur out of its sheath and resting against Lucy’s throat in one, smooth, movement.  The combination of high-tech gun and magical sword had the woman pushed against the wall, breathing heavily and glaring at Merlin as if the sheer hatred in her eyes would burn him up where he stood.

Words in the language of magic spilled from her lips, but they had no effect; if she’d had even the smallest modicum of her power left, Merlin would have been in serious pain from the curses she was trying to cast upon him.

Frustration twisted her features, and Lucy slumped backward, sliding along Excalibur’s blade just enough that the preternaturally sharp sword cut a thin line along the delicate skin of her neck.  Arthur pulled the weapon back out of the way, sheathing it in one, smooth movement. 

Lucy didn’t even seem to notice that she’d been wounded, bright red blood pearling along the small cut.

Merlin leaned forward, pressing his advantage.  “There are spells that prevent a soul from moving on,” he murmured.  He knew that for a fact; it had been one such spell that had prevented Arthur from reincarnating until he’d been set free from it, even if Merlin had cast it by complete and utter accident.  “It wouldn’t be hard to bind your soul to your body, so that you wouldn’t even have death to escape from your punishment.  Believe me, Lucy…having your magic taken away and your plans thwarted are the least of your concerns at this moment.”

At that, Lucy went pale.  “You wouldn’t dare!”

“If it meant I’d be saving my family, I’d dare to do anything.” 

The woman looked absolutely defeated. 

Merlin didn’t feel at all sorry for her.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

28 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Stark’s World

Cartel Space

 

The Doctor narrowed his eyes.  It took him a second, but he finally figured it out.

Then he grinned.  “That’s brilliant!  The human race…what it won’t do.”  Then he paused, because he had to think about that for a second.  “But, the technology didn’t exist for this sort of thing back in the 21st century!”

Stark made a scoffing tone.  “I’m a genius.”

He figured the living computer had a point.

Then the Doctor narrowed his eyes again.  “And how am I just hearing about this now?”

“Because,” Phillip answered, “when Stark became his own computer, he learned a modicum of circumspection as well.  It’s not common knowledge that the Central Computer and the historical figure, Tony Stark, are the same person.”

“It’s also easier to wipe a computer’s databanks, even though I’ve taken ultimate precautions against it,” Stark added.  “Sue me, but I like the idea of being able to think for myself.”

“We can also now truthfully say that Stark as an ego the size of a planet,” Clint said gleefully.

The Doctor wasn’t so sure about that; after all, he’d met Ego, the Living Planet, and there wasn’t a bigger arse out there in the universe, in his considered opinion.  He seriously doubted Stark could match it.

“Clint and I have known about it since Stark decided to transfer his consciousness into his first computer housing,” Phillip added, sighing, “but I was still surprised when the extremely large, congratulatory fruit basket arrived on Hubworld, after I took over as Director of Torchwood.”

“Hey, you were wasted as the head of the Shieldsmen!  And whoever came up with the title ‘Grand Master’ really didn’t like you very much, did they? It was only right you take a more public stand on galactic affairs.”

“I was perfectly fine with being behind the scenes.” 

“But you can do so much more now than you could being the power behind the throne, and get the credit you deserve for it.”

Phillip didn’t make any comment about the Grand Master thing, and honestly the Doctor agreed with Stark’s assessment of it.  He got the impression that this was a familiar argument between the pair, and judging from Clint’s sigh, the Star Dragon really had heard it all before.

“Do you think we could get back to the subject at hand?” Alun interrupted politely. 

“You’re right, of course,” Phillip admitted.  “Just why did you have us arrested, Stark?”

The sentient computer was silent for a moment, then said, sounding almost belligerent, “Someone killed a Star Dragon on my doorstep.  Pardon me if I didn’t want a repeat.”

Phillip grimaced.  “Then I understand, and I apologise for being confrontational about it.”

“It’s fine, Agent,” Stark said magnanimously.  The Doctor wondered if the Central Computer was always so…mercurial.  “Besides, I knew you’d have that patrol doing your bidding within a minute of them taking you into protective custody.  And I just love watching a master at that sort of thing work.  It was the highlight of my day!”

“What can you tell us about what happened?” Clint asked, bringing them all back on task.

“First, of all,” Stark replied, sounding contrite, “I’m sorry for your loss.  If there could have been any way to have prevented it, I would have.”

“Thank you, Mr Stark,” Cadi whispered. 

“Nothing was your fault.” The Doctor was surprised that the living computer could have so easily picked up on Cadi’s distress and the reason for it. 

Cadi didn’t say anything; she simply hugged herself, as if she was trying to physically hold herself together.

“That alley, like every other place on Stark’s World, is heavily monitored,” Stark went on.  “But, somehow, the cameras in the alley itself went down moments before it happened, and then came back up just as mysteriously after the fact.  My techs have gone through the system, and they think magic was somehow involved.” That last part had the computer sounding disgusted, although the Time Lord couldn’t tell if it was because of the actual technology failure, or the cause of it.

“Magic can affect technological devices,” Nicole confirmed.  “But this means we’re dealing with yet another wizard, or someone with access to the spells needed to cover their tracks.”

That made sense.  Merlin had said that magic had been involved, and had most likely been responsible for catching Sabrina by surprise, allowing the assassin – and the Doctor had no doubt that was what they were dealing with here – to make the strike that killed her. Still, they needed more facts before jumping to any sort of conclusion.

“Why was your operative even here, Coulson?” Stark asked.  He didn’t sound angry that a foreign power had sent an agent onto a neutral world; in fact, the computer seemed very concerned that there had even been a reason for it.

The Doctor could tell that Phillip really didn’t want to say, and saw the moment of hesitation.  Still, his friend sighed, and explained.

He told Stark about the Library, and about what they’d discovered about this new resurgence of HYDRA.  Phillip went on about the trail of destruction that Sabrina had been following, and that it had led her to Stark’s World. 

Stark cursed, quite fluently, in about six different languages.  “Fucking HYDRA.  And here I’d thought we’d taken them down for good back in the day.”

“As did I,” Phillip confessed.  “We just didn’t have any idea that this sort of thing could happen.”

The living computer snorted.  “Yeah, like I was so convinced that magic didn’t exist before Loki.  God, I was such an idiot back then.”

The Doctor almost missed Phillip’s slight flinch, and the only thing that made his certain he’d seen it was Clint’s reaction; he stepped closer to his mate, as if to reassure Phillip.

The immortal had been mostly over what had occurred back then, but events at the Library had brought it all back, especially the magical overload.  The Doctor wondered just how bad the nightmares were, now, and he made a mental note to ask Clint about it.  He was having enough of his own, and is imagination was giving him an idea of what Phillip was currently dealing with.

“If something is going on here, I’ll find it,” Stark vowed.  “No one does this in my house and gets away with it.”

“Nicole and the Doctor would like to run some scans in that alley,” Phillip requested. 

“Yeah, not a problem.  I had my own science nerds do the same, but even I know a Time Lord and a wizard might find more than my own tech can.”

“Cadi and Alun are going to be heading offworld,” the immortal went on.  “Cadi has contacts she wants to pick for information, and Alun’s her back-up.”

“Let me contact the Central Spaceport and have your ship checked over,” Stark offered.  “I’ll admit I’ve been keeping a close eye on it ever since…well, ever since, and no one’s been around it, but I’d still feel better if we could rule out any attempts of sabotage.”

“Thanks again,” Cadi said, sounding a little stronger than before.  The Doctor knew her ship meant a lot to her.  She didn’t even question how Stark had known where her ship was; he suspected that not a lot went on, on Stark’s World, that the living computer didn’t know about.

“I’d like to see the before and after camera footage, if you don’t mind,” Phillip said.

“It’s all yours.  And I’m gonna see if I can find out what HYDRA’s been up to on my world.”  He sounded outraged at the notion, and the Doctor could understand.  After all, back when he’d been human, Tony Stark, and his alter-ego Iron Man, had been on the forefront of the war against HYDRA, as had SHIELD and, to a lesser degree, Torchwood.  Having them suddenly reappear in the midst of galactic events would have been enough to make anyone thoroughly irritated.

“We appreciate you’re willing to help us,” Clint said sincerely. 

“Legolas, you really didn’t even need to ask. Your dads were friends of mine back in the day, and though we had a bit of falling out over the Sokovia Accords, we all came together when the world needed us to.  Besides, you and Ianto fought with the team back in the beginning and, in my book, once an Avenger, always an Avenger.  We all might’ve changed over the centuries, but we’re still friends.”

“Tad was an Avenger?” Alun was awestruck by that news.  “I knew Clint was, in his previous life, but Tad?”

Stark laughed.  “Oh yeah, kid.  When this is all over, come and remind me to tell you all about it.  Hell, I even have video.  Bring anyone you like.  You guys are welcome on Stark’s World anytime.”

The Doctor thought Alun would have been upset at being called a kid, but the Adjudicator just looked thrilled at the news.  Apparently, Stark now had a new fanboy. 

He knew about the Cybermen attack on New York, and the later major Skrull invasion, but hadn’t been on Earth for either event.  Still, Torchwood, SHIELD, and the Avengers had handled things just fine without him, although to be fair his Tenth self had still been sulking at the time.  Honestly, if he could go back and have a talk with himself, he would. 

“And there’s no chance that the perpetrator might still be planetside?” Phillip asked.

“The moment I realised what happened I had the place locked up tight, but there was a good local hour that he could’ve gotten off world.” The shrug in the computer’s voice was evident.

“Then we need to get to work.”  The immortal suddenly looked tired, and the Doctor couldn’t help but worry.  It was only a few short months since Phillip had been healed from the inadvertent magical overload that had nearly killed him, and the Time Lord was aware he was still suffering a few effects from it, as well as the nightmares that had to now be recurring; and he didn’t even want to get into what there might be from the infusion of dark magic.  He wanted nothing more than to bundle up his friend into the TARDIS and tell him to rest, but he knew Phillip wouldn’t stand for it.

Phillip’s need for vengeance was as strong as anyone’s in the family.  Including the Doctor’s. 

It was amazing how dragony he’d gotten just since the Library, especially over a certain immortal’s well-being.  Honestly, the Doctor felt a sense of belonging he hadn’t since Gallifrey had burned, and he quite liked it.

It didn’t hurt that he was also concerned about just what long-term effects the overload of dark magic might have on Phillip. 

“Let me arrange escorts for you all,” Stark offered.  “I know whoever had done it has to be gone by now, but there’s no telling who might have been left behind, and I really don’t want to have to face an angry daddy dragon if I have to tell Ianto that another member of his family was hurt on my world…or worse.”

“Thanks, Stark,” Clint said gratefully.  “Where can Phillip and I view the security footage?”

“The Security Centre is down on the fifteenth floor.  I’ll arrange to have you met there, and shown to an office where you can set up.  I take it, Agent, you’re on a sabbatical from Torchwood for this?”

“I am.  It’s family, which makes it personal.  Jack and Ianto are speaking to Her Imperial Majesty about the clan’s laws dealing with vengeance against HYDRA.  In this, I am a Jones, and not the Director of the Institute.”

Clint looked so very proud at Phillip’s pronouncement.  The Doctor thought it was to do with the fact that, for a very long time, Phillip didn’t think he actually was a member of the Harkness-Jones family.  But that had changed the moment Clint had recognised him as his mate, and in that moment everything that Jack and Ianto had been telling Phillip over the centuries had hit home. 

The Doctor had arrived too late to witness the actual event, which had been on the heels of Phillip being kidnapped into the past by Juno Bayl, the former head of the Time Agency, which had triggered everything.  That had been the first time the Doctor had actually met Phillip, but he liked to think that they’d been friendly ever since.  It was just since the Library that the Time Lord had become so much closer to the immortal, and he was a bit disappointed in himself for not pursuing more of a friendship before they’d nearly died.

“Well said,” Stark congratulated.  “And you’ll have whatever help I can give you.  I want to catch the son of a bitches who dared kill someone on my world and under my own proverbial nose.  And, if HYDRA is up to something, I want in on going after them.”

“I think that can be arranged.”  The room suddenly got a little chillier at Phillip’s words, and the Doctor shivered.

Not that the temperature change.  He could handle that.  No, it was the promise in that statement, and the Doctor didn’t pity HYDRA in the least. 

No, it was time for the Jones Clan to go to war, and the Oncoming Storm would be going with them.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

28 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Imperial Throneworld

 

“How is the Crown Prince doing, anyway?” Jack asked as he and Ianto left the Palace, Steve still accompanying them.

“Much better,” the Grand Master answered, his eyes on the road as he drove them toward the Playground, headquarters of the Shieldsmen.  “He’s staying close to home for a bit, until this HYDRA mess can be cleaned up.  He still has nightmares about it, but the psychologist who’s talking to him says they should fade away with time.”

The attempt to kidnap six-year-old Crown Prince Joshua had made news all over the Empire.  The young heir had been at school – one that had been vetted before the boy had started attending – when a team of HYDRA agents had penetrated the grounds of the school with the intent on taking the prince against his will.  It had only been the four Shieldsmen that had been assigned as Joshua’s bodyguards that had stopped them in their tracks, with only minor injuries to them.  However, the would-be kidnappers had all committed suicide, proudly announcing to anyone nearby that they were loyal to HYDRA.

“HYDRA won’t be a danger much longer.”  There was a rough undercurrent in Ianto’s voice, a magical tone to it that spoke of his complete certainty that what he was stating was true.

Jack only wished he could be that certain.

He wanted nothing more than to bring down the ones that took his little girl away.  Whoever they might be, Jack was going to put a bullet in their brains for murdering Sabrina.  But they had no idea just what HYDRA was up to, let alone where they were hiding. 

Every lead they’d had, hadn’t panned out…so far.  He hadn’t even realised they were getting close until Sabrina’s death. 

Still, she’d been led into a trap.  Because the right person had to have been there, the one who knew how to kill dragons. 

Unless, it was something HYDRA now knew how to do, and that didn’t bear thinking about.

A hand came to rest on his, and he glanced over at his mate.  Ianto’s ancient eyes were regarding him, his gaze so full of sorrow and loss, and yet there was a determination there that Jack had seen many times in the past; it spoke of the dragon’s absolute conviction that they were going to get their vengeance, no matter how long it took.

It was one of the good things about being immortal: they had the time to hunt their enemies down.

Not that he wanted it to take a long time.  The longer they were on the hunt, the more people could potentially get hurt.

The Playground was a tall building about a standard mile from the Imperial Palace.  When HYDRA had raised its ugly head once more, Jack had gone back to the files they had, and what wasn’t in Torchwood’s mainframe he’d managed to get from Steve; all of the SHIELD files were kept in the Shieldsmen’s own Archives.  So, Jack knew that this was the third version of the Playground.  The first, had been SHIELD headquarters back while then-SHIELD Director Phil Coulson was rebuilding after the first resurgence of HYDRA, back in the 21st century.  The second, which had taken over an old UNIT facility outside of Denham, had been the result of SHIELD relocating to the UK, after the Sokovia Accords had been put into effect.  That had caused a lot of bad feeling with many of Earth’s governments at the time, according to the records, simply because it was thought that Great Britain was becoming its own superpower, with being both a safe refuge for the sudden influx of Inhumans and SHIELD’s presence. 

Ianto did recall that time, and had explained to Jack that it had been the beginning of the United Kingdom’s own resurgence onto the world scene as a powerful country in its own right, and as an example of how powered and non-powered people could live in peace without the threat of registration hanging over everyone’s heads.

This third Playground had been built under Phillip’s orders when SHIELD’s remit had changed to being security for the Imperial family.  SHIELD had been the only organisation that had been trusted to do it, simply because of their stance on Inhumans.  Ianto had confided that he’d thought it a waste of Phillip’s abilities at the time, but it had worked out for the best.

Steve parked the vehicle in the car park at the Playground, and the three of them got out, heading into the building.  The interior wasn’t as fancy as the Palace, but then that was to be expected; nothing really could compare to the sheer opulence of the Palace, plus the Playground had been built to Phillip’s exacting specifications. 

The entered through one of the rear doors.  There was a guard on station there; they had to go through the same security checks they’d done for the Imperial Palace, which was impressive as the woman must have known just who Steve was, since he was the current Grand Master. 

Grand Master.  Jack wanted to chuckle at the picture of their son-by-mating going by that grandiose title.  Phillip would never have called himself that, and if the immortal remembered correctly he’d hardly ever used it except for official, Imperial, functions.  ‘Director’ suited him much better.

There were times when Jack wondered why he and Ianto hadn’t offered Phillip Torchwood back when they’d first retired, instead of leaving it in the hands of a succession of Directors and Seconds that were, at times, not suited for the jobs.  Still, it had all turned out for the best, even if it had taken them a while to get to where they were now.

Steve took them to his office, a spacious room on the top floor.  It had once been Phillip’s, but Steve had certainly put his own brand on the space in the near-century he’d been in charge.  The desk, shelves, and tables were all of a light-coloured wood, upholstery equally light, almost an almond shade.  Steve had a host of high-tech gadgets, and Jack knew for a fact that there was an actual artificial intelligence that ran the Grand Master’s appointment schedule.  As far as Jack knew, Steve didn’t even have a flesh and blood assistant.

Rumour had it that the AI was out of Stark’s World, and with Tony Stark behind it, it was bound to be as self-aware as any living person.

“Come in and have a seat,” Steve invited.  “Can I get you anything?”

“Water for me, please,” Jack requested.  Ianto politely declined the offer.

Jack was getting concerned for his mate.  Ianto hadn’t been eating or sleeping much since they’d received the news about Sabrina, and the immortal was well aware of the dragon’s metabolism, and how much fuel he needed to function.  Sleep, not such much; Jack had seen Ianto go for a week without a single hours’ rest, but food…no, he needed it, to keep his inner fire burning.  Jack didn’t think he’d seen Ianto eat a full meal in days.

He knew his mate was mourning.  Hell, Jack was in the same boat.  But he was going to have to speak to Ianto about this not eating, because he was going to need to be at full strength if they were going to be facing HYDRA.

Steve tilted his head upward slightly.  “Peggy, can you have someone bring up water for Director Harkness and a coffee for me, please.”

“Of course, Grand Master,” the mellifluously accented female voice came from what looked like a speaker in the corner of the room.  If he was honest, Jack was a bit of a Luddite when it came to artificial intelligences, even though he’d had them in the past.  He much preferred to do things himself, and despite the Torchwood mainframe being nearly sentient herself – and don’t get him started on the TARDIS – it just felt better to him to physically input into a terminal what he needed. 

It probably had more to do with him having lived most of his life now around a somewhat lower sort of tech than anyone else had access to.  Ianto had once talked about getting a house AI in at the Green Dragon Inn, but Jack had talked him out of it, pointing out that it would be watching them all the time.  And, unless the dragon had a kink Jack wasn’t aware of, he didn’t think Ianto would be comfortable with that sort of scrutiny. 

Okay, maybe the whole AI thing was more Jack not wanting anyone seeing what he and Ianto got up to, outside of their official mating flights.  It was a form of possessiveness that the immortal would never have considered him having until he’d met a certain dragon, and it was certainly out of place in someone who’d been born in the 51st century.

“Thank you.”  With that, Steve sat at his desk, folding his hands onto the desktop, his blue eyes flicking back and forth between Jack and Ianto, his concern evident.  “I know this is a silly question, but…how are you both doing?”

Jack wanted to snap something hateful in that moment.  It really was a silly question, one that he was getting tired of hearing.   How was he supposed to feel, besides angry and heartbroken and lost?  One of his children was dead, murdered by someone who’d known just where to strike, and the only thing keeping him from lashing out at Steve was the fact that the man was absolutely and completely sincere in his question.

Instead, Jack sighed, letting all of his emotions out in that single, long breath.  “It’s…hard, Steve.  Right now, we’re running on sheer determination and a need for vengeance.”

The sympathy in the man’s eyes was almost painful to see.  “I’m sure, but you both know you won’t be able to do that for too long.”

“We know,” Ianto answered softly.  “But, at the moment, it’s all we have.”

“You know every resource I have is yours,” Steve offered. 

“Like we told the Empress, this isn’t anything official,” Jack responded, feeling touched by the offer but needing to give Steve an out if he had to have one.

“No, I understand. You’re two parents, mourning the loss of a child.  But even you have to see that this is also Imperial business, simply because the Star Dragons are a member of said Empire.  They hurt one of us, they hurt us all.  Even if they hadn’t involved the royal family by attempting to kidnap Prince Joshua, we’d be helping.”

Jack accepted that.  Although not governed by the same rules as their family, the Empire did have rather stringent laws against such things, and Steve was perfectly within his right to investigate on his own.

Also, there was the HYDRA angle.  Steve’s own family had been on the forefront of the fight against the organisation back during World War Two.  His personal history was chock full of stories about Captain America and HYDRA.  Steve had as much reason as anyone else to get personally involved.

“I’m going to put you in contact with some operatives I have out in the field,” Steve went on.  “I don’t know if Phillip ever mentioned the special forces team he put together, when he first began organising the Shieldsmen…”

“He did,” Jack confirmed.  “Code-named ‘Howling Commandos’, correct?”

He did recall asking Phillip why that name, and his son-by-mating had gone into great detail about Captain America and World War Two, and it had taken Jack only a few minutes before he’d remembered hearing about the Commandos during his stint in the old Earth RAF.  He didn’t think he’d ever actually met any of them back then; he’d been one of many ‘fly boys’ and the Commandos had been Army, and there had been hardly any overlap. 

“That’s right.  I’ve had them out, following up leads…not that they’ve had much success.  Still, they’re at your disposal, should you need more eyes out there.”

A part of Jack wanted to refuse the offer, but the more pragmatic part knew that having access to another form of information gathering would be ideal, especially now that Phillip had taken his leave of absence from Torchwood.  Not that that would stop Melinda from carrying on her own investigation; after all, she was just as invested in hunting down HYDRA as the rest of them were.  She had all those memories of being on the front lines in that first life, after all.

“Grand Master,” Peggy’s voice broke in, “I hate to interrupt, but there is a message coming in for Director Harkness and Second Jones.”

“Who is it?” Ianto asked, worry drawing out the lines on his forehead.

“He says he is your grandson, Abraham Morgan-Jones,” the AI answered.

Jack’s heart stuttered, then began hammering as if it wanted to burst out of his chest.  He couldn’t think of a single reason why Abraham would be calling, unless something happened…

“Put it on my screen here, Peggy,” Steve commanded.  Just from his expression, Jack could tell the Grand Master must have also determined that there was something wrong.

One of the windows behind Steve’s desk darkened, cutting out the light.  It was a comm screen, and Abraham’s face faded into view. 

He was pale, and he looked panicked.

“What’s happened?” Ianto asked.  The dragon stood, and Jack was right next to him, dreading what their grandson was going to say but needing to hear it.

“Granddad…Grandtad,” Abraham’s voice was practically choked with fear, “it’s Mum and Dad…You need to come.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

28 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Luna University

The Moon

 

Henry Morgan stood outside the Regents’ office, feeling jittery in a way that pacing wasn’t going to fix.

He wasn’t allowed in the meeting that was taking place behind that closed door.  He’d wanted to, but the University Regents had put their collective feet down, and had told him in no uncertain terms that as a tenured instructor he didn’t have the seniority to attend any such meeting, even when it had been called by his own mate.

Henry did know what Rowena intended to say wasn’t going to go over really well.  The University was affectively losing three of their professors, even though Ianto himself didn’t have tenure.  Plus, Rowena was the Chair of History, and finding someone to cover her duties wasn’t going to be easy. 

But Rowena had already said that she’d resign if they denied her this leave.  And Henry would support her one hundred percent.  It wouldn’t be the first time he’d had to start over in another profession, even though it was now fairly common knowledge that he was immortal.  Back, before he’d become just that little bit infamous for mating with a Star Dragon, and had thus lived in anonymity, Henry had changed professions – and identities – every couple of decades, so people wouldn’t realise he wasn’t aging.  So, this wouldn’t be a hardship for him at all.

It wasn’t as if the Regents didn’t know what had happened.  It was the talk of the campus; the Star Dragons and their family, singing the Song of Mourning to the dome’s rafters.  The rumours were running rampant, but Henry ignored them.  Anyone who knew of dragons understood what had caused the singing, even if they had no idea who all of them had been grieving for.

He still couldn’t believe it.  His strong, independent sister-by-mating…taken from them by a coward who’d had to lure her into a trap in order to strike.  It made Henry angry, and while he wasn’t a dragon himself he could certainly understand and want to participate in any sort of vengeance his family wanted to bring down on those responsible.

While many of his earliest memories were all but gone, Henry could still remember being in New York when the Chitauri had come.  He’d seen heroes over the city, and how the Avengers had fought the aliens back to where they’d come from.

He also could recall HYDRA.  How SHIELD had been taken down from within.  The Cybermen. Sokovia.  The Accords.  The fear that had consumed much of the country, over sleeper agents and Inhumans.  He’d hidden himself, not wanting to ‘out’ himself as something other than human.  He’d had friends then, as well, to stand with him.  And his son, his precious boy, who’d protected him and his secret.

He’d kept that secret far into the future, until he’d met the woman who would become his mate for all eternity.  Now, he had a family, and no fear of keeping his immortality hidden.  He had people who understood what it was like to live forever, and he could rely on them to stand with him and accept him for who he was.

And he’d stand with them, no matter what.

As he waited there, Henry thought about everything he’d gained.  And the one person he’d just lost.

There were only the sound of raised voices once, but he couldn’t make out what was said through the closed door.

But he stood where he was, knowing his Rowena could hold her own against anyone.  She might have been the quieter of the twins, but Rowena ap Llyn – Rowena Harkness-Jones – had a backbone of pure diamond.  Not steel…steel could wear down over the years, and become brittle with age.  Diamond, though, was nearly as eternal as their bond, and just as precious.

Finally, the door opened.  But it wasn’t Rowena who came out first.

It was the Vice-Chancellor.

Vice-Chancellor Morag Saldana was a small, thin woman of that age that Henry liked to think of as ‘indeterminate’.  She had iron-grey hair, and walked as if someone had rammed a broomstick up her arse…not that he’d ever say that aloud.  He didn’t really like her all that well, but she was ostensibly his boss, so he’d always treated her with respect.

Her age-lined face was white with rage. Her pale eyes narrowed as she caught sight of him, standing there.  “You need to talk your mate into reconsidering this course of action,” she ordered, as if she could force him to do whatever she wanted him to.

Henry simply regarded her calmly.  While he couldn’t quite match Ianto or Phillip for inscrutableness, he knew he had a damned fine poker face.  “I doubt I could talk Rowena into anything,” he admitted.  “As I’m certain you’ve heard, I’m the secondary in our relationship.”  He said it without any sort on rancour, but he was very much aware that the Vice-Chancellor had said that very thing to others.  It was usually meant as an insult, but Henry knew his worth, and it never bothered him.

It bothered Rowena, because he was her mate and her equal and she was insulted when he was insulted, but Henry just shrugged it off and moved on.

Still, it was a pleasure to see the sour expression on Saldana’s face.  And an even bigger pleasure to see the sheer fury on his mate’s.

Henry met Rowena’s eyes, silently asking her to stand down.  While they didn’t have that whole unspoken conversation thing down as well as his fathers-by-mating did, the immortal thought that he and Rowena did alright.

An example being Rowena’s expression smoothing out into something that vaguely resembled placidity and nodding slightly, as if she could read his need for her to be calm.  It really wouldn’t do for her to lose any more control than she already had.

The immortal knew instinctively what had occurred in that room, just from Salazar’s demand.  Surprisingly, he felt some sorrow at it, but it was for the best. 

“I take it we’re leaving?” he enquired pleasantly, as if he were discussing the weather.

Rowena stepped around Salazar, not even sparing the Vice-Chancellor a glance.  “The Regents were unwilling to let us go past the ascribed mourning period.  I have, therefore, decided that I no longer have a place here.”  Her chin tilted upward, proudly, at her pronouncement.

Not for the first time was Henry ever so glad he’d met this amazing dragon, let alone having her accept him as her mate.  “Then we go to war with the rest of the family.”

The smile she gave him was small and private.  “We go to war,” she agreed.

“This is unacceptable,” Salazar sneered.  “The Empress won’t agree – “

“My fathers are speaking with Her Imperial Majesty as we stand here,” Rowena pointed out.  “As the Star Dragons are their own, recognised race within the Empire, it is within our rights to declare war on anyone who has struck against our own.  The moment my sister was ruthlessly murdered, the Star Dragons called for vengeance on those responsible…as I’ve already stated.  The Empress will acknowledge our claim and allow it.  It will be war.”

Oh, but she was magnificent.  If Henry hadn’t already been in love with her, he would have fallen for Rowena all over again. 

He moved toward her, gallantly offering her his arm.  Giving him a sweet smile, Rowena accepted. He returned it with one of his own, and Henry had the distinct impression that it was incredibly sappy.  Not that he cared much.

Then he glanced over at Vice-Chancellor Salazar.  “I suppose this means I officially tender my own resignation,” he told her, unable to keep the pride out of his own voice. 

“You’re going to regret this,” the woman proclaimed.

“If you think that’s some sort of threat,” Rowena said softly, “then you don’t know the meaning of such a thing.  Henry and I will outlive you, Morag.  I have been at this University for far longer than anyone remembers, and I’ll be in this universe long after you’re dust and your soul has moved on.  You don’t frighten me.”  Her eyes changed into their dragon aspect.  “I am a Star Dragon, and my family will always mean more to me than buildings and institutions.  I will stand with them for eternity, no matter where that path may lead.” 

Henry couldn’t help the smile he gave her as she turned to him once more.  “And I’ll stand with you,” he whispered.  “Always.”

Her eyes shifted back to human, and the love in them was obvious for everyone to see.  “Let’s go home.”

They had quite a lot to do before they could think of heading back to Ddraig Llyn.  They had to clean out their home there in the University complex; they’d purchased it just after their mating, nearly eighty years ago, and there was Rowena’s small hoard to consider.  They would also have to find a place in Ddraig Llyn, which was where they’d decided to move if it came down to them leaving the University permanently.  They knew they’d be welcome to stay at the family home, but eventually they’d want their own house.  Perhaps they’d even build one.

And, of course, there were the children.  Both Jocelyn and Abraham attended courses there, and they would want to move to another school…or leave University completely.  Henry and Rowena had decided to leave it up to them, and they would discuss it at dinner that night. 

Without even giving Vice-Chancellor Salazar a glance, Henry and his mate walked out of the building, arm in arm.

 

**********

 

They took the tram out of the University dome and into the residential areas, toward their home, plans twisting through Henry’s head as to what they’d need to do first.  Clearly, they’d need to pack the house up; they wouldn’t be alone, Abraham and Jocelyn would help, as would any member of their family that wasn’t directly involved with tracking down HYDRA and their assassin.  They’d need to store most of their belongings, not having a place to actually move them into yet, but Henry was betting that one of the pilots in the clan would be more than willing to lend them a ship to get everything down to Earth.

Way back when, he’d never even thought that, one day, he’d have been living on the Moon. 

“I was thinking,” Rowena mused, as they sat next to each other in the tram car.  Through the reinforced plastic windows the lunar surface passed, dry and dead, as they travelled between the domes. 

“That’s usually dangerous,” he couldn’t help but tease her.

His mate snorted at his playfulness.  “I was thinking,” she repeated, digging an elbow into his ribs in rebuke, “that, after everything was done with this HYDRA business, this might be the chance for us to start a new profession.”  She grinned at him.  “Have you ever really considered taking up archaeology?  I know we’ve done a few digs, mainly at the behest of the University, but we really haven’t just gone exploring for ourselves.  And there’s an entire universe out there to see.  We’ve only spent our lives in such a small part of it, really.”

Henry mulled over her question.  “I’ve done a great many things in my life, but actually becoming a real, true archaeologist hasn’t been one of them.  And you’re right: we’ve done a few digs for the University, and we once used an expedition as a cover, I seem to recall…”

Rowena laughed.  “In a good cause.”

“Of course.”  It had been what they’d told Jack they were doing, when Ianto and Anwyn had gone to find Samara.  They actually hadn’t done any sort of digging; instead, they’d hung about Farpoint Station, not doing much of anything except spending time together, and it had been wonderful.  “And it’s not like I don’t have the time in order to take up another course of study…”

“Exactly.”  She leaned into him, and Henry revelled in her warmth.  “We can get a house in Ddraig Llyn, and then you can go back to school.  And when we get fully accredited, we can do some digging.”

“We can even make it a family affair,” the immortal added, enthusiasm for the plan growing.  “You know Jocelyn has been wanting to study history as well, and then there’s River and your father…”

“And it’s not like we’re hurting for money,” Rowena pointed out.  “We could even fund our own expeditions, if we didn’t want to get financial backing.”

“Very true.”  Henry had managed to save quite a lot over the centuries, and he knew for a fact that Rowena’s hoard would fund the University for a year at least…and hers was no comparison to Ianto’s, whom the immortal knew would help with any costs they might accrue in their new venture.  Even Jack had enough money to cover the gross planetary product of a small world and wouldn’t hesitate to offer it to them for whatever they chose to do. 

Not that they’d rely on their family, of course.  But Jack and Ianto would want to help, because Rowena was their daughter and they would do anything for family.

Like get vengeance for the death of one of them.

They couldn’t even think of doing anything until this was no longer hanging over them.  Henry hadn’t been one for vengeance, until he’d mated into the Jones clan and had learned all about dragon society and Pacts and magic.  He’d been welcomed in without reservation, and he’d taken on draconian norms with an ease that still surprised him.

The tram stopped at their residential dome, and the pair disembarked, Rowena taking his hand as they made their way out of the transport station and toward their home.  The residential dome where the tenured instructors lived was one of the smaller attached to the University complex, sidewalks leading from the terminal, lined with trees and shrubs that partially obscured some of the houses that had been built along the quiet streets.  

Henry and Rowena’s place wasn’t that far from the station, so they chose to walk instead of taking one of the small vehicles that were parked along the side of the terminal, there for the use of the residents of the dome. It was peaceful, and Henry simply enjoyed strolling with his mate, although a part of him did miss having the wind in his face and the sun warming his skin.  The light that beamed down upon them was artificial, and not at all warm, since the atmospheric controls kept the temperature at an even level, so despite that small thrill that Henry still managed to get because he was living on the Moon, he found himself not being able to wait to get back to Earth for a time.

As it was during class time, they were the only ones out, and Henry didn’t mind.  His thoughts were on just what they needed to do in order to get ready to move, because he was certain they wouldn’t be given a lot of time before the Regents would want them to leave, even though they owned the house outright.  Yes, he’d miss his students, but at the same time, as long as he was with Rowena, he’d be just fine.

Their home was just up on the left, a single storey structure with a flat roof that Rowena liked to perch on while she was in dragon form.  It was a large, sprawling house, with a cellar where Rowena kept her hoard and the library that Henry had often dreamed of, filled with the antiques that he favoured and the simple woods and fabrics that Rowena enjoyed.  Henry had moved in with her; this had been Rowena’s home before he’d come along, but he’d fit into her life seamlessly.  Certainly, they had their disagreements, but Henry had known almost from the moment he’d met her that she was the one he’d be with for as long as he could. 

He's tried to fight the attraction because, while Rowena hadn’t exactly hidden her dragon nature, Henry hadn’t known what that had meant.  But he couldn’t escape the fact that Rowena ap Llyn – Rowena Harkness-Jones – was his soulmate, something he hadn’t believed in until he’d been introduced to her at a faculty gathering, when he’d first come to the University.  Rowena had realised it, as well, and had pursued him with a single-mindedness that she’d only ever shown in her research projects. 

Henry opened the door for his mate, bowing gallantly.  Rowena laughed and brushed past him, her smirk promising him payment back for the courtesy. 

He couldn’t wait.

The moment the door was closed, Henry was reaching for her, and Rowena let herself be reeled in, laughing at him.  Goddess, she was so beautiful, and there were times when Henry didn’t know why she’d chosen him, but he was going to show her that she would never regret her choice.

Her lips were warm under his.  She growled, the thrum of it vibrating against his chest where her breasts were pressed up against him.  He could feel the slow curl of desire building, and somewhere in the back of his mind wondered if this was the last time they would ever make love in this house, and he was determined to make the most of it.

But Rowena was suddenly pulling away, a frown decorating her features.  “Did you hear that?” she whispered.

Henry cocked his head, but there was only the silence of an empty house around them.  Jocelyn would still be in classes, finalising with her professors about her own family leave, and Abraham wasn’t due back from Ddraig Llyn until later that day. So there shouldn’t have been anyone in the house to make any sort of noise.

He didn’t hear anything, but Rowena’s senses were so much stronger that his own.  “Could it be Abraham back already?”

His mate shook her head.  “The footsteps are too light.  You know how Abraham is; he stomps around like an elephant.”

This was true.  Their son had all the subtlety of his grandfather, although Jack could certainly be sneaky when he wanted to be.  Abraham hadn’t quite learned how to be, as yet.

“Shouldn’t we call Security?”

Rowena shook her head.  “If it’s a student doing a little breaking and entering, then we should be enough to scare them straight.  I wouldn’t want to ruin some kid’s chance because they were in a bind for cash.”

Henry concurred.  They had quite a few things worth money in the house, and it unfortunately made sense that a student hard up might have targeted them.  After all, everyone knew that dragons kept hoards, so it wasn’t such a stretch of the imagination. 

There wasn’t a lot of crime on the University grounds, but there was some, and it wouldn’t have been the first time instructors had been the victims of a student who needed the cash to supplement their income. It was a sad state of affairs, but not unheard of.

Together, they headed toward the back of the house, Henry letting Rowena take the lead, as she’d been the one to hear their intruder.  The bedrooms were just past the kitchen and lounge, down a short corridor.  There were four, one of them having been converted to a study; Abraham’s was on the right, Jocelyn’s on the left, and their own master suite the closed door ahead.  They passed the children’s bath on the way, and Henry noticed that someone had left a towel on the floor; he made a mental note to chide Jocelyn for it, since she was the only of the two currently on the Moon.  Plus, while Abraham might have been an inveterate flirt who loved them and left them, he was the neater of the twins.

The house was still silent.  But Henry knew they’d left their bedroom door open when they’d departed that morning, and it was now closed, only a crack of light showing around the jamb.

Henry didn’t like this, not at all.

Something was telling him that this was off, that it wasn’t just a student trying to find valuables to sell.  He couldn’t say what it was; perhaps it was because what had happened to Sabrina that was colouring his instincts, but there was definitely something wrong, and he pushed in front of Rowena, partly in an attempt to shield her in case whoever had invaded their home had some sort of weapon, knowing that anything someone did to him wouldn’t take.

He usually wasn’t that protective.  Henry was well aware that his mate was tough, and would have been very hard to injure, let alone kill.  But it had only been days since they’d laid his sister-by-mating to rest, and Sabrina had been a Star Dragon as well, and whoever had killed her had known what they were doing.

With a sudden movement, Henry shoved the door open, hoping to catch whoever was on the other side by surprise.

The room was empty.

Light was coming in through a crack in the curtains that covered the glass doors that led out to the patio, just enough to illuminate the room.  In the centre was the traditional dragon bed, made up of quilts, cushions, and pillows in a comfortable jumble, looking just as dishevelled as when he and Rowena had left it that morning.  Nothing on the shelves seemed disturbed.

The door to the en-suite on the right was open, and in the mirror hanging on the back Henry could see his reflection.

He could also see the man dressed in black that was pressed against the wall, just behind him, a long, brilliantly silver dagger was in his hand.

They should have called Security, after all.

The immortal was turning to face the intruder as he felt the bite of the blade pierce his chest.

The aim was true.

Of everyone in the Jones Clan, only Jack and himself were truly immortal.  With Jack, it was the Vortex that dragged him back to life every, single time.

With Henry, it was something else.

No one knew what it was, exactly.  Merlin said it was magic, but he’d never been able to work out just what sort of spell had been used to grant Henry his own version of immortality, and while a long time ago Henry would have wanted his nephew to figure things out and if he could ever really be killed forever, now he was perfectly happy being immortal.  There was only one other just like him, and he hadn’t seen hide nor hair of Adam ever since the Daleks had invaded Earth in the 22nd century.

He was dying before he even hit the carpet.

Henry could hear his mate roaring angrily, feel the magical tingle of Rowena’s transformation into her draconic form through his nerve endings.  He couldn’t speak; the strike had been to his heart, and he was dead only he could still hear what was going on around him even as his vision was darkening.

The intruder snarled, and the angry sound of metal against scale shrieked against his eardrums, and as the light faded around him Henry begged with every single atom in him that his mate would live, that she would survive the attack upon them and get her own brand of vengeance against the bastard who’d dared attack them in their own home.

Another voice broke through the rushing in his ears, and it was Abraham, home now, and Henry fought so hard to get up but that was impossible.

His life was flashing before his eyes, strobing too quickly to follow, like it did every single time he was killed.  Henry Morgan was dead, for the first time in several hundred years.

Then he was alive again, water surrounding him, getting into his mouth and burning his open eyes.

Henry burst to the surface of whatever body of water he’d resurrected in, flailing wildly, wetness chill against his bare skin, the taste of salt on his lips.  He gasped for breath, blinking stinging water from his eyes, the better to see where he was.

There was no land in sight.

Panicking, Henry turned himself in a complete circle. 

He had no idea where he was.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

28 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Hospitaler Tower

The Moon

 

Ianto practically skidded to a halt the moment he spotted Abraham; his grandson looked distraught, and threw himself into the elder dragon’s arms the moment Ianto got close enough.  Ianto clung on, holding Abraham tightly, not wanting to let go of his grandson, just reassuring himself that he was alright.

He and Jack had gotten permission to transmat from Throneworld directly to the Moon.  Steve had insisted, after hearing what had happened; the Grand Master had actually accompanied them to the Shieldsmen’s transmat, and had wished them well after requesting that they call him with updates.  Then he and Jack had gone, appearing almost instantaneously in the main transmat hub for the Moon’s main dome, Armstrong.

Ianto had flown them to the Hospitaler Tower, the largest hospital on the Moon.  Founded by a race of healers nearly five hundred years ago, the tower was also a place of learning for up and coming doctors; their son, Gareth, had served his residency there, and had taught students himself for a while.  He also still had a research lab on premises, but Ianto knew their son wasn’t on the Moon at the moment, he and Carys making their own arrangements for a leave of absence from the medical centre Gareth had been working at on Sparana Prime.

“It’s going to be alright,” Ianto whispered into Abraham’s hair.  “Your mother’s strong, and your Uncle Gareth will have been sent for.”

Steve had promised to call Gareth and get him there as soon as possible.  He’d also said he’d inform Phillip on Stark’s World, Merlin and Arthur at Stormcage, and Anwyn at Ddraig Llyn.  Ianto had been grateful to him for it, as it let the dragon and Jack leave Throneworld immediately.

When Abraham had called, Ianto had known immediately that whoever had killed Sabrina had struck at Rowena and Henry.  There was not a doubt in his mind, even though he hadn’t seen any proof of it as yet.  He didn’t know the whole story, either; one he’d get from Abraham as soon as his grandson was a little calmer.

“They won’t let us see her,” Jocelyn wailed. 

Ianto glanced, seeing his granddaughter cuddled against Jack, her blue eyes reddened from crying. 

“We’ll find out what’s going on,” Jack promised.  He looked furious, which was just how Ianto was feeling.

Jack handed Jocelyn off to Ianto, who freed up one arm to wrap around the other younger dragon, holding them both tightly as his mate headed over to the nearby nurses’ station and, as he watched, Jack threw his weight around to get the answers they needed.

“Can you tell me what happened?” he urged Abraham, who’d been the one to stumble into the attack.

“I…came home early,” the young dragon answered softly.  “I knew Dad and Mum would still be at University, so I thought I’d get some time to myself.”  While Ianto couldn’t see it, he could hear Abraham swallow.  “I…got into the house in time to hear Mum roar from the bedroom.  Then there was this…sound…I’ve never heard anything like it before!  It was almost like fingernails on a chalkboard!  Then there was another roar, and before I knew it, I was down the hall and into the bedroom.”

Abraham shivered, and Ianto tightened his grasp on his grandson.  “Take your time,” he murmured, resting his cheek against Abraham’s hair.  He was almost as tall as Ianto was, and the dragon had to wonder when that had happened. 

“I got there just in time to see Dad…disappear,” Abraham continued, distress making his voice wobble.  “And Mum was bleeding…there was this man, he was standing over her, and he…he said, he was the Dragon Slayer, and he was going to kill Mum like he killed the other one, it had to have been Aunt Sabrina…”

Abraham was shaking harder, and Ianto steered them over to a waiting area, where he got both his grandchildren settled on a small sofa.  He knelt in front of them, taking their hands in his. 

Oh, this was so much worse than he ever thought.

Someone was claiming to be a Dragon Slayer.

It brought back memories of his birth family.  The knights who’d attacked them had been laughing about being Dragon Slayers.  The words came back to him like a nightmare, and he could feel the tears tracking down his cheeks. 

Both Abraham and Jocelyn were weeping as well, and they leaned forward so he could once again gather them into his embrace.  They simply clung to each other, waiting for Jack to bring them news of Rowena. 

Of Henry, Ianto had no clue.

From what Abraham had claimed, Henry must have died.  They were all aware of his particular brand of immortality, but none of them had actually seen it. 

But he always resurrected in water, and there were no open bodies of water on the Moon.

That left only one place he could have gone.

But the Earth was a large place.  They were going to have to find him somehow.

Right now, though, Ianto simply hugged his grandchildren, trying to comfort them while aching himself.

He felt a hand on his shoulder, and Ianto curled away from his grandchildren, to glance up at Jack.  His mate was pale, but his eyes had a look of relief in them.

Ianto released the breath he didn’t know he’d been holding, and the fist clutching his heart unclenched.  “What news?” he asked.

“Is Mum going to be alright?” Jocelyn asked, her voice wet from her crying.

“Yes,” Jack assured them all.  “She was hurt badly, and she’s going to be down for a while, but she’s going to be fine.”

“But what about Dad?” Abraham demanded. 

“We’re going to find him,” Ianto said.  “We know he’s going to be fine, we just have to locate him.”

“But there isn’t any lakes or rivers or anything on the Moon,” Jocelyn cried.  “Where could he have gone?”

“He’s on Earth,” Jack replied confidently.  “It’s the only place he could have gone, and we’ll find him.”

Both children had equal expressions of trust on their faces, and Ianto felt better for it.  Henry was going to be fine, and Rowena would recover.   “Can you finish your story, Abraham?”

“Yeah.  The guy was gonna kill Mum, so I did the only thing I could…I changed, right there in the hallway.  It was a tight fit, but I did it.”  His chin tilted upward proudly.  “Then I breathed fire at him.  I knew it wouldn’t hurt Mum, and Dad was out of the way...”

Jack smiled.  “Well done, Abraham.”

The young dragon blushed.  “I kinda made a mess, though.”

“I don’t think your parents are going to mind,” Ianto said.

“What happened to the man you saw?” Jack prompted.

“I don’t know.  He was gone by the time the fire burned out, and there wasn’t a body.”

Ianto was disappointed, but it really couldn’t have been that easy.  Whoever was doing this, they had knowledge and magic on their side, and it was going to be difficult to get to them. 

“Dad!  Tad!”

They all turned toward the shouting to see Gareth slam into the waiting area, Carys in tow.  Jack met them both, Carys folding into his arms as Gareth put his hand on his Dad’s shoulder.  “Where is she?” he asked. 

Jack explained that Rowena was in one of the large lecture halls, the only place big enough to hold her dragon form.  Gareth nodded, saying he’d go down and see her, then headed down the hallway toward the nurses’ station, speaking to the person on the desk and getting pointed down the corridor.

“We want to see her,” Jocelyn whined. 

“As soon as your Uncle Gareth is done examining her,” Jack promised, as he and Carys joined them.  He kept an arm around her, and Carys willingly stayed in his embrace.

They had a little while to wait, and they were approached by the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Morag Salazar, who apologised for what had occurred. She had apparently not believed things were as bad as Rowena had reported, which made Ianto inordinately angry, especially when he heard that both Rowena and Henry had tendered their resignations.  She went away promising a full investigation, since it had happened on University grounds, but Ianto hadn’t been impressed by her.

The two police officers who came to collect Abraham’s statement, however, did impress the dragon.  Jason Walsh and Casey Shraeger had been assigned the case, and Casey had questioned Abraham quietly and gently, careful with him in a way that Ianto hadn’t been expecting, while her partner took copious notes, offering to have an artist come and get sketches from Abraham of the attacker.

Ianto thought it might have helped things along that Detective Walsh bore an uncanny resemblance to Clint, and the children seemed relaxed in his presence.  Probably yet another case of temporal spatial multiplicity.  It wasn’t the first time they’d run into someone that looked like a friend they’d known, but it was the first for a family member.

After they were done with the statement, Jack took both detectives aside and explained about Sabrina, for which Ianto was pitifully grateful.  The police needed to know that someone was targeting their family, and that under dragon law they had the right to perform vengeance on whoever it was doing it. 

As the police were leaving, Gareth emerged from the doors down the hallway, looking tired but pleased.  “She’s going to be fine,” he told them, getting hugs from Abraham and Jocelyn at the news.  “She’s going to be laid up for a while, but Rowena should make a full recovery.”

“Can we see her now?” Abraham asked.

“You sure can,” Gareth answered.  “Follow me.”

He led them deeper into the tower, through the pair of doors that blocked the waiting areas off from the rest of the building, and then into a lift that only took them up three floors.  “They had to airlift her in,” he explained.  “Rowena had transformed into her dragon shape when she was attacked, and couldn’t change back, not with the wound she was given.”  He growled the last, and Ianto couldn’t blame him.  He wanted to do the same. 

When they found Rowena, she was laid out on the lower floor of an immense auditorium, as Jack had claimed.  Someone had obviously known enough to make sure there were plenty of pillows and cushions for Rowena to lay upon, making her as comfortable as possible.

She was on her side, wings splayed out behind her.  A large swath of white bandage was wrapped around her torso, brilliant against blue-green scales.  Those scales looked a little dull, the effect of her having lost so much blood.  They’d managed to get an IV into her arm, several bags hanging from a stand positioned just beyond her head.  He most likely had Gareth to thank for that.

But she was breathing, and that loosened the last of the fear that had been constricting Ianto’s heart.

He wasn’t ready to lose another child, not this soon.  Not ever, quite honestly.  But someone had ambushed Henry and Rowena in their own home, and would have succeeded in killing her had Abraham not showed up when he had.  In fact, Abraham could have also been a victim as well, if he hadn’t acted quickly and had used his flame.  He must have taken the so-called Dragon Slayer by surprise.

Rowena looked to be asleep, but her eyes opened blearily as soon as they entered the room.  They were hazy with pain, but she managed to smile as she saw them. 

Both Abraham and Jocelyn moved toward their mother, shifting into their own, smaller, dragon forms and cuddling as close as they could without hurting her anymore.  Rowena sighed, content, but then she frowned.  “Where’s Henry?” she asked, her voice weak.

“He was killed, sweetheart,” Jack answered.  “We’re pretty sure he resurrected somewhere on Earth, and we’re going to find him and bring him here to you.”

Rowena nodded slightly.  “Please,” she breathed, her eyes closing once more.

“What can you tell us?” Ianto asked his son.

Gareth crossed his arms over the green scrub top he was now wearing.  It was splattered with blood; Rowena’s.  “Whatever blade did this had to have been enchanted.  It cut through scale like a knife through butter.  Luckily for Rowena, it didn’t hit anything vital.  I would guess it was because she saw the attack coming.”

“I think Henry was killed first,” the dragon patriarch said, “just from what Abraham said.”

“And Abraham interrupted him,” Jack added.  “The police are investigating, but from what those two detectives said no other bodies was found in the bedroom.  Abraham’s flame had done a lot of damage, but nothing to a human.”

“We need to call Rory in,” Ianto suggested.  “He’s our only wizard currently not working on hunting down HYDRA.”  Nicole was on Stark’s World with Phillip and the others, and Merlin was at Stormcage, questioning Lucy Cole.  “Maybe he can get something from the wound.”

“That’s a good idea,” Gareth agreed.  “And, as soon as we can, I’d like to move Rowena to Ddraig Llyn.  She’s pretty much helpless here, and while I doubt the assassin will strike at her again in so public a place, we can’t take that chance.  She’ll be safer surrounded by family and protected by the Great Dragons.”

“Let’s do it,” Jack ordered.  “We also need to find a way to locate Henry.  If we find out what part of the Earth was facing the Moon at the time, that would narrow down the search.”

“Hopefully Henry will be able to get some sort of word back to us,” Ianto said.  “He wouldn’t stay away from his family if he could help it.”

That was it: if Henry could help it.  There was no telling where he might have ended up.  From what he understood, it had been a long time since Henry had last died, and he’d not been offworld when it had occurred, so he really could have come back anyplace, as long as there was a body of water around. 

“Once we do that, we can have Torchwood Central send out drones to search,” the dragon continued.  “We’ll find him and bring him home.”

He looked over at his daughter, and her two children, cuddled up together amid the blankets and pillows of the makeshift dragon nest, and swore that they were going to catch the bastard that was after his family…no matter how long it took.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

28 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Stark’s World

Cartel Space

 

Phillip sighed, pushing his chair away from the computer console.

He was tired. 

Ever since the events at the Library, he hadn’t been sleeping well.  Clint had tried to help, but there was only so much his mate could do, up to and including tiring him out with rather energetic sex.  The nightmares were getting a bit better with time, but he could still feel the shadow of pain from the mind probe, and it echoed along the memories of the TAHITI treatment and mind wipe, mixing together in a feedback loop that didn’t seem to want to end.

At least he hadn’t started carving again.  That had been a real concern after they’d applied a newer version of the GH325 formula in order to balance out the magic that had been running rampant all over his enhanced genome.  He didn’t blame Merlin for what happened, but the loss of control over the ice magic had only exacerbated the bad memories, raking up things that had best been left buried deep within his subconscious. 

And having a baby in the house who didn’t yet sleep the night though didn’t help. 

It was better to just keep working, to keep himself occupied.

And he certainly had a lot of work to do, even though he was technically not acting as Torchwood’s Director at the moment.

HYDRA was back.  And it was after Phillip’s family.

This fresh news was disturbing, to say the least.  Another attack; this one against Rowena and Henry, and in their own home.  Steve hadn’t had a lot of information, but then Phillip doubted there would be much to have until after there was an investigation.  He wanted nothing more than to call Jack and Ianto and get everything they knew directly from them, but they’d most likely be at the hospital now, with Rowena.  And, while Steve didn’t come right out and say it, Phillip could infer that Henry was missing, most like having been killed in the attack.

Henry’s version of immortality had always been taken as something of a joke, but now…no, this wasn’t funny.  There was no way of really knowing where he might have ended up.  In any body of water on Earth most likely, and some of those weren’t safe.  Every scenario of what could go wrong flitted through Phillip’s mind, and he pinched the bridge of his nose in an attempt to fight off the tension headache that was growing behind his eyes.

Behind him, he could hear Clint cursing steadily, in a monotone that was far more disturbing than any screaming rant could be.  Phillip could completely understand his mate’s rage.  This bastard had gone after Rowena and Henry, who were academics and of no possible threat. Yes, Henry might have been in law enforcement and had fought in wars as a soldier before, but he’d been out of the game for far too long to be any sort of danger to anyone.  Whoever had done it, hadn’t cared that the two of them were innocent and the parents of two children.  They’d been ambushed.

Steve had said he’d called Gareth, and Phillip trusted his brother-by-mating to take care of Rowena.  He’d also told Phillip that he was going to warn Anwyn who’d decided to stay at Ddraig Llyn with Samara and baby Daisy, so that meant it was up to Phillip himself to let the rest of the family know.

He’d done this before, in his many roles as leader of various semi-secret organisations, and it would never get any easier, no matter how long he lived.  And this was family, which made it a hundred times worse.

Sighing, the immortal pulled his chair back up to the communication console.  Phillip input Cadi’s personal comm code, knowing his first thing was to let her know that her twin was hurt.

Cadi and Alun had lifted planet a couple of hours ago, leaving Phillip, Clint, Nicole, and the Doctor behind on Stark’s World.  His daughter and friend were both off investigating the alleyway where Sabrina had been murdered; he’d inform them as soon as they returned.  Hopefully they’d have found something to lead them to the assassin before he struck again.

Because Phillip didn’t doubt for a moment that he would.

The viewscreen flickered to life, revealing Cadi, with Alun peering over her shoulder.  “Phillip,” the privateer greeted him, her eyes hopeful.  “Please tell us you’ve found something.”

“I wish I could,” he admitted, letting his tiredness show.  If he couldn’t be weak in front of his family, then he couldn’t with anyone.  “Something’s happened.”

He could see Cadi’s face go white as a sheet.  Alun put a hand on her shoulder as she slumped in her pilot’s chair, and the Adjudicator’s own face went fierce with anger and fear.

“Who was it?” Alun demanded, correctly reading between the lines. 

Oh, Goddess, he really didn’t want to do this… “It was Rowena and Henry.”

Cadi sobbed, her hand coming up to her mouth as if she could stuff the broken sound back inside.  Alun’s eyes went dragon, and his own growl was as full of vengeance as ever he’d heard.

“Rowena’s alive,” Phillip hastened to add.  “She was hurt, because Abraham interrupted the attack.  But Henry’s missing, and we presume that he was killed and he’s resurrected somewhere else.  I don’t have any other details than that.”

The relief from Cadi was palpable.  “What about Dad and Tad?”

“They should be on the Moon by now.  Rowena would have most likely been taken to Hospitaler Tower.  Gareth should also be on his way, if he hasn’t already arrived.”

“We’re on our way,” Alun began.

“No.”

It was as if a switch had been flipped somewhere within Cadi.  Gone was the pain and recrimination and guilt she’d been carrying around; as Phillip watched, his sister-by-mating went from shocked to terrifying so quickly the immortal almost felt whiplash. 

“We find the bastard,” Captain Cadi ap Llyn, one of the most feared and respected criminals in the Twelve Galaxies and Star Dragon, swore.  “We find the bastard and make him pay for killing Sabrina and Henry, and for hurting my twin.  There will be no place for him to hide from me, Phillip.  No place in this universe.  And if it takes an eternity, I will chase him down and make him bleed.”

“You and me both, sister,” Clint growled from just over Phillip’s shoulder. 

Cadi nodded emphatically, accepting her brother’s word.  Alun growled once more, his eyes flashing in sheer fury, and Phillip knew he’d never want to get in the way of these three when they were on the warpath.

Because, that was what they were.  He’d never quite understood the term until that moment.

“We’re heading to Killian Two,” Cadi told them.  “The Smuggler’s Moon was where Sabrina picked up on the original rumours about Stark’s World.  I have quite a few contacts there and I’m thinking they’ll be able to help us.”

“What’s your E.T.A.?” Clint asked.

“Two days.  I’ve got the engines going at full speed; if I push them any farther they’ll most likely explode around us and really the last thing I want to do it float around space, waiting to be picked up by any ship that happened to pass by.” She sounded frustrated at the delay, but there really wasn’t anything she could do.  The Free Wheeler was a fast ship, but there was a limit to what it could do.

Phillip knew that the Star Dragons could survive a short time in the vacuum of space, by going into a form of hibernation, their bodies kept warm by their internal flame.  However, it wasn’t pleasant and he didn’t blame Cadi for wanting to avoid that.

“Two days is good enough,” he assured her.  “We’re going to finish up here.  Call your fathers, and find out what their plans are, although I’m willing to bet they’ll be moving Rowena back to Ddraig Llyn as soon as they can.”

“You’ll be calling them as well.” 

It wasn’t a question, and Phillip didn’t say anything to it, knowing he didn’t have to.  He wanted to know what had happened as badly as anyone else did. 

“Did you find out anything from the security footage?” Alun asked.

“No.  Whoever laid the trap must have used something to jam the cameras.”  Phillip didn’t add that the cameras had come back on after the fact, to reveal Cadi finding Sabrina’s body.  Now that she was finally back to some semblance of normal – or as normal as a dragon after vengeance can be – the immortal didn’t want Cadi backsliding into her former, depressive state.  “I’m hoping that the Doctor and Nicole will come up with something from the scene.”

“Keep us posted,” Cadi requested, the fire back in her eyes. 

Phillip hated that it had taken an assault on her twin sister to bring this out in her, but he was glad to see it.  The quiet, unsure-of-herself Cadi that had been present since Sabrina’s death had been unsettling.

“You know I will.” 

“Take care, the both of you,” Clint requested.  “Watch your backs.”

“We will,” Alun promised. 

The connection was terminated, and Phillip slumped back in his seat, feeling even more tired than before.  There were still things he needed to do, and there was no rest for the wicked, so to speak.

Warm hands landed on his shoulders, strong fingers massaging the tense muscles there.  Phillip sighed, his head dropping so that his chin rested on his chest, letting Clint massage the knots he was finding in his neck and back. 

“You’re taking too much on yourself again,” his mate murmured.  “You’re still not completely recovered yet.”

“There’s too much to do.”  Phillip ignored the implied intent in those words, as well as the near-silent rebuke. 

“Yes, but you have people who want to help you carry the burden.  You’re not the only one in this, Phillip.  This isn’t Torchwood.  You can lean on us.”

Clint was right.  Phillip knew that.  He was a part of the family, and the family was hurting just as much – if not more – than he was.  He wasn’t the Director of Torchwood in this…he was Phillip Coulson-Jones, mate to Clint Jones and father of Nathan, Nicole, Skylar, and Daisy; son-by-mating to Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones; now related to a whole host of Star Dragons who all loved him in return. 

He was the brother-by-mating to Sabrina Jones-Swann and Rowena ap Llyn, friend and brother to Henry Morgan, and Uncle to Abraham and Jocelyn Morgan-Jones. 

They were a part of him, just as he was a part of them. 

The problem was, he was so used to keeping secrets and handling things on his own.  He’d done it as far back as the 20th century, when he’d been in SHIELD as Agent in Charge and Nicholas Fury’s One Good Eye.  He’d done it as Third at SHIELD, and then as its Director after its fall from grace.  It had continued on for over three thousand years, until it had brought him to the Directorship of the Torchwood Institute.  It was what he did.

It was so deeply ingrained in him.  And he was so very grateful when his mate reminded him that he didn’t have to do that sort of thing as often anymore.

“Agent, Birdbrain,” Stark interrupted, “The Doctor and your kid is back.”

Phillip straightened, as Clint’s hands fell away from his shoulders.  The immortal missed the contact immediately.  “Let them know where we are.”

“They’re on the way up now.”

Goddess, he hoped they’d found some sort of clue.

According to Stark, he’d immediately cordoned off the area, knowing that someone from Torchwood would come along and want to investigate.  The living computer had also run his own scans, but hadn’t been able to find out much; but then, he didn’t have access to either Time Lord tech or magic. 

Phillip seemed to recall that, back before his Avengers days, Stark had been dismissive of anything magical.  It had taken a mad god to convince him that magic existed, and then a certain dragon to hammer home the truth that technology wasn’t the only thing out there.  His memories were really fuzzy, and there were times when he wished his brain hadn’t been so completely messed with back during his resurrection, but that wasn’t the only reason he had trouble remembering a lot of things from that time.  His human mind just wasn’t equipped to recall back that far, but Clint was a big help in that regard. 

He hadn’t even remembered Clint, back before he’d been sent back in time during Juno Bayl’s attempt to change the timelines; only that he was missing something that had once been very important to him, but he also was fairly certain he’d blocked a lot out due to losing the man he’d loved.  Meeting Clint back then, in that dingy cell where Bayl had kept them, had brought back a lot of what he’d completely forgotten.  So, he’d had a lot of those memories refreshed for when he’d met Clint Jones, the reincarnation of the man he’d loved back then. 

Clint had known, of course.  He was able to remember that life.  He’d just been constrained by the chance of changing things that had kept him from coming to Phillip so much earlier. 

Having Clint back had brought back so many things that he’d thought gone.  Much of that had to do with his time in SHIELD, and of knowing Stark and Banner and the other Avengers, as well as Natasha and Maria Hill and his old team at SHIELD.  Steve Rogers – Captain America – had been easy, as he’d worked with the long line of Rogers descendants in his time as the Shieldsmen Grand Master, but so much of it had been gone.  And his former assistant, Bratsk, had been a Zygon, and had been a reminder of those he’d lost, taking their shapes from his vague memories. 

Another who remembered, who was still around, was Tony Stark.  Getting that fruit basket had simply reaffirmed what he could recall of the eccentric genius and the lengths he’d taken to preserve himself, and they’d become reacquainted since Phillip had taken over Torchwood.

The Central Computer was now as close a friend as anyone else in Phillip’s life.  Not that he’d admit that to Stark, of course.  Mainly because that would simply encourage the living computer to do things for Phillip that didn’t need doing.

Of course, he’d been shocked at what his old friend had done, but as long as Stark was happy, who was Phillip to say anything?

The door of the communication suite opened, revealing Nicole and the Doctor.  Nicole looked as tired as the immortal felt, most likely from the expenditure of magic she would have used in order to try to find something that would help them track Sabrina’s killer. 

The Doctor, though, seemed almost his usual, manic self, brushing by Nicole to enter the room, the black coat he was wearing making his complexion seem even paler than normal.  Phillip got the impression that he had information to impart, and the immortal knew they wouldn’t have to wait long.

“The alley was pretty much a dead end, as far as my scans went,” the Time Lord reported.  He didn’t seem overly disappointed in that fact, even if Phillip himself was. 

“But there was definitely magic performed there,” Nicole butted in.  “I’d have to say it was magic that not only cut out the camera feeds, but I would have to say it also disguised the assailant.  It was dark magic.”

Phillip nodded.  It would have to have been dark magic, if it took Sabrina’s life. 

But there was more, just from how the Doctor was acting; as if he’d had far too much sugar.  “What else?” he prompted.

“We found this.”

The Doctor pulled a hand out of one pocket.  Between his thumb and forefinger, he held a data crystal.

“My people completely missed that,” Stark exclaimed.  He sounded as if heads were going to roll.

“They didn’t have a sonic screwdriver,” the Doctor pointed out.  He was being smug, and Phillip was going to allow it.  After all, it was quite possibly their first clue.

“We need to scan it – “ Clint began.

“I already did,” the Time Lord said, “and it’s blank.  However, the identification code reads that it is the property of the Persephone Corporation.”

That rang a slight bell.  “Just what do they do?” Phillip asked.

“They’re one of the biggest terraforming companies in the Twelve Galaxies,” Stark answered.  “Their headquarters is here on Stark’s World.”

The immortal leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers as he considered this new piece of information.  What did HYDRA have to do with a company that did terraforming?  It didn’t seem like a good fit at all.  “Stark, what do you have on Persephone?”

“It’s been in business for about two hundred fifty years.  Started out in Imperial Space, but there was some sort of kerfuffle over some of Persephone’s practices and they relocated here.”

“What sort of kerfuffle?” the Doctor demanded.  He’d put the data crystal down on the desk, and now had both hands in his trouser pockets, and was rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet. 

“There was an investigation into alleged illegalities in the case of the planet Wolfe Three.  Nothing came of it, but Persephone’s board felt persecuted enough that they wanted to move to a place where they could work without Imperial oversight.”

“Wait,” Clint snapped his fingers.  “I think I remember Wolfe Three.  That was the planet that destroyed itself, right?  And no one could figure out why at first, and blamed the terraforming equipment on the disaster.”

“Yep, that’s it,” Stark confirmed.  “No one was actually hurt, but the project lost millions of credits and caused the Adjudicators to check into it.  Persephone was found completely innocent in the affair; turned out the mistake had been made by the original survey teams.  They missed a major tectonic break in the planet’s inner crust, and the terraforming put too much stress on it, causing the planet to break apart.”  Phillip actually heard the shrug in the living computer’s voice.  “By the time the investigation was over, Persephone’s reputation had been dragged through the mud, so they petitioned me for a new start.  Their tech and theories were sound, so I agreed.”

“But what does a terraforming conglomerate have to do with HYDRA?” Clint asked, echoing Phillip’s own thoughts on the matter. 

“Could it have been part of the bluff to get Aunt Sabrina into that alley?” Nicole enquired. 

“I doubt it,” Phillip mused.  “If our killer wanted to lull Sabrina into a false sense of security, they would have kept it as close to the truth as possible.  No, I suspect Persephone is in this, I just don’t know how.”

“Let me do some snooping,” Stark offered.  “I have fingers in every pie on this planet.  Cracking into Persephone’s mainframe should be a piece of cake.  And, if they are involved with HYDRA, I want to know.  No one puts a terrorist cell on my world and gets away with it.”

He sounded outraged, and Phillip couldn’t blame him.  HYDRA had caused a lot of problems back in the 21st century, and Stark had been more than peripherally involved, along with the rest of the Avengers. 

“Well done, the both of you,” Phillip said.  “But something else has happened while you were out, that you need to know about…”

He went on to explain about the attack on Rowena and Henry.  Both Nicole and the Doctor went paler as he gave them the news; Nicole in horror, and the Doctor in anger.  Clint went to their daughter and wrapped his arms around her in support, while the Time Lord started pacing, working off the sudden, excess energy his fury had built up.

“This is completely unacceptable,” the Doctor snarled.  “I can understand Sabrina – no offence meant – because she was investigating HYDRA and was apparently onto something.  But Rowena and Henry…they weren’t in the way of anything.  Whoever this was purposely targeted them.”  He stopped his frenetic pacing to glare at Phillip; the immortal knew the ire wasn’t directed at him, so he didn’t flinch away from that hard stare.  “Do we know anything else?”

“Not yet.  Jack and Ianto were heading to the Moon, and I suspect they might have more information by now…”

“I can get us to the Moon in the TARDIS in no time – “

“No.”  The Doctor looked affronted at being denied, but Phillip continued on, even though he also really wanted to go and check on Rowena.  “We need to continue the investigation here.”

“But Dad!”

“Nicole.”  He got up and approached his daughter, taking her hand in his.  It was almost too warm against his chilly ones.  “Your grandfathers will have things well in hand, and your Uncle Gareth is taking care of Rowena.  We need to find whoever did this, and our lead is Persephone.  No one else can be hurt.  Do you understand?”

Nicole nodded, her double-pupiled eyes were filled with anger and distress.  “I do, Dad.  And you’re right.  We need to stop this bakka before anyone else is hurt.”

Phillip didn’t caution her about her language, because the epithet was perfectly matched to the situation. 

The Doctor had calmed quickly, but then Phillip had long ago noticed he was extremely mercurial when it came to his moods.  Which was perfectly fine, because sometimes they really needed the Oncoming Storm to come out and play.  Phillip had the utmost respect for the Time Lord, and his need to be doing something. 

Phillip felt the exact same way.  Which was why they were staying on Stark’s World to follow up in whatever lead Sabrina had been onto.  They were needed exactly where they were now.

Even if he wanted to be somewhere else. 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

28 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Stormcage Prison

 

“Well,” Arthur said as the three of them were escorted toward the warden’s office, “that wasn’t a complete waste of time.”

After Merlin had threatened to bind Lucy’s soul to her body – not that he really would have done it, honestly – the woman had talked.  It had taken a lot of effort to make some sense of it, since there were so many more curses than actual information, but eventually they’d come away with a name.

John Garrett.

They’d heard of him.  It was the name of one of SHIELD’s older enemies, and they’d guessed that he’d been reincarnated as a man calling himself Garrett Paxton.  Merlin knew Arthur would let Melinda May know this person was popping up as Lucy’s contact, and would add that information to the Imperial warrant currently out for him.  Once they found him, it would be one more step forward in finding HYDRA and putting a stop to them, hopefully once and for all.

The one thing Lucy hadn’t been forthcoming on was the way that HYDRA was finding reincarnated souls and activating the memories of their past lives.  She remained stubbornly silent on that score.  But Merlin was still certain she at least knew some of the spells involved; she just wasn’t going to admit it.  He figured she was still holding out hope that she would be able to use that knowledge in some way, craftily holding back until she could negotiate some deal.  Not that it would do her any good.  There was no way she was going to ever be leaving Stormcage…alive, that was. 

“I doubt we could have gotten any more out of her, even with force,” River commented.  The little gun she’d pulled had vanished once more, and if Merlin hadn’t seen her pull it, he would have thought she was completely unarmed. 

He still wasn’t going to ask where it had come from.

“No,” Arthur agreed.  “She’s a zealot, and they don’t often give up information on their causes.  We’re lucky we got what we did.”

A warm hand touched his, and Merlin glanced over at this mate, who had a somewhat concerned expression on his face.  “You alright?”

Merlin tried to give him a reassuring smile, but judging from Arthur’s slight flinch was a horrific failure.  “I will be.”

It was hard to explain to someone who didn’t know magic the way Merlin did.  Some of the poison that Lucy had spouted had struck chords with him, and he was having a little trouble reconciling what he’d had to do.

And it wasn’t because he’d used all that dark magic to resurrect his mother.  River had been right about one thing:  she’d always had that core of darkness within her, and she did know how to best use it.  He honestly didn’t think it would change her very much; his mother might be a little more ruthless, as evidenced by her threats toward Lucy, but Merlin very much doubted she’d be all that much different.

No, it was more about the way Merlin had been changed.

Magic, to his experience, wasn’t good or bad.  It was the intension behind its usage that made it either dark or light.  Lucy had intended all that converted lifeforce for an evil cause, to bring back to life one of the most evil people who’d ever walked the universe.  It had already been tainted by Lucy’s intention when Merlin had taken control in his attempt to deprive her of its use. 

That taint had touched three people: his mother, who’d benefited from its use; Phillip, who’d been caught in the backlash and irrevocably changed by the experience, both physically and mentally; and Merlin himself, who’d channelled that magic through himself and to its eventual destinations.  He’d thought he could subsume all that power into himself, but it had been too much, even for the most powerful wizard in the universe. 

It had merged with his own power.  That mixing of the two magicks had ever so slightly darkened his own.

Merlin could feel it.  He’d done his best to ignore it, but Lucy’s words had poked it out of the place where he’d pushed that knowledge down, and he just knew there would come a time when he would have to face what he’d done, and how it had contaminated him. 

He was strong, though.  Merlin thought he would be able to handle it.  He just wasn’t looking forward to it.

Their escort got them through several checkpoints, and to the administrative wing, where the warden’s office was located.   When they’d emerged from Lucy’s cell, the guard who’d come to let them out had said that the warden needed to speak to them, that it was important that they come to the man’s office before they left.  It had confused each of them, but they’d agreed, and now they were being handed off to an intimidating-looking Tanti, an extremely tall and well-built alien who closely resembled an Earthen gorilla, only with grey fur and dangerous-looking canines that protruded slightly from his muzzle. 

The Tanti was dressed in the same prison uniform that their guard escort had been, only it was slightly more ornate with glittering brass buttons and red piping along collar and cuffs.  He snarled slightly at them, which in his race was a sign of respect, then he dismissed the guard and took them the rest of the way into the Administrative block, eventually depositing them outside the warden’s office door, which was open.

“The warden is expecting you,” their escort growled.  With another snarl, this one a little rougher, he pivoted on his heel and left them at the open door.

The three glanced at each other; River shrugged, Merlin rolled his eyes, and Arthur nodded once, then led them into the office.  It was spartan, the desk and two guest chairs were metal, with only a bare cushion in each of the chairs.  The single shelf on one wall was also metal, as was the cabinet next to it.  There was a blank viewscreen on another wall opposite, its control panel just underneath. 

The room itself has a single, small window high on the wall behind the desk, where the lightning from the perpetual storm that was the prison’s namesake raged outside.

The warden was Deshmuk, skin a brilliant blue that actually reflected the strobing glare from outside.  Black eyes regarded each of them, and there was something in their pupiless eyes that had Merlin shivering.

“Thank you for coming,” he said, his voice slightly accented. 

“We didn’t have much choice,” River snarked.  She had her arms crossed over her chest almost defensively, and Merlin wondered if it was her old issues with authority or something else entirely.

The warden looked pained, and it wasn’t just because of the uncomfortable-looking chair he was sitting in.  “I received a call from Grand Master Rogers on Imperial Throneworld,” he explained.  “He asked that I tell you to contact him immediately.”

Merlin’s hearts beat once, twice, three times out of sync.  Steve was calling there?  What had happened that had precipitated that?

Was it something with Granddad Jack and Grandtad Ianto?  Had something happened to them while they’d been on Throneworld?

“Did he say why he wanted to speak to us?” Arthur demanded.  He didn’t sound as if he was as panicked as Merlin felt, but the wizard knew his mate; knew that Arthur was just as terrified as he, himself was.

“No, only that it was urgent.”  The warden stood.  “You can use my comm unit to contact Throneworld.  I’ll wait outside.”  With that, he was around the desk and out of the office, closing the door behind him.

“Call him back,” Merlin hissed.  He wasn’t usually so short with his mate, but this was…with everything that had occurred, his emotions were running away with his sense, and he knew Arthur would understand.

Arthur didn’t say a thing; he simply nodded once, his face in that haughty mask he wore when he didn’t want to let anyone know just how badly he was hurting.  But Merlin could see it, after so many centuries of being mates, he could see it in his mate’s eyes and in the stiffness of his spine.

As Arthur strode toward the control panel, Merlin prayed.

He prayed harder than he ever had before. 

An arm went around him, and the wizard found himself leaning against his mother.  His impossible mother, the one he’d brought back to life when he hadn’t meant to, and who was staying now that she was back with them.  She murmured something in his ear, something that sounded comforting, but Merlin didn’t catch a single word over the thumping of his hearts.

Apparently, Steve was waiting for them to get into contact, because there was hardly any wait from the time Arthur input his personal Torchwood codes and the call connected.  The viewscreen flickered on almost at once, revealing the Grand Master of the Shieldsmen’s very grave expression.

Merlin blurted, “Is it Granddad Jack and Grandtad Ianto?” before he even realised the words had left his mouth.

Steve shook his head.  “No, they’re fine.”

“Then what is it?” Arthur wanted to know, letting a little of his old, royal, pratness into his voice.

The other man didn’t take offence to it at all, but then Steve was used to dealing with the Imperial Court.  “There was an attack…it was on Rowena and Henry.”

Merlin’s knees felt weak, and it was only the arm around his shoulders that was keeping him upright.  Someone had gone after Aunt Rowena and Uncle Henry?  Why would anyone do that?  They were perhaps the most harmless of all of Merlin’s relatives, being college professors.  There was no reason for that sort of move!

“Are they alright?” Arthur was asking.  Merlin could see that his mate had gone just as pale as Merlin was feeling. 

“Rowena was hurt,” Steve explained.  “There’s no sign of Henry, but there’s reason to believe he was killed.  Abraham…walked in on it happening, and saw his father vanish.”

This time, the relief had Merlin almost lose his balance, and he took two steps back, leaning against the hard metal desk for more support than his mother would have been able to give.  River’s arm moved down from his shoulders to his waist, and she was leaning against him as much as he was against her.

“Jack and Ianto are most likely already on the Moon.  They were given a special dispensation to transmat there from Throneworld directly.  I already contacted Gareth, and he should also be on the way.  I don’t have any more information right now.”

“Thank you, Steve,” Arthur sighed.  “Have you called anyone else?”

“I called Phillip on Stark’s World.  I still need to contact Anwyn, but she’s next on my list.  Unless you want to do that yourself…”

Merlin didn’t hear Arthur’s response to that.  He was too busy with the rage replacing the horror he’d been feeling.

They’d targeted Aunt Rowena and Uncle Henry, and Abraham had witnessed his own father being killed and mother getting hurt.  There was no sense to what had happened.  None of them were an actual danger to anyone, let alone HYDRA, which they’d all been assuming was behind Aunt Sabrina’s murder. 

It made no sense.

In that moment, something within Merlin snapped.

He was out of the office and most of the way down the corridor toward the cell block before his mind could catch up with his body.  There was one person who had answers, and he was determined to get them, no matter what.

They hadn’t mentioned anything to Lucy about Aunt Sabrina.  That had been decided before they’d arrived at Stormcage, simply because they didn’t have any proof that Lucy had even known about the assassin.  After all, it had been almost five months since the events at the Library, and HYDRA could very well have found their killer after Lucy’s time with them.  It wouldn’t do any good to tip their hand if Lucy was ignorant of things.

Now, Merlin wanted to make sure.

No, he needed to make sure.

Two guards tried to stop him from entering the cell block, but his magic made easy work of the security locks.  There was still a part of him that wasn’t running on pure fury knew he wasn’t acting rationally, that he should be waiting for Arthur and his mother, that he should be getting himself under better control.  Overpowering the security system was the wrong thing to do, but Merlin wasn’t thinking coherently.

He wanted answers.  The gloves were coming off.

Alarms blared, but Merlin ignored them, striding down the corridor toward Lucy’s cell.  His mind was focussed on that one thing, and nothing was going to get in his way.  Around him, prisoners in their cells were yelling, demanding that he let them out, however they quieted as Merlin passed, like the Oncoming Storm his father had been called by so many enemies the Doctor had long ago lost count.

The Doctor was a Time Lord, the last pure-blood of his race.  Merlin was his son, but not only had he inherited his father’s need to make things right, he’d gained his mother’s innate ruthlessness, and the dragon imperative for vengeance.  Add to that his own, personal magic, and Merlin Williams-Song could be unstoppable under the right conditions.

And these were those conditions.

It was an unnatural hush that had fallen over Stormcage Prison by the time Merlin found himself back at Lucy Cole’s cell.

With a simple wave of his hand, the lock disengaged and the door opened.  Merlin stepped into the claustrophobic confines, closing and sealing the cell door behind him, and facing the woman who was his family’s enemy.

Lucy had stood as he’d entered, looking small and afraid as he stalked her.  Her dark eyes were wide, and she was shaking, and a part of Merlin was so very glad to see that she was that terrified of him.

“I knew it.”  Her words would have sounded triumphant if not for the tremble in them.  “I knew the darkness would corrupt you – “

“Shut up,” Merlin growled.  “This isn’t anything to do with any darkness you think you see.  This in vengeance, in my family’s name, and I intend to make you pay for what HYDRA’s done.”

Reaching out with one hand, the greatest wizard in the universe grasped the power of magic that only he could see with such clarity.  Magic was all around them, in a great, woven force that permeated not only this universe, but the entirety of the multiverse.  Merlin was aware of it as strongly as he was aware of Time, and he could bend it to his will, bring it to heel like a well-trained pet.  This was his gift, and it was a curse as well, just as his Granddad Jack’s immortality was both gift and curse.

Merlin was Emrys, which meant Immortal.  He was as eternal as his grandparents.  Time and Magic had made him so.

The magic came to his command.  It tingled through him like electricity, a part of him just as it was a part of everything.  The words he spat had Lucy’s eyes widening even further, before the force he’d called to him had her pinned against the wall, feet several inches off the ground.  It held her firmly, not quite choking but tightly enough to be uncomfortable.

Merlin stepped up to her, his eyes meeting hers.  “I want to know about HYDRA’s assassin,” he said conversationally, as if he was merely discussing the weather.  “I want to know about the assassin who knows how to kill dragons.”

He could tell she was startled by his enquiry.  “I don’t know what you mean,” she answered breathlessly.  “I don’t know of any assassin.”

“Lucy, you expect me to believe that?”  Merlin flexed his magical ‘muscles’ a little, causing Lucy to gasp and wriggle in his powerful grasp.

“Merlin!” he heard Arthur call out behind him, echoed by his mother’s own shout. 

Merlin ignored them, his concentration on the woman his magic held prisoner.  They wouldn’t be able to get past the magic on the cell door, so in that moment they were inconsequential. 

“This assassin was responsible for killing two members of my family and injuring a third,” he went on.  “Two of those attacks happened in front of a child, not that I expect you to care about that sort of thing.  Now, tell me what I want to know, and I might consider letting you live.”

“I don’t know anything…about an assassin,” she gasped.  She’d given up trying to escape, and simply hung there.  Not that she had any chance of that at all, really.  Merlin’s magic was too strong for her in her current, magic-less state.

Suddenly, there were hands on his shoulders, and Merlin turned, hissing at whoever had managed to get past his seal on the cell door. 

It was Arthur.

Of course, it was Arthur. 

Merlin had once made a vow never to hide anything from his mate again, and that included keeping him out of any sort of magical ward or block.  Every spell that the wizard cast was keyed to Excalibur, and as long as Arthur had the sword any magic that Merlin might cast would always let him pass.

Arthur’s eyes were wide with fear as they met Merlin’s own.  His mate flinched slightly, and for a short, sharp instant Merlin was gratified that he could frighten even the mighty Once and Future King.

But that didn’t last but a beat of a single one of his hearts, before the rush of guilt and shame overcame him.

Merlin instantly called his magic back under firm control.  He released Lucy, who fell in a shuddering heap to the ground, coughing slightly as the pressure on her chest was gone. 

“What have I done?” he whispered in horror at his actions. 

“It’s alright,” Arthur reassured him, relief evident in both voice and expression.  “You’re going to be fine, Merlin.”

“I’m sorry,” he whimpered.  “I’m so, so sorry…”

“I know. Let’s get you out of here.”

Merlin allowed Arthur to lead him from the cell.  His mother was standing just outside, her face full of fierce pride and terrible surprise.  It was as if she was seeing Merlin for the first time, and his ducked his head to avoid her gaze. 

There were guards outside the cell.  Every single one of them watched warily as Arthur pulled Merlin along, the wizard going meekly as he tried to process what had just occurred.

He simply couldn’t, his mind shut down, and he allowed Arthur and River to take him away.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

28 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Stark’s World

Cartel Space

 

The headquarters of Persephone Corporation was almost as tall as Stark’s Tower had been, with a large sculptured planet in the exact centre of the wide central plaza out front of the building.  The tower itself was a black, marble-like stone with gold lines running through it, glittering in the world’s primary, without a single window in sight. 

The Doctor thought it was ugly and pretentious, and wasn’t afraid to say so.

Phillip’s soft, huffed laughter said that the immortal agreed with him.

It was just the two of them.  Clint had protested, as had Nicole, but Phillip had pointed out that they needed to be their back-up in case something happened while they were confronting Persephone’s current CEO, Derek Anthony, over just why his company was being used in a trap set by HYDRA.  Clint had finally capitulated, and was currently taking up a position on the office tower across from their destination. Nicole was in the coffee shop on the corner, just on the other end of the comm from the one in Phillip’s ear.  The Doctor had a matching one in his own ear, and it felt odd.  He just wasn’t used to wearing one.

The Doctor, though, was certain that Phillip had another reason for keeping his mate and daughter out of that building.

If the killer was somehow involved with Persephone Corporation, having two dragons walking in there would have been like heading into a trap.  And Phillip wasn’t about to risk that, especially as Nicole didn’t even have her dragon form yet.

And the Doctor wasn’t about to risk letting Phillip Coulson go into that tower alone.

To say that they’d become closer after the events at the Library was an understatement.  He felt as if he understood the immortal better, in a way that he’d never even considered before.  Yes, he’d seen people tortured before; he’d had it happen to him many times over his lives.  He’d even had companions hurt because of his actions; Amy and Rory came instantly to mind. 

But this was Phillip Coulson-Jones, immortal, who shouldn’t exist and yet did.  The Doctor had given Nicholas Fury ‘The Talk’ about doing it ever again, not that he could have, of course.  Still, it had given him a fine sense of justice in making certain no other immortals came out of Fury’s little horror show, because no one deserved to go through that ever again.

He respected the hell out of this man, for having gone through what he’d done, and still want to live enough to fight against death so very hard.  Phillip wasn’t recovered; not by a long shot.  But he was there, staring up at one of the ugliest building the Doctor had ever had the displeasure to see, moving forward and doing the very best he could in a really bad situation.

It’d been a long time since the Doctor had come to realise just how dangerous Phillip was.  However, now he was totally seeing just what a bad arse he was as well.

The Doctor couldn’t help but grin.  He had the best friends ever.

“Shall we?” he asked his companion.

Phillip returned the smile with a small smirk of his own.  “Oh, let’s.”

Together, they headed into the building, their strides matching perfectly. 

“Damn, that’s hot,” Clint’s soft words echoed down the Doctor’s ear canal.

“I do try,” the Time Lord answered, knowing very well that the Star Dragon meant his mate, and not him, but needing to tease him a little.

That earned him a snort from Phillip, amusement in the immortal’s pale eyes.  “Should I be jealous?”

“Maybe you should,” Clint answered teasingly.

Nicole didn’t say anything, but the Doctor was willing to bet she was rolling her eyes at them.

The Doctor didn’t answer, but he did straighten the lapel of his black coat as they made their way toward the reception desk, which was the same dark marble as the building.  In fact, the foyer of Persephone Corporation’s main office was the exact same material, lending the area a grim atmosphere that the Time Lord felt didn’t quite belong in a company hoping to gain new business by impressing potential clients.  There wasn’t a plant to be had to break up the bleakness of the interior, and wasn’t Persephone supposed to do terraforming?  Having a few living thing to greet visitors would have made a lot of sense.

There were windows, which hadn’t been apparent from outside; they’d managed to look just like the rest of the stone of the actual building, but from the inside it was obvious they were simply tinted just enough to lend even more of a gloomy feel to the foyer.  It was vaguely depressing, if the Doctor was being quite honest with himself.

He could hear Clint saying that he’d lost sight of them the moment they’d entered, and Nicole commenting that the magical tracers she’d placed on them were still active, and that she could keep a sense on them for the time being.

Both immortal and Time Lord stopped at the desk, Phillip giving the woman a slight, bland smile.  “We have an appointment with Derek Anthony,” he said politely.  “Please tell him that Phillip Coulson and Doctor John Smith are here.”

The Doctor himself beamed at the woman as she touched a button on her console, announcing their arrival.  It had been decided that he wouldn’t broadcast that he was the infamous Time Lord, although it would most likely get to Mr Anthony pretty quickly that John Smith was just an alias for the immortal enemy of evil everywhere.  And no, the Doctor hadn’t called himself that; it had been Clint, whose idea it had been to obfuscate just a little bit, in order to throw their quarry off-balance until it was time to go all Oncoming Storm on them.

Stark had been as good as his word, arranging the meeting even as the living computer had hacked into Persephone’s mainframe.  As part of their agreement for moving to Stark’s World, Persephone had left a back door open for the Central Computer, and Stark could get access whenever he wanted. 

The dig into the mainframe had come up blank.  There was no sign that HYDRA had anything to do with Persephone, or vice versa.

The Doctor had given it some consideration, and to be honest he couldn’t think of a reason why HYDRA would want to use a terraforming corporation as a front.  It didn’t make any sense, and they didn’t have enough information to make any sort of guess, wild or otherwise.  He was hoping that speaking with Anthony would give them something to go on.

Although, he didn’t think it would.  HYDRA was far too canny for that.

The receptionist looked up.  “Mister Anthony will see you.  Please take the far left lift up to the executive level.”

Phillip thanked her politely, and the Doctor gave her a large grin, and then they were walking in step toward the indicated lift.

The security system in the building was top-notch.  The Doctor couldn’t even make out the cameras that had to have been all over the foyer.  He was itching to get out the sonic and find them, but just knowing they were there was enough for now.

There were no one else in the foyer, which struck the Doctor has odd.  As a supposedly thriving business, certainly there would at least be employees going to and fro?  Maybe they were all on the upper floors, working?  Still, it didn’t seem right that the place seemed deserted.

The lift door opened at their approach, lending credence to the notion that they were being monitored.  The Doctor violently squashed the urge to grin up toward the ceiling, on the off-chance that he’d be aiming at one of the hidden cameras, because if there was anything the Doctor was really good at under pressure it was being cheeky.

Even River said so.

Calmly, the pair got into the lift.  Once they were inside, it slid smoothly upward. 

“Trap?” Phillip asked, his voice almost amused.

“Trap,” the Doctor agreed.  “Or, the CEO is a really welcoming sort of bloke.”

“We could get lucky, I suppose.”

“Anything’s possible.”

The Doctor was grinning.  He couldn’t help it.  Walking into possible danger, with a competent immortal at his side…it was thrilling.  His endocrine system was really kicking in.

He really was a danger junkie.  It was a fault he fully recognised in himself and accepted it whole-heartedly.  River had once told him it was one of his sexiest characteristics so he had no reason to doubt that little fact at all.

The lift pinged almost cheerfully, a jarring sound in the overall gloom of the building, and the door slid open, revealing a short hallway with doors on either side of the corridor.  The carpet was a rich red, which gold accents along the edges, and was a complete change from the austerity they’d seen so far.

Looking both ways down the hall, one side continued on; on the other the hall ended at an open reception area, with a desk outside a pair of ornate double doors that were closed.  With a glance toward his companion, who gave him a slight nod, the Doctor strolled down toward that desk, where an attractive, black-haired woman with slightly pointed ears sat, smiling at them with an expression that was an attempt at blandness that didn’t quite work as well as some the Time Lord had seen, especially from the man standing beside him.  “Good day, gentlebeings,” she greeted them.  “Mister Anthony will see you now.”

Phillip returned it with one that was practically a work of art.   “Thank you very much.”

The woman touched a control on her desk, and the doors behind her clicked open. 

The Doctor wanted to bounce on the balls of his feet, excitement at facing a possible foe making him feel just this side of jittery.  Phillip spared him a humorous glance then pushed the door open, and the Doctor followed right along with him.

The office beyond was so opulent it looked like something out of a rich being’s wet dream.  Dark woods, plush fabrics, heavy curtains over the tinted windows, all of it was meant to telegraph just how wealthy its owner was.  It was really gaudy.  The Doctor’s personal sense of décor was highly offended.

The man behind the desk stood up to greet them.  He was tall, and bulky without being overweight, dressed in a suit that would most likely have cost the gross national product of a small country.  His brown hair was thinning, and his pale eyes shrewd as he smiled, a cold thing that was polite but, at the same time, knowing, as if the owner had some sort of information about them that only he was privy to.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “welcome to Persephone Corporation.  Can I get you anything?”

“No, thank you, Mr Anthony,” Phillip answered, as coldly polite as the man in front of them, introducing them and then getting onto business.  “We wanted to speak to you. Apparently, your company has come up in connection with an investigation of a murder here on Stark’s World, and the Central Computer has given us leeway to look into things.”

“I was curious as to why Torchwood would be investigating something here in Cartel Space.”  Anthony sat back in his chair, staring at them intently.

“I really can’t say anything, due to the ongoing enquiry,” Phillip returned.  “But it was a Torchwood operative who was the victim, and the Central Computer did assure us of your cooperation.”

Of course, they really weren’t there on behalf of Torchwood…but the man didn’t need to know that.

The Doctor took one of the chairs, sprawling into it comfortably.  However, he watched Anthony closely, wanting to see what sort of reaction Phillip’s questions were going to cause.

He didn’t often sit out this sort of thing, but then he did enjoy watching Phillip work.  Besides, the Doctor knew he had the tact of a brick across the frontal lobe, while the immortal could finesse his way through a lot of things, and finesse was what was needed at the moment.

“Of course, although I don’t know how I can help.”  Derek Anthony looked perfectly sincere, in a slimy, snake-oil salesman-type way.

While the Doctor was sure that worked on most people, most people weren’t a Time Lord and an immortal with more experience interrogating suspects than pretty much anyone else in the universe.  Jack Harkness included, despite Jack’s insistence that he was quite good at it.

Jack was, but he was more brute force.  Phillip was all subtlety, and the Doctor sat back a little more to watch in poorly hidden glee.

“I’m not even sure why Torchwood would have someone in Cartel Space,” Anthony added.  “Since we’re a bit out of their jurisdiction here.”

“I cannot say,” Phillip said smoothly.  “Although it was approved by the Central Computer.”

“Not exactly,” Stark’s voice sounded over the comm.  “I just like you, Coulson.  You’re my favourite immortal.  Don’t tell anyone else.”

To Phillip’s credit, his expression didn’t change at Stark’s comment.  He just kept smiling that smile which was just on the right side of polite. 

Clint, though, could speak up about it, claiming that Phillip was his immortal, thank you very much, and for Stark to keep his virtual hands off.

That had Nicole breaking in and telling them both to be quiet, and the Doctor was glad there was an adult on the comm net that could get things back under control.

And still, Phillip didn’t react.  The Doctor swore he was never going to play poker with the immortal.  Ever.

Not that he played poker, of course.  And he never would, especially not with Phillip Coulson-Jones.

“We found a data crystal at the murder scene that was encrypted with Persephone Corporation’s ID data.”

Anthony’s eyebrows drew downward in a frown.  “Are you saying one of my employees is a murderer?” He sounded outraged by the very notion.

“I’m not saying anything of the sort,” Phillip countered mildly. 

That seemed to bring Anthony’s incipient rant to a sudden halt.  It was too bad; the Doctor had been looking forward to it.

“But would you have any idea why one of your company data crystals would have ended up at the crime scene?”

The man looked pensive.  “No, I’m afraid not.  Our data crystals aren’t allowed to leave the building under any circumstances.  All of our project and technical information is proprietary; the last thing we want is for it to get into the wrong hands.”

“Then someone wasn’t very careful, were they?” The dig was equally as calm as the rest of Phillip’s words had been. 

Anthony was insulted.  “No one who works for me would have been so utterly careless as to remove intellectual property from this building.”

“Then you think it might have been stolen?”

Oh, this was good.  If Anthony admitted that it might have been stolen, he would be denigrating his own security.  If the crystal had been carelessly taken from the property, then he was going to have to throw one of his employees under the proverbial bus for negligence. 

It also didn’t escape the Doctor’s notice that Phillip was withholding the knowledge that the crystal had been blank. 

The CEO of Persephone Corporation was silent for a beat, and then he said, “I intend to run my own investigation into this matter.  If I can have the data crystal back – “

“I’m afraid not,” Phillip demurred.  “It’s evidence in a serious crime.  If it’s used to prove guilt, then I’m not at all certain you’ll ever see it again, at least not for a long time.”  One side of the immortal’s mouth quirked upward in a grin that was equally apologetic and a great big ‘fuck you’ to the man behind the desk.  “The wheels of justice can run extremely slow, as I’m sure you’ve seen.”

Derek Anthony looked as if he wanted to chew nails, but was still trying very hard to be polite to their faces.  “It’s Persephone proprietary technology – “

“I’m aware.  However, the accords your predecessor signed when relocating to Cartel Space – specifically, to Stark’s World – state clearly that such technology can be confiscated in the event of a capital crime.  Murder certainly fits that definition.”

“Of course,” Anthony capitulated with bad grace. 

“We also would like to be copied on anything you discover in your internal investigation.”  Phillip didn’t even bother to couch that in the form of a polite request. 

The Doctor could tell that Derek Anthony was good and riled up.  It really was a thing of beauty to see.  A part of him was slightly disappointed that he hadn’t been the one to do the riling, but as Phillip had rightly pointed out before they’d set off for their appointment, the Time Lord’s type of riling up more often than not led to being thrown into a cell, and that was something they really couldn’t afford at the moment.  Certainly, Stark could order their release, being the supreme leader on the planet, but that would unnecessarily cripple their investigation.  It would be the Doctor’s turn to help out later on; now, he would just sit back and watch Phillip work.

“Yes, of course,” Anthony gritted.  “I’ll be more than happy to do so.”

“Then we should probably leave you to your work.”  Phillip rose smoothly to his feet.  He still had that mask of bland coldness on his face, but honestly he hadn’t done a thing to get them kicked out.  Which was another thing the Doctor’s approach was prone to doing.  “Thank you for your time, Mr Anthony.  I look forward to working with you in order to get this entire situation cleared up quickly.”

Phillip offered his hand, and Mr Anthony, needing to show that he was a proper gentleman despite the immortal’s prodding, stood as well and accepted it.  The Doctor knew immediately that Phillip had chilled his hand a little more than usual, because the man flinched slightly at the cold grip on his fingers.

The Doctor didn’t bother to shake hands, but then he could afford to be a little rude as a juxtaposition to Phillip’s cool politeness. 

“We appreciate your cooperation,” Phillip added.  “You can contact me through the Central Computer when you come up with something in your own investigation.”

“Certainly.”  Anthony looked as if he’d sucked on something sour.

Phillip pretended not to notice.  Instead, he spun on his heel and left, and the Doctor followed, not having said a word to their suspect during the entire interview.

It was strange for him, but he hadn’t really had to.  Phillip had had everything under control.

They walked briskly past the reception desk, and back to the lift, which was open and waiting for them.  Phillip didn’t say anything on the way down, but he looked quite satisfied, and the Doctor wondered if he’d drawn the same conclusions the Time Lord had.

“Damn, Agent,” Stark said in their ears as they exited the building, “that was some impressive shit.” The living computer sounded awestruck.

“He really is that good,” Clint added proudly.  “I’m on my way down from my perch and will meet you around the corner.”

“I’m leaving the café and going to join Dad,” Nicole said.

“I think that was a rather fruitful meeting,” the immortal commented as they walked out of the building and toward the rendezvous point.

“I thought so too,” the Doctor agreed. “although I’m a little disappointed that it really wasn’t a trap.”

“Oh, it was a trap,” Phillip said, “just not the kind you’re used to stepping into.”

The Doctor conceded the point.  “He’s in this up to his manscaped eyebrows.”

Phillip actually came to a halt, and the Doctor had to turn around and go back a short distance when he noticed he was now alone.  Torchwood’s Director had both brows raised, his eyes wide.  “Excuse me, but did you just use the term ‘manscaped’?”

“I…may have done.”  He wasn’t going to fidget under Phillip’s disbelieving stare.

Alright, he was, but that was only because the sheer incredulousness pouring off his friend was stunning.

Stark was laughing over the comms.  “Oh, come on…it wasn’t that funny!” the Doctor exclaimed.

Phillip shook his head once, then started walking again.  “Despite the use of the antiquated descriptor, you’re right.  He’s very much in this.  We just have to figure out how and why.”

The Doctor felt both gratified and insulted.  But he didn’t admit it.  Instead, he said, “I think we should consider some breaking and entering.”

“You know I can’t officially condone that,” Stark warned.  “However, unofficially I’m gonna hack the shit out of their mainframe, while you work out a plan to get into their physical files.  If something’s up in Persephone, we’re gonna find it.”

The Doctor shared the living computer’s confidence.  While they didn’t have any proof that Anthony and his company were up to something, every instinct in his body was telling him that the CEO was involved, in whatever was going on.  It had gotten Sabrina to that alley, and had led to her death. 

Now, they’d have to figure out just what that was.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

28 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Hospitaler Tower

The Moon

 

Jack shifted from foot to foot as he waited at the central transmat terminal, his eyes searching the readouts for arrivals information, impatient to get back to Ianto, Rowena, Gareth, and his grandchildren.

Gareth had been positive that Rowena would make a full recovery, that the weapon used hadn’t hit anything too vital.  It had cut through muscle across her chest, nicking his daughter’s breastbone, and she’d lost a lot of blood, but his son was positive she’d make a full recovery. 

Rowena had been sleeping when he’d left the Hospitaler Tower, Abraham and Jocelyn curled up beside her, Ianto keeping watch over them all.  Jack knew his mate wouldn’t let anyone into the room without knowing who they were; he’d already kept out a nurse Ianto hadn’t recognised until Gareth had approved her checking on the machines and the blood transfusion equipment.  No one would get past that dragon when he was in full protective mode.

The arrivals indicator flashed, and Jack immediately recognised the coordinates.  He took several steps forward as he saw Rory flash into being within the transmat pod, his great-grandson pale with worry as he stepped off the pad and practically ran toward Jack.

“Grandfather!’ Rory shouted, somewhat breathless as he flung himself into Jack’s arms.  Jack held onto him tightly, not wanting to let go but needing to get him back to the hospital.  “How’s Aunt Rowena?”

“She’s going to be fine,” Jack reassured the young dragon as he pulled away.  Rory’s blue and gold eyes were afraid, and it was the last thing he wanted to see but, to be fair, he had a perfect right to be scared.  “She’s lost a lot of blood, but your Uncle Gareth says she’ll recover.”

Rory sighed with relief.  “I want to help in whatever way I can.”

Jack ushered him out of the transmat hub.  “We’re certain the weapon that was used was magical,” he explained as he led his great-grandson toward the flitter he’d borrowed from a member of the hospital staff.  “We’re hoping you might be able to get something from it.”

“Tad would be a lot better at this than I am.”

Jack didn’t want to say that Arthur had called, and had explained what had occurred at Stormcage, and that Merlin wasn’t in any fit state at the moment.  His grandson was very worried about his mate, his fit of sheer rage, and how he’d shut down afterward, and Jack felt the same.  Merlin was usually fairly even-tempered, so this outburst just wasn’t in character, even with the provocation of the attack upon Rowena and Henry. 

“Merlin and Arthur have their own jobs to do,” Jack deflected.  He knew if he told Rory about what had happened it would only worry the young dragon, and while he did know something would have to be said at some point, at that moment it wouldn’t do anyone any good.  He hated hiding it, but there really wasn’t much of a choice at that time

They needed to know more about the attack on Rowena, if they were going to keep it from happening again. He would apologise to Rory later.

It didn’t take them long at all to get back to the hospital, Jack flying as quickly and as recklessly as possible.  For one of the first times ever, he wished he could transform into his own dragon shape outside of Ddraig Llyn; they would have gotten there faster.  He could have relied on Rory, but it honestly hadn’t crossed his mind to do so. 

He was distracted.  He needed to get his head back into the game.

But it was hard. 

The corridor outside the auditorium where Rowena had been installed was empty, except for Ianto, who was waiting outside the room.  Rory immediately went to hug him, and Ianto looked grateful for it.  “Did Jack tell you what we needed you to do?”

“He did.  I’ll do my best.”

Ianto smiled at the younger dragon.  “That’s all we can ask.”  His eyes met Jack’s.  “The detectives are back.  Abraham gave their artist a sketch of the assailant, and I also requested that copies be sent to Steve, Phillip, Melinda, and the Adjudicator Guild.  Detective Walsh agreed.”

“Good.”  He was grateful that the local police were willing to cooperate.  When he’d spoken to Walsh earlier, the man – who looked so very much like Clint it was scary – had seemed to understand.  But then, he did work on the Moon, and civilians of different races lived, worked, and went to school there.  He would have had to have been familiar enough with protocol that, once Jack had explained about the Star Dragons’ claim of vengeance, he’d been perfectly happy to share information.

Inside the room, the first thing Jack caught sight of was his beloved daughter.  She was sleeping still – or again, he didn’t know if she’d awakened in the time he’d been gone to collect Rory – with Jocelyn curled up next to her.  Gareth, still in his human form, was fussing about the equipment, checking readings and the transfusion tubing as fresh plasma was being trickled back into Rowena’s pale form. 

Off to the side Abraham, back in human shape, was seated with Detectives Walsh and Shraeger, Carys standing just to the side, her eyes watchful as the two police officers were once again questioning Rowena’s son.  She had this overprotective expression on her face, which was funny considering they were the same age; or, at least, they’d been freed from their magical eggs at the same time. 

“When did Uncle Clint show up?” Rory wanted to know.

Jack snorted.  “It’s not your uncle.  That’s one of the coppers assigned to investigate the attack.”

Rory’s eyes narrowed.  “Okay, yeah…I see it now.  He’s not a dragon. But that’s just a little bit freaky, if you ask me.”

The immortal, then and there, swore that one day his eldest son was going to meet his doppelganger.  It would be oh-so entertaining.

No, Phillip was going to meet the detective.  That would be even funnier.

Detective Walsh noticed them, and he nodded to his partner then headed toward where Jack, Ianto, and Rory were standing.  “Director Harkness, Second Jones,” the police officer greeted.  “I think we’ve gotten as much as we can from your grandson.  We should also have the forensic report on the house sometime tomorrow, and we’ll make sure to forward on some copies.”

“Thank you, Detective.”  He put his hand on Rory’s shoulder.  “This is my great-grandson, Rory Pendragon-Song.  He’s an accredited wizard. We’re hoping he might get some sort of trace from the wound, and perhaps get us a clue as to the weapon used.”

“You mind if me and my partner hang around for that?”

The question was perfectly polite, and Jack had no reason to deny him.  Plus, he wasn’t reacting to the fact that Rory looked more like a teenager than a dragon who’d turned seventy-seven a short while ago, which was a plus in Jack’s book.  “Not at all.” 

Ianto glanced over at him, surprise in that single raised eyebrow, but Jack simply shrugged.  It wasn’t as if they could rely on Torchwood resources; it was bad enough they’d asked Central, down on Earth, to run a drone search over the Pacific Ocean, where they were assuming Henry had ended up.  This was a Star Dragon affair, and as such they did have to follow certain rules of law.  Yes, their clan law would take precedence, but they would have to abide by other rules that normally would have chafed Jack’s ass to do so. 

Now, he was willing to use whatever help he could get. 

Rory’s face was pale yet determined.  “I’ll do the best I can, but I can’t promise anything.”

“We know, son,” jack encouraged. “Just do what you can.”

The young dragon nodded.  Then he turned to Gareth.  “Uncle Gareth, I’ll need access to the…wound.”  He didn’t look at all happy at asking.

Gareth gave him a faint smile.  “I’ll take care of it.”

He moved to Rowena’s side; Jocelyn moved out of the way, changing back into human form as she did so, the better to be out of the way of her older cousin’s work.  Using gentle hands, Gareth carefully unwound the bandaging from Rowena’s chest.

During the unwrapping, Rowena awoke, her usually bright eyes dull with pain and confusion.  Ianto went to her, resting his fingers against her snout, and quietly explained what they were going to do.  Jack wasn’t sure at first if she understood, but then she nodded faintly in acknowledgement.

Then her gaze shifted slightly to Rory. “I trust you,” she murmured softly to her young nephew.  “Do what you need to, so we can catch the bastard.” 

Rory swallowed.  “I’ll do my best, Aunt Rowena.”

“I know you will, Rory.”

Slowly, Gareth exposed the wound, and Jack couldn’t help the gasp as the damage was revealed.  It was a long slash through the usually bright aqua coloured scales, sharp and clear as if someone had drawn a line across Rowena’s hide.  It ran from just under her arm, across her chest, and over the opposite shoulder, and he recalled that Abraham had claimed to have heard a screech like nails on a chalkboard; it would have been the sound of the weapon scraping through Rowena’s scales. 

He shivered despite himself.

Some sort of bonding agent had been used along the cut.  The edges looked clean, but that was just the outside.  Jack was well aware that, under the scales, was flesh that had been torn down to the bone.  Even with the century’s dermal bonders and other devices, it would take Rowena weeks to heal.

It had been very close to killing her.  Not that Jack hadn’t already known that, but seeing the actual damage was like he’d been stabbed himself.

Rory inhaled sharply.  Ianto said something that sounded like a muffled curse.  Jocelyn whimpered, and while Abraham didn’t make any sort of noise the young dragon was equally as affected.

“It looks worse than it is,” Gareth said, his voice that clinical calm that he adopted when he was discussing a patient’s physical condition.  “While the weapon did a great deal of damage, it was all clean, and it’s going to heal cleanly.  There’s no sign of any sort of infection, and with the broad-spectrum antibiotics we’re giving her that shouldn’t be a problem.  Rowena is going to be just fine, I promise.”

Jack trusted his son’s word on the matter. 

He felt a hand on his shoulder and, recognising the warmth of his mate’s touch even through the unfamiliar black coat he was wearing, leaned back into the hand, relishing the closeness.  Ianto’s presence would never get old, no matter how long they were together.

Taking another deep breath, Rory approached his aunt, who had closed her eyes once more, but wasn’t sleeping.  The young dragon wizard hesitated for a second before resting light fingers just above the wound, flinching slightly when Rowena let out a nearly silent moan.

Muttering an apology, Rory closed his eyes, the better to concentrate on what his magical senses were telling him. 

Jack held his breath.  He couldn’t help himself. 

It didn’t matter how old he became, the immortal would never really ever get used to magic.  For so long, he hadn’t believed in it, but meeting Ianto had broadened his horizons.  When he’d finally come to realise that Merlin had been the one to accidentally erase Jack’s memory of magic – as well as the two years he’d blamed the Time Agency for – it had all come back to him.  Still, magic was a near-miracle to him, and Jack Harkness simply did not believe in miracles.

After a few moments, Rory began to speak in a rough whisper that had everyone in the large room leaning forward to catch.

“This is wrong.” He shook his head.  “This magic…it’s not right.”  His eyes opened, and the blue of them had been completely subsumed within the gold of his power.  “Whoever did this…they were…stupid.  They didn’t know what they were doing.”

Jack frowned.  It seemed to him that, whoever had enchanted the dagger that had been used to kill Sabrina and injure Rowena had known exactly what they were doing.

Rory was frowning.  His hand was glowing slightly.  “We’re dealing with someone who…knows magic, but doesn’t know how to use it properly.  This weapon shouldn’t work…”  He pulled his hand away, the magic fading away and his eyes returning to normal.

Then he sighed.  “Whoever did this, is a dilettante at best, and an idiot at worst.  I doubt they’ve had any proper training at all.”

“Can you tell us anything about the caster besides to denigrate their abilities?” Ianto asked.  He was perfectly serious, and Jack almost wanted to laugh at his question.

“Only that they seem to have magic, but don’t know what to actually do with it.  If I had to put my finger on it, I’d say it was someone with natural power, but no training whatsoever.  They probably have access to some sort of spell book but don’t know how to use it properly.  Like I said, the spells on that blade shouldn’t work.”

“What can you tell us about the spells?” Gareth enquired.

“They’re primarily to keep the weapon sharp enough to cut through scale.  I’d have also said some sort of targeting magic, if I had to base it only on what happened to Aunt Sabrina, but now I don’t think so.  I think, whoever this is, does actually know just where to strike to kill one of us.”  Rory licked his lips.  “Also, I believe the weapon needs to be recharged, as it were, after each use.  I know it cut Aunt Rowena badly, but it should have been worse.  If I had to guess, I’d say a lot of the magic was expelled when Uncle Henry got in the way, otherwise that blade would have cut through bone as well, and even I can tell it didn’t do that.”

“No, it didn’t,” Gareth confirmed. 

“I think this answers something I’ve wondered all along,” Ianto stated.  “I’ve been wondering if HYDRA had access to stronger magic, besides what Lucy Cole used to be able to wield, and now I’m pretty certain that she was the most powerful wizard they had.  She also wasn’t responsible for the weapon this so-called Dragon-Slayer is using.”

“This might be a break for us, then,” Jack pondered.  “They’re having to use tech to cause havoc all over the Empire, and they’re having to get that from somewhere.”

“You have lists of the items that have been used so far, don’t you?” Detective Shraeger asked.  Jack had almost forgotten she and her partner were there.

“Torchwood does,” the immortal confirmed.  “As does the Shieldsmen.”

“Then all you really need to do is track those sorts of things to their buyers.”  She shrugged.  “I know the Empire is a big place, but surely you can run comparisons on who buys what and in what combination.  Get the correct combination…”

“And we could possibly get at least a front for HYDRA.”  It was almost too easy.  Jack wondered if Phillip might have already begun such a search, before he’d taken his leave.  He’d have to contact Melinda and find out.

Ianto was grinning.  “Detectives, have you ever given any thought on working for Torchwood?”

Walsh shook his head.  “I’m perfectly happy where I am, thanks.”

Shraeger also answered in the negative.

“You’re not the first police officers to say that, and it’s respected,” the dragon answered gracefully.

Jack would have to poke his mate later about retrieving those particular memories.

In the meantime, they had work to do.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

29 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Stark’s World

Cartel Space

 

It was just after midnight, local time, when they all arrived back at the TARDIS.

They had a plan. 

Thanks to Stark, they were able to get schematics for the Persephone Corporation headquarters; also, thanks to the living computer hacking in through the backdoor that had been provided as part of the agreement to let the company settle on Stark’s World and into the security cameras, they had discovered that there was a rather large blank spot in coverage at the exact centre of the building. 

That was where they needed to go.

Stark had been as about as apologetic as he could get at not being able to find out what was in that high-security area.  Phillip had thought it just a little bit funny at his attempts at saying he was sorry and not quite achieving it. 

“Are you certain the TARDIS can get us inside?” Phillip had to ask. 

The Doctor looked affronted by his doubt.  “Of course she can!  The old girl still has a few short hops in her!”  He reached out and touched the console, stroking the controls lightly.  “Don’t you listen to the big, bad immortal.  I know you can do it.”

Clint rolled his eyes at that.  Phillip suppressed his own eye rolling, knowing it wouldn’t do a bit of good.

All of them were going in.  Phillip had wanted to keep Clint and Nicole behind, but both his mate and his daughter would have fought him on it, so he hadn’t even brought it up.  Besides, if magic was involved, then Nicole would be useful to have around, and Clint could see things that a lot of people missed.  He really had the best team he could possibly have in order to break into a place where he had no idea what was inside.

The Time Lord ushered them all inside the time machine.  Phillip had always been aware that the TARDIS was a living machine, but he’d only really known it after the first time he’d set foot inside, when he and the Doctor had gone to the Library to investigate the event that had put them on their current path.  The TARDIS was a warm presence in his mind, stronger than ever, and even though he couldn’t understand her like the Doctor and Merlin could – and to a lesser extent, Jack and River – he knew that she welcomed him inside, and accepted him as a friend of her pilot and companion.

“I have the coordinates that Stark sussed out from his scans,” the Time Lord said, darting about the console, flipping switches and turning dials somewhat frenetically.  “The TARDIS can get us there, but there’s no telling what we’ll find.”

Honestly, Phillip thought he was stating the obvious, but he refrained from saying so. 

“So,” Clint drawled, “we’re heading into an unknown situation with no intel and no back-up?” He grinned.  “Sounds like being back in my first remembered life.”

“If you start calling us Strike Team Delta…” Phillip warned lightly. 

“Nah,” his mate answered, “although we certainly have a badass female with us…”  He draped an arm around Nicole’s shoulders.

Their daughter preened.  “Thanks, Dad.”

“You’re welcome, sweetie.”  He kissed her forehead.  “Remind me to tell you some more stories about Natasha, sometime.  She was the best badass I’ve ever known, and that includes your Aunt Cadi.”  He paused, considering.  “You know, maybe it’s a good thing she hasn’t reincarnated with her memories intact and met your Aunt, yet.  I don’t think the universe would survive both Nat and Cadi.”  Then his smile turned sad.  “Nat would’ve loved Sabrina, though.”

That thought had silence descend over them all.  Phillip went over own his rather fuzzy memories of Strike Team Delta and a certain red-headed Russian assassin, and silently agreed with Clint’s assessment.

The Doctor cleared his throat, and then the TARDIS lurched into movement.  Phillip thought he must have gotten used to the time machine’s shuddering, because he immediately compensated for the unexpected jerks. 

Clint, though, stumbled slightly, and it was only his arm around Nicole that kept them both on their feet for the seconds that it took for them to get used to it.

“If I’d taken off like that, they’d be confiscating my flight license,” Clint groused, although it was good-natured. 

Phillip thought the Doctor would have flipped Clint off for that, if the Time Lord was the type to do that sort of thing.

The trip took only about a minute, and then the distinctive chime of landing sounded.  “Here we are!”  He sounded – and looked – excited about the prospect. 

Then the Doctor leaned over the console, pulling down a long-handled lever.  “I’ve put her into stealth mode – “

“The TARDIS has a stealth mode?” Phillip asked mildly. 

“Oh, Sexy is just full of surprises.”

And so was the Doctor…he actually referred to his time machine as Sexy

Why wasn’t Phillip surprised?

“Should River be jealous?” Clint teased, adjusting his quiver and putting his bow in hand.

“Oh, she thinks the same thing, actually!”

That had Clint laughing, and Nicole shaking her head in amusement.  Phillip was equally amused, but he wasn’t going to show it.

“Alright,” he said, bringing them all back on task.  “Doctor, can you bring up the scanner so we can see what’s around us?”

The Doctor made a dismissive noise, pulling across one of the TARDIS’ scanners.  It lit up, revealing their outside surroundings.

It was a lab. 

The lab was huge.  Windowless, two storeys tall, with a gantry that ran along the upper third of the walls and a door that looked as if it hermetically sealed.  It was deserted, but then at this time of night, that was to be expected. 

Whatever work was being done in that lab, it was seriously high-tech if the equipment Phillip could make out was any indication. 

And, judging from the Doctor’s sudden need to repeat the word, “No,” over and over again, and then darting out of the TARDIS, quite bad.

Phillip cursed mentally, and followed.  “I am so glad that man isn’t under my chain of command,” he muttered darkly.  

Stepping out of the TARDIS, the first thing Phillip was hit by was the antiseptic smell of cleaning fluids and sterile air.  He didn’t see Clint to know his mate had peeled off to take up a covering position on the gantry overlooking the lab, and that Nicole had begun her magical scans.

The Doctor had gone to a large piece of equipment that took up most of the centre of the room.  It towered over everything else, and Phillip joined him just as the Time Lord had his sonic screwdriver out and was scanning the machine.  He was muttering to himself, technical words that Phillip didn’t catch. 

As much as he wanted to demand answers, the immortal stayed silent and let the Doctor work.

“Dad.”

He turned toward Nicole.  His daughter was standing near where the TARDIS had landed – and yes, being invisible could be counted as stealth mode – her twin-pupiled eyes overwhelmed by the gold of her magic.  “What is it?” he asked, moving closer to her.

Her magic was different from his, but Phillip could still feel the power through his very pores, his nerves tingling from it.  His own magic wanted to react to it, but he pushed it back down where it belonged. 

Ever since the unintentional overpowering of his ice powers, Phillip had noticed differences in it.  He was certainly more powerful than before, but the new infusion of the GH325 was keeping things in its perpetual balance.  His control, though, seemed to be better, as if he was now instinctively keeping it under his command.  Clint had also commented that he didn’t feel quite as cold as before, which was a good thing in Phillip’s opinion, although he did appreciate all the scarves, gloves, and other handmade items he was always getting from both Samara and Lisa.

He also had begun to actually feel more comfortable about having magic.  Perhaps it was because he’d come to realise that it was as much a part of him as his immortality, but using it didn’t give him those slight feelings of dread it had before being nearly overpowered.  Phillip couldn’t have said why that was, but he was glad of it. 

“Someone’s definitely been manipulating magic here,” Nicole reported.  “Dark magic.”

Oh, that wasn’t good at all.

“It’s not very powerful magic, though,” she went on.  “Whoever it is, isn’t strong.”

“Can you tell what they were using it for?”

“I can do that,” the Doctor interrupted.

Phillip spun on his heel and regarded the Time Lord.  He was glaring at the machine as if it had personally insulted him.

“What did you find?” Phillip asked.  He was aware of eyes on him, knowing that Clint was above them, his bow at the ready, keeping overwatch, and he felt infinitely safer for it.

“They’re using nanotech,” the Doctor answered.  He slid his sonic back into his coat with a grimace, then looked straight at Phillip, his pale eyes grave.  “Persephone Corporation specialises in terraforming.  Nanotech can be useful in that, rewriting molecules and changing them into whatever they’re programmed to.”

Phillip nodded.  While he didn’t know the science behind terraforming, he did know that nanotechnology was used in preparing prospective worlds for habitation.

“But these…” he patted the side of the machine.  “These…they’re different from any sort of terraforming nanotech.  When I saw this from the TARDIS, I knew something was off about them.  But my scans just confirmed it.”

“What’s different about them?”  Phillip was crossing over from concerned into downright worry, his mind trying to add dark magic into nanotechnology and coming up with something it really shouldn’t.

He just needed a little more information.

And the Doctor was going to give it to him.

“They’re not programmed for terraforming.”

That was just a confirmation of what Phillip had presupposed.

“They’re not fully functioning yet,” the Time Lord went on.  “But, when and if they ever are…these nanobots aren’t for building…they’re for taking apart.  Coupled that with the dark magic that Nicole is sensing…”

Phillip’s blood ran literally cold.  “It’s a doomsday weapon.”

The Doctor was nodding emphatically.  “No type of matter would be able to withstand them.  They could even be programmed to pick apart DNA chains.  We need to destroy this lab and everything in it.”

“Then do it,” Stark’s voice demanded in Phillip’s ear, making him jump a little.  He’d forgotten that the living computer would be listening in from the moment they’d stepped out of the TARDIS.  “Persephone Corporation has just negated any sort of contract they’d signed when they’d applied to move here.  You have authorisation to take whatever steps you feel necessary to keep that weapon from ever launching.”

The Doctor was already at work, and Nicole joined him at the machinery.  He was murmuring and pointing her toward various parts of the equipment, and she was nodding in response, her hands practically glowing with magic.

Phillip left them to it, trusting the pair to wipe any sorts of records and to destroy the actual tech.  Instead, he glanced up toward his mate.  “Clint, you happen to have any explosive arrows with you?” he spoke into the comms.

That earned him a nod and a cocky grin.  Without saying anything, Clint was pulling an arrow from its quiver and setting it to his bowstring. 

He, himself, went to work at a computer terminal near the machine.  If Stark hadn’t been able to hack in there, then it had to be on a dedicated server, and while Phillip wasn’t a hacker by any stretch of the imagination, he knew enough to break whatever server this terminal was connected to.

In the near-silence of their sabotage, Phillip suddenly heard a hiss of released, pressurised air, and the door opened.

Phillip had his hands up, blue ice dancing along his fingers, as Derek Anthony stepped into the room, accompanied by six armed guards, fanning out and pointing weapons at the three of them on the main floor.  They hadn’t seemed to have noticed Clint yet, and Phillip made a slight movement with one hand, communicating with his mate to hold his fire for the time being.

No arrows appeared, meaning that Clint had gotten the message.

“Step away from the equipment, please,” he requested pleasantly, as if he was simply asking the time of day.

Nicole did as she was bid, tugging the Doctor along by the sleeve when the Time Lord ignored the veiled order.  He didn’t look happy, but he didn’t argue about it.  Phillip also took a calculated step away from the terminal he’d been working on, his eyes carefully watching for an opening to strike.

“Really,” Anthony sighed, “you should have disabled security in the lab when you first arrived.  Magic, I would assume?”

So, the man hadn’t recognised the Doctor for who he was yet.  It was a good thing they’d materialised in stealth mode.

No one said anything, and Phillip was perfectly willing to let him assume whatever he wanted. 

“Please put your hands down, Director Coulson,” Anthony said.  “At the first sign of a spell my men have orders to shoot to kill, and believe me…they wouldn’t be aiming at you.”

No, they were pointing their blaster rifles at Nicole and the Doctor, and they weren’t as immortal as he was. 

Nicole was just as hard to kill as any of Phillip’s Star Dragon relations, although no one needed to know that little fact.  Still, she was his daughter, and it made him furious to see those weapons aimed in her direction.

The Doctor, though, wasn’t immortal.  He would most certainly regenerate, and there was no telling what Anthony would do if that happened.  He could very easily order his men to keep shooting until all the Doctor’s remaining regenerations were used up, killing him for good, and he didn’t have that many left.

He wasn’t about to risk his friend.

Phillip lowered his hands to his sides, letting the ice magic flicker and die away.

Anthony favoured him with a supercilious smile.  “Very good.  I should so hate to get blood all over the lab.”

“What you’re creating is wrong,” the Doctor murmured, which was when he was at his most dangerous.  “You cannot be allowed to continue.”

“And you think you’re going to stop me?” the CEO asked incredulously.  “I appear to have caught intruders in one of my R&D labs.  I’m perfectly within my rights to execute you all as trespassers and possible saboteurs.”

“Keep him talking,” Stark said through the comms.  “My security forces are in the plaza and are ready to breach the building within the next few minutes.”

“Just what are you planning?” Phillip spoke up.  “Who do you answer to?”

That question earned him a smirk.  “Hail HYDRA.”

To give that response its due, Phillip rolled his eyes.  “That isn’t as surprising as you wanted it to be, Mr Anthony.  We already suspected you as being connected with HYDRA.  However, it’s nice of you to admit it.”

“Why is it that terrorists always think it’s a good idea to destroy things?” the Doctor asked, sounding irritated.

“Because that’s what makes them terrorists,” Nicole answered.

“That was a rhetorical question, you know.”

“I know, but I felt like answering anyway.”

They traded smiles, as if they weren’t being covered by several guns.

“You cannot be allowed to put any sort of plan you’ve made into motion,” the Doctor continued.  Phillip could tell that the Oncoming Storm was coming out of hiding.   “This sort of technology should never be used.  You’re going to kill millions!”

“Well, that is the plan,” Anthony purred.  “The Empire has become complacent.  It’s the perfect time to strike against it.”

“Just what do you hope to gain?” Phillip asked.  “Besides sowing chaos and destruction.”

“Power, of course.  The Human Empire…no, it cannot even be called that anymore.  It’s become an abomination, aliens and Inhumans and magic are weakening the human race.  It’s time to purge the old, and bring into being a new government that will be for humanity, and not preach conciliation and assimilation until we no longer exist as a people.  Expansion through conquest, and not through treaties and compromise.”

The Doctor snorted in disdain.  “Really?  Is that you really believe?  That the human race has become weak because they’re friendly with alien races?  Because magic has come back to the universe?”  He stepped toward Anthony, ignoring the guns pointed at him.  “You think killing and destroying make people strong?  That taking by force is what humans are meant to do?”

“The human race was meant to survive,” Anthony snarled, losing whatever calm he’d had before the Doctor had begun grilling him.  “Only through aggression can humans truly progress; only through war can we make the leap to true greatness.”

As the Doctor and Anthony argued about their views on humanity, Phillip watched the guards, looking for an opening to overpower them.  Clint was still up on the gantry; there had been a click in his comm, his mate signalling him that he was ready to make a move. 

He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  Anthony truly believed what he was saying, and it was frightening.  Was this the new HYDRA?  Teaching hatred and sharing dreams of conquest and war?  It sounded like the same old propaganda; something that the immortal had thought was long forgotten.  It seemed not, if what Anthony was spouting was true.

“Be ready,” Stark’s words cut through the debate going on.  The Doctor seemingly didn’t hear the living computer, but Nicole tensed slightly, one hand behind her back, calling her magic to her aid.

Phillip’s own power rose within him, ready to come at his call.

The Doctor had been making a comment that had Anthony bristling under a fairly nasty insult when an alarm when off in the building.

It was just the distraction they needed.

One of the guards went down with an arrow in his shoulder.

Another fell asleep at a spell cast by Nicole, the faint scent of lavender in the sterile air.

A third was clipped in the head by a quickly conjured icicle, knocking him unconscious.

The Doctor aimed his sonic screwdriver at one of the pointed blasters, and it very conveniently sparked in its wielder’s hand, causing the guard to cry out in pain and drop the weapon.

A second arrow followed far too quickly on from the first, penetrating a thick knee pad and sending yet another guard to the floor.

Phillip had both hands out, shaping his magic into a large cube that formed around another gun; the guard, seeing it come into being, rather stupidly tried to fire it while the barrel was blocked.  The blaster backfired, blowing off the hand that had been holding it. 

The immortal couldn’t help but wince.  He vividly could recall losing one of his own hands, but the guard didn’t have the benefit of the GH325 formula and so it wouldn’t grow back.

The last guard managed to get a shot off, the red beam striking the nanotech machine and blowing a chunk out of the casing.  Derek Anthony shouted obscenities, ducking out of the lab and into the hallway beyond.

Phillip gave chase.

He couldn’t allow Anthony to escape.  They needed answers, and the bastard would have at least some of them.  HYDRA had a plan, and while his group had stopped that in its tracks, Phillip knew they couldn’t afford to take the chance that there wasn’t something else happening out there that Anthony might be aware of.

The hallway beyond the lab was plain.  Directly opposite was another hermetically sealed door, but Anthony had ignored it in favour of running down the corridor.  He was a good one hundred feet away when Phillip knelt, resting his hands against the tile flooring.

He called upon his magic. 

A layer of ice formed over the white tiling, spreading far quicker than normal ice would.  In moments, it had caught up to the fleeing Derek Anthony, and his feet went out from under him, causing him to skid out of control and slam into the wall. 

He was only stunned by the impact, so Phillip had the ice form around the man’s torso, pinning him to the floor. 

The immortal walked confidently down the hallway; the slippery tile didn’t mean a thing to him as his magic allowed him to keep his footing on the ice.  He stared down at the now struggling Anthony, giving the CEO a chilling smile.

“Going somewhere?” he enquired calmly. 

 

 

Chapter Text

29 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Somewhere on Earth

 

Henry watched as the sun rose, floating on his back, exhaustion making what small movements he did perform to keep from going under sluggish and fairly ineffective.

When he’d resurrected, it had been daylight, but he’d been able to make out the Moon against the blue of the sky.  It had been with a sense of relief that he’d appeared back on Earth, even if he hadn’t known where he was, and there hadn’t been any land in sight.

Then he’d promptly panicked.

It wasn’t about being in an unknown place.  It had occurred enough times in his long life that it was almost old hat, even though he’d hadn’t died in centuries this time around. 

No, it had been about his mate, and son, and the fact that they were still up on the Moon, in a house with a murderer in it.

Henry had absolutely no doubt that it had been the same person who’d killed Sabrina.  He couldn’t have said why, only that he was positive that he’d struck them in their own home, with a weapon that could kill both Rowena and Abraham.  That thought had sent him into a frenzy of swimming before he gathered his wits back together and told himself that going off in a random direction wouldn’t be a good idea at all.

Still, his heart wouldn’t stop hammering in his chest as he worried about his family.

He didn’t think the assailant would have been able to take on two dragons.  So far, he’d only struck individually.  How long had the man been in wait?  He and his mate had come home early, so chances were they hadn’t been expected so soon.  Had the killer been waiting for Abraham?  Their son had been due back that day, so that was very possible.

But how had the murderer known that Abraham was coming home?  Or had it all been a fluke, and he’d been waiting for whatever dragon had come home first?  Would he have taken them all out, one at a time, as they entered the house?

Henry could have lost his entire family, if he hadn’t taken the blow meant for his mate.

Hopefully his death had given Rowena enough warning.  Still, he could hear her roar in his head, so full of fury he had no doubt that she would have tried to make her own strike against the intruder that had succeeded in killing her mate.

By the time night came, Henry had become considerably calmer.  He’d been in what most people would have called ‘survival mode’, but being immortal meant he hadn’t needed to worry about the actual survival part.  No, what he was more afraid of was of getting eaten by a shark which, while yes, he was immortal, would have still been extremely painful.

He’d been attacked by a shark before, so he knew that first-hand.  It was certainly something he didn’t care to repeat.

At least it was warm, which meant he was most likely in Earth’s Southern Hemisphere, so he didn’t have to worry about death by hypothermia.  To be honest, he hadn’t yet died that way, and he had no wish to experience it.  There was also the danger of sunstroke, but he felt fairly confident that he’d live through that, he’d just be very uncomfortable.  Salt water and sunburn didn’t mix all that well.

So, to save his strength, Henry had simply floated, staring up at the sky as the stars appeared, him being somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere confirmed from the constellations overhead, a large swath of the Milky Way cutting through the darkness.

Pacific Ocean, most likely. 

He didn’t dare doze.  The one time he did, he got a mouth and nose full of salt water, and that hadn’t been pleasant at all.  The only problem was, that left him with his thoughts for company, and those circled around his family and what had happened to them. 

Surely, if they’d been injured – and Henry flatly refused to consider the alternative – they would have been found by now.  Jack and Ianto would have been summoned from Throneworld, and the hunt would be on for him.  All Henry had to do was wait, and stay calm, and someone would be coming.  How they would know where to look, he didn’t know, but he trusted his family not to give up until they’d found him.

If they didn’t locate him soon, though, he would also start having to worry about dehydration…not at all something he wanted die from, either.  As he’d once been a medical doctor, he’d learned all the statistics of dehydration and there was no way he wanted to go through any of that.

And so, after a long night alone, the sun began to rise, and Henry was still floating, his exhaustion heavy in his bones and the light beginning to dazzle.

Henry had no idea how long he’d been in the water when a strange humming noise penetrated the haze that had settled into his mind.

Blinking, the immortal tried to clear his vision; he was very nearly blinded by the glare on the water.  The sound was growing louder, almost an insect-like buzzing that reminded him of a hive full of bees.

Henry paddled a little, to get his head up out of the water, glancing about for the source of what he was hearing.  Off in the distance, he could just make out a metallic glint in the sky, circling in what Henry figured out was a search grid pattern.

They really were looking for him.  Not that he doubted it, of course.

Treading water with one hand, he raised the other, waving it wildly, hoping to get whoever was using the drone – for that was what it was – to do their searching would see him down in the water.  At first, he wasn’t certain they had, but then the drone began to bob toward him, joined by a second that hovered just above the surface of the ocean.

Henry couldn’t recall the last time he’d felt this depth of relief.

The drones approached.  One of them came to a halt right above Henry’s head; the second only stopped for a few seconds, and then was gone in the direction it had come from, most likely back to whoever had sent them out. 

The immortal couldn’t help but smile at the tiny metal sphere.  “I have never been so glad to see anything in my entire life,” he said to it, his voice gravelly from lack of fresh water and from getting salt water down his oesophagus.  He was exaggerating, but in that moment he didn’t care.

The drone bobbed once, as if reacting to his comment.

Henry lost track of time, but the drone stayed with him.  He was aware that he was growing even more tired, so he leaned back and continued floating listlessly.  The sun beat down on him, and the immortal had to wonder just how much of a sunburn he was going to have once rescue finally arrived.

At some point, the drone bobbed once more, and Henry went back to treading water, squinting against the glare reflecting into his eyes.  He didn’t see any sort of boat or shuttle…but there was something coming toward him, and he had to laugh because it looked as if a person was walking on the surface of the ocean.

No, he wasn’t seeing things.

An actual person was walking on the water.

Apparently, the sun hadn’t driven away all of his wits.  It had just seemed that way for a short while.

Henry’s heart did a leap in his chest when he made out that the person approaching him was Samara.

Of course.  That now made sense.

Samara, as the Friend of Water, could control that very element in many ways.  Henry had actually seen her walk across the lake at Ddraig Llyn at least once.  And now, his grandmother-by-mating was coming to rescue him.

Henry had to laugh.  It sounded just a little bit hysterical.

“Well,” Samara said once she was close enough, “fancy meeting you here.”

Henry wanted to roll his eyes, but he was far too tired for that.  “How are Rowena and Abraham?” he asked urgently, voice rough, needing to know his family was safe.

Samara knelt down, and her smile was encouraging.  “Rowena was hurt, but Gareth has assured us she’s going to be fine.  Abraham got off a shot with his flame, but unfortunately he missed.”

The immortal sighed in sheer relief. 

“Here.”  Samara held out a bottle that looked to have water in it.  “You need this.”

She put the bottle to his lips so Henry wouldn’t have to quit trying to keep his head above the surface.  The water was cool, and was possibly the best tasting thing he’d had in a while.  He thanked her for the drink once the bottle was empty.

“You are quite possibly the most beautiful woman I have ever seen,” he gushed sincerely, his words a little less harsh after the water had moistened his throat.  

And she was, with the sun glittering in her silver-blonde hair, breeze whipping strands across her face.  She was dressed in her familiar wetsuit, her feet bare, still in top shape for a woman well over one hundred.

Samara laughed.  “I won’t say anything to Rowena about that admission, alright?”

“That might be a good idea, yes.” 

“It’s only going to be a few more seconds,” she assured him, “and then we’ll get you out of here.  Nathan’s on his way for a pick-up.”

Henry frowned.  “Why isn’t there a boat or a shuttle of something like that?”

“There’s a boat, but it’s a far distance off yet, and we couldn’t wait.  Nathan flew me out a ways, until I was close enough to walk out to you.  He’s the best hoverer in the family, so we thought it would be best if he came to give us a lift.”

A shadow drifted overhead, and Henry glanced upward to see Nathan’s unmistakable dragon shape blocking out the sun, his scales so dark they seemed to be sucking in the light.  The enormous antlers he had in this form were glowing slightly with the magic that allowed a wingless dragon to fly, and Samara was correct: he really was the best hoverer in the entire family, with only Carys matching him for ability.

“Hey, Uncle Henry,” Nathan greeted, looking down at the pair of them in the water, his eyes bright with pleasure.  “Let’s get you out of here, shall we?”

Henry thought that was a brilliant suggestion.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

29 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Hospitaler Tower

The Moon

 

“They’ve found Henry,” Jack reported.

Rowena closed her eyes.  “Thank the Great Dragons,” she whispered.

She was looking a little better that morning, Ianto thought.  Her scales had regained a little more of their usual aqua colour, and she seemed to be a little less tired.  Still, there was pain lurking in her eyes, and she wasn’t breathing very deeply, plus movement wasn’t something she did much of.  She also wasn’t eating, but Gareth had reassured them that this was normal, that the pain Rowena was in was suppressing her appetite, but that it would improve in time.

That morning, Jack and Ianto had awakened to news from Phillip, saying they had a definite lead on HYDRA.  Their son-by-mating had explained about Persephone Corporation and their nanotechnology weapon, and that they were going to be doing some interrogation of the company’s CEO, who was apparently in it up to his neck.  Phillip had assured them they’d get the man to talk, and Ianto had faith in Phillip and the Doctor that they’d do their best.

There had also been a message from Arthur.  Lucy Cole hadn’t been all that cooperative, except to give them a name, John Garrett.  Their grandson had been planning on telling Melinda about him being mentioned, but Jack had also told him to forward on the information to Steve as well.  They’d all discussed using Torchwood resources for this, but the Empress and Steve had been insistent upon helping, so neither Jack nor Ianto had felt at all guilty about referring Arthur on. 

The problem was that John Garrett wasn’t a very unusual name.  Ianto wondered just how many of them there were out there.  It would take time to hunt down a particular one, and while Melinda would have been happy to put some operatives on it Torchwood was a busy organisation, and she had far too much to do with Phillip out on leave.  When Phillip had put her in charge Melinda had told him she was willing to help, but this was for the best. 

At least they had the information on the ship that had been registered in his name.  That might make things a little easier in hunting him down, unless he’d ditched his vessel.  Steve had the resources to check Imperial spaceport records for any mention of the Typhon, which was what the ship had been called when it had been in orbit about Hubworld during that mess with the Master’s ring.

Hopefully that would give them a lead on the missing Suzie Costello as well.  Ianto had kept her at the back of his mind, but while he hadn’t wanted to give up on her, for Owen’s sake, his family had taken precedence. 

“He was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean,” Jack went on.  “Just where we believed he would be, when we checked to see just where the Moon had been in point of orbit, but it was still a large place to get lost in.”

“Is Dad alright?” Abraham asked worriedly.  Today, he and his sister were in their human forms, sitting with their mother, watching out for her and helping when they could. 

“They’re taking him to Torchwood Central to be checked out,” Ianto answered.  “From what Anwyn told us, he was sunburnt and a little dehydrated, but was fine.  Oh, and he was cranky, but I would be too if I’d been floating in the ocean overnight.”

He’d been so very grateful that they’d managed to find Henry so quickly.  The Pacific was very large, but with the drones – and, while they’d been hesitant to go to Melinda for information, they’d shamelessly used the drone network to search for their missing family member – and some computer work, they’d been able to narrow it down to several hundred square miles. 

“Once he’s cleared,” Jack picked up the story, “Anwyn and Mom are going to put him in the nearest transmat and send him here.  She’ll contact us as soon as they do, and we’ll go and meet him at the terminal.”

“I’ll come with you, Granddad,” Carys volunteered.  She’d been an invaluable support for Abraham and Jocelyn; but then, the children in the last hatching did seem to be close to each other, despite their disparate beginnings.  Carys was an Oriental dragon, more resembling Nathan in appearance than the rest of the family, and her human form had a distinct, Old Asian, cast to it, although her vibrant red hair gave her an almost old-time anime aspect. 

It really was still a mystery in the family of how Nathan had turned out, because even with his Margath genetics an Oriental dragon being born from Clint had been odd, to say the least.  Not that any of them would ever judge just on appearances…Jack and Ianto loved each and every member of their family, and Nathan was just as precious to them as any of their children and grandchildren.  It was just something that had been a surprise, just as him being born already in his dragon form had been, when his twin Nicole had been born near-human.

“I’d appreciate that, sweetheart,” Jack said, heartfelt. 

One thing they’d decided when they’d set out on their quest for vengeance was that not a single member of their family would be left on their own.  Abraham had inadvertently broken that rule when he’d left Ddraig Llyn to go home; but then, they hadn’t expected their killer to strike in the Jones-Morgan home. 

“I’d like to come too,” Jocelyn replied.  “I want to meet Dad at the transmat terminal.”

“I bet he’d be very glad to see you,” Ianto said.  “Abraham can stay here with your mother, me, Rory, and Uncle Gareth.”  Gareth wasn’t in the room with them currently, but he wasn’t alone; Rory was with him down in one of the tower’s labs, going over some lab results.  Gareth had requested some magical assistance with some of the tests he was performing on Rowena’s blood, and Rory had agreed readily, joking about going into magical forensics as much of it he was doing lately.

“As soon as Gareth gives the okay,” Ianto went on, “we’re moving you to Ddraig Llyn, Rowena.  Security in Hospitaler Tower is very good, but we’d all feel better if you were under watch by the Great Dragons and the family staying there for the time being.”

“I want to go home, Tad,” Rowena admitted weakly.  “I hate hospitals.”

Jack laughed.  “Don’t let your brother hear you say that, Rowena.”

“Just because he works in one, doesn’t mean the rest of us have to like them.”

Yes, she was feeling a bit better, if she was snarking back at her father.  But a lot of that most likely had to do with Henry being safe. 

Jack touched the comm in his ear, then smiled.  “Carys, Jocelyn…if you’re ready to go and pick up Henry?”

“I’ll fly us there, Granddad,” their granddaughter grinned. 

“Let’s go and get Dad,” Jocelyn grinned happily.

 

**********

 

The reunion was everything Ianto had hoped.

Henry looked tired, and the sunburn was pretty bad, but the smile on his face wiped away any and all exhaustion he would have been feeling as he crossed the room to rest his hand gently on his mate’s cheek, fingers stroking along Rowena’s scales.  “I’m so glad you’re alright,” he whispered.

Ianto turned away, the scene too intimate for parental eyes.

He looked at Jack instead, as the commotion of Abraham and Jocelyn greeting their father rang out in the large lecture hall.  His mate was also grinning, Carys at his side.  “Why don’t we leave them alone for a bit,” he suggested. 

“Good idea,” Jack agreed.

Together, the three of them left, and Ianto pulled the door closed behind them.

“One happy ending at least,” the dragon sighed.  “Now all we can do is hope for more.”

“We’ll fix this,” Jack said with more certainty in his voice than Ianto was feeling.  “Don’t give up.  We need your head in the game.  We need our patriarch to stand with us when we finally go to war.”

The dragon was warmed by his mate’s words.  “I’ll always stand with my family.  And you’re our patriarch as much as I am.”

“We’ll follow you both,” Carys proclaimed.  “Through anything.”

Jack reached out and pulled her into a hug, and Ianto wrapped his own arms around the both of them.  He and Jack had made this family, this wonderful family who were amazing, each in their own right, and loyal and steadfast and he would protect and support them to the end of his days.

A polite-sounding throat clearing had them breaking out of their hug.  “I’m sorry to interrupt,” the nurse apologised, “but there’s a call coming in for you, Director Harkness, from Hubworld.  Second May says it’s important.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

29 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Ddraig Llyn

 

Merlin sat on the lower slopes of Pedair Dreigiau, on one of the wider sections of the path that curved up the mountain, huddled down into the coat he’d pulled on and eyes unfocussed as his mind tried to grasp what had happened on Stormcage.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d lost his temper like that. 

Not that he hadn’t been provoked.  Two members of his family, dead…not that Henry wouldn’t resurrect, but that didn’t make a difference, because he still felt the pain and fear of that resurrection.

And Aunt Rowena, injured, almost killed…with his cousin, Abraham, having walked in just in time to see his own father vanish to wherever he’d gone in order to come back to life. 

There was still a low-level anger in him, and it had made Merlin want to seek out solace in order to better get himself under control.  He’d been mortified by what had happened at Stormcage; even more so because both Arthur and his mother had been witnesses to it.  While Arthur hadn’t said a word about it on their way out and to the transmat to bring them home, he could tell his mate had wanted to, and that had led Merlin to duck out once they’d gotten back to Ddraig Llyn.  He hadn’t wanted to face all the questions and platitudes he’d known were coming, because Arthur loved him and could be a right prat about it when he attempted to sympathise.

It wasn’t Arthur’s fault.  It was just the way he was.

River, though, had been extremely supportive of him.  It had made the wizard wonder just how much his mother really had sympathised with what had occurred.  Not that she actually could, because of her complete and total lack of magic, but she hadn’t been lying when she’d informed Lucy about her own, personal, form of darkness.

If anyone could understand that, it was River Song.  After all, his father lovingly called her his wonderful sociopath.  It was his Dad’s version of playful flirting.

Yes, the Doctor really was very bad at it.  Not that his mother seemed to mind.  In fact, she’d taken it as a compliment. 

His biological parents were really screwed up. 

Speaking of biological parents…he could just make out River, striding up the narrow path as if there wasn’t about a hundred-foot drop-off just to the left of her, the fur of her coat dark against her cheek and determination in her movements.

Merlin sighed.  He really didn’t want to see anyone.  He wanted to wallow.

As River approached, Merlin could see just how concerned she was.  It made him think bitterly about all those years she’d wasted when she could have been his mother, and how dare she think she could make up for it now?

But he quashed that thought. She was trying, and he had to admire her for it.

“Did you have to come halfway up a freezing cold mountain just to brood?” she asked, sitting down beside him.

“I chose this place thinking no one would come all this way to find me,” he snarked back.

“You’ve been gone for hours.  I drew the short straw.”

Merlin thought it was more than that, but was grateful for her not to say it.  And she did have a point; he’s started up Pedair Dreigiau well before dawn, after wandering the house and village like a ghost ever since they’d returned from Stormcage.  He’d wanted to be alone, and everyone had respected that.

Until now.

“I didn’t know there was time limit on wanting alone time.”

She didn’t answer that, just sat there, her shoulder touching his in a gesture of support.  From their vantage point, Ddraig Llyn spread out beneath them, a sweep of greens and blues and browns with patches here and there of snow, the village nestled along one side of the valley wall, and just beyond was the dark slash in one of the mountains that was what everyone called the Mating Cave, but had once been where his grandfather had had his nest. 

He and Arthur had spent the night in that very place, back at their first mating.  While Merlin hadn’t been able to fly on his own, Arthur had carried him high into the atmosphere, and then back down to that very special place where every single member of their family had made their matings official in the eyes of the Great Dragons, in their own, personal, version of the ceremony.

“I thought you’d want to know that they’ve found Henry,” his mother said after a short silence. 

Merlin’s hearts lifted, and his shoulders slumped in relief.  “Thank Goddess.  Is he alright?”  He knew that his uncle would have been fine, but there’d been no way of knowing just where he’d ended up.

“Sunburned and in a bad mood, from what Samara said, and he’s going to be thoroughly checked out by Medical, but he’s fine.”

River shifted slightly, obviously so she could look at him directly, but Merlin didn’t feel like meeting her gaze.  He felt she’d figure out too much if she did. 

There was another, longer, silence.  Then his mother said, “Care to tell me what happened back at the prison?” She sounded like she fully expected him to explain.

He really didn’t want to.  Another wave of bitterness rose, because there she was, trying to finally be his mother, and it had only taken her dying and being resurrected using the lifeforce of an alien race to make her want to take on that role.

“I’m surprised it’s not Arthur up here, demanding answers.”  He let a little bit of that bitterness seep into his voice.

His mother didn’t seem to take any offence by it.  “He wanted to, but at the same time he didn’t think you’d handle it all that well if he came and tried to smother you with feelings.”  She made that word sound like it was something disgusting, and it made Merlin huff a laugh.

“He might have a point.”  Arthur could be a little overbearing when it came to his mate and emotions.  Merlin loved him for it, but it was sometimes not what he needed.

“Merlin,” River murmured, “I know I haven’t been the best mother, but I do love you, and I think I might be able to understand a little bit better than Arthur could.  Please…let me help.”

The wizard took a deep breath, suddenly wanting very much to get every single one of his tumultuous thoughts out in the open.  “I’ve always thought I’d be able to resist temptation, you know?  That I had a responsibility to do the right thing.  And…now I find myself questioning everything I ever believed about myself.”

Her hand took his, encouraging him to continue.

And so he did.  “I’ve lived my lives with this destiny.  I was the one to bring magic back to the universe.”

“And you have.  I’m so very proud of you.”

Merlin huffed a slightly incredulous laugh.  “It hasn’t always been easy, reconciling how people see me, and what I actually am.  I’ve tried to live up to that outer image, and now…I’m not that man, Mum.  I never have been.”

“Oh sweetie.”  She squeezed his hand.  “No one ever is.  Just look at Jack and Ianto.  The universe thinks they’re these near-perfect legends, when they’re just as flawed as anyone else.  And Arthur…you know how much he hates being known as the Once and Future King, when he’s really anything but that persona.   And don’t get me started on your father!  None of us are how we’re perceived, Merlin.  We can’t possibly live up to that.”

She had a valid point.   He knew the stories of his grandfathers, and could never quite reconcile them with the imperfect beings who loved him so very strongly.  Arthur really did hate all that Once and Future King shite, and was always grousing about it, and how it had almost gotten him arrested when he’d first been made Director of Torchwood because the Emperor at the time had been worried that Arthur was going to try and take over the Empire, just based on those old legends. 

Yeah, and don’t get any of them started on Dad, because while he could be a complete bad arse, the Doctor was only really a person who hardly ever had a plan and ran more on luck and his own brain than anything else.

“When I was in the Data Core, I talked to your data ghost there,” he went on, “and I told her why I sent the Darkhold to the Library…because I was afraid of it, because it was calling to me even locked up within the Secure Archives and I didn’t trust myself not to eventually fall prey to its power and use it.  Sure, it would be for good reasons, but that sort of thing can never do good, only evil.”

He didn’t miss his mother’s slight flinch at the mention of her data ghost.  It had taken River a little while to get used to the fact that there was another version of her, locked within the Library’s Data Core, trapped there forever.  Merlin couldn’t blame her; it bothered him a little as well.

“I’ve been rethinking that decision, and I’ve come to realise that I was wrong to do it.  It wouldn’t have stayed buried there for long, because there will always be people out there who will covet that sort of power.  It was a mistake, but at the time it had seemed like an ideal solution.”

“Self-preservation is a very strong motivation for a lot of things we do that don’t make a lot of sense.”

“And look where it led to.  I’m still surprised Phillip’s forgiven me so easily.”

“You didn’t know that would happen, and he understands that.”

Intellectually, Merlin knew that, too.  But it could have ended so very badly, and little Daisy might have grown up not knowing one of her fathers.

“I guess I can’t regret one thing that came of it.”  He finally met her eyes.  “I got you back.”

River wrapped an arm around his shoulders, hugging him to her.  “And I’m back for as long as you want me here.”

Merlin wanted to answer, forever, but he knew that wouldn’t happen.

“But Lucy was right about it, you know?  I used all that dark magic for a good cause, but it doesn’t work like that.  It’s…tainted me.  I can feel it, deep inside, a small spark of darkness in my soul.  I’ve become corrupted, and it’s affecting me in ways I’m not even aware of yet.  And I’m frightened that I could actually do what I did to Lucy because of that corruption.  I don’t even know what it’s going to do to you and Phillip, down the road.”

There, he’d admitted it.  His greatest fear, that the dark magic he’d tried to so hard to keep Lucy from using to resurrect the Master would somehow ruin two members of his family, as well as himself.  It felt…lightening, in a way, and he leaned into his mother, accepting the support she was offering so freely.

He felt her sigh, rather than heard it.  “Merlin, every single one of us carries a little bit of darkness within them.  Just ask Ianto; he’ll be more than willing to tell you about it, since he sees it better than anyone else I’ve ever met.”

This was true.  Grandtad Ianto was one of the most discerning people Merlin had ever met.  And yet, he hadn’t rejected Merlin, so maybe it wasn’t so bad?

“You can’t have light without darkness; you should know that,” she reminded him.

Merlin did know that, in the rational part of his mind, but it was telling his heart and soul that, that was far too hard.    

“It’s how you let that darkness define you; how you use it; that makes you who you are.  Striking out in anger isn’t giving into that darkness.  It’s quite a natural thing to do, especially when dealing with what we’ve all had to over the last several months.  And I can guarantee it’s not even fully anger; it’s also grief, and helplessness, and it’s completely natural.  You went after Lucy only after we’d heard about Rowena and Henry, because of all of our family those two are the ones least likely to be a danger, and you wanted answers.  It’s totally understandable, Merlin, and you can’t let it haunt you.”

He gave a weak chuckle.  “Since when are you the one to speak sense?”

“Since I married your father.”  Her voice was overly fond, belying the sarcasm in the statement.

The laugh was even stronger this time.  “Which doesn’t make any sense at all, Mum.”

“Someone had to look after him.  You know how he gets when he’s all alone.”

Yes, the Doctor being on his own was a constant concern for all of them, but Merlin knew that wasn’t the only reason River had married him.  They had a true bond of affection, and anyone could see it.

“I think that was what I needed to hear, but it’s not going to stop me worrying about it.”  He was so very grateful that she’d come to talk to him.

“Of course it’s not!  You wouldn’t be Merlin if it didn’t!  It’s when you stop that I’ll be afraid for you.  As long as your conscience is telling you to be concerned, then you won’t let the darkness rule you.  And you have your family to keep you from stepping into that darkness.  You can rely on them to do whatever it takes to help.  And me, if you’ll let me.”

That last part was said in a whisper so low Merlin almost didn’t catch it.  She was uncertain of her welcome, and he couldn’t have that.

The wizard wrapped his own arm around her waist.  “You’re my Mum.  I’ll always need you.”

Her grasp on his shoulders tightened at his admission.  “I do love you, you know.  I might not always show it, but I will always love you.”

“I love you too, Mum.” 

They sat like that for a while, quiet, just holding each other.  Merlin soaked up the closeness like it was the air he needed to breathe.  He was so very glad that he had his mother back, for as long as she could stay.

“Mum,” he finally spoke.

“Yes?”

“Do you remember?”

She cocked her head, examining him with those oh-so sharp eyes of hers, and Merlin knew he didn’t even need to explain what he meant.

Then she sighed.  “You’re asking this now?”

Merlin shrugged.  “I’ve been a little…afraid…of knowing.  But do you?  Remember?”

River didn’t answer for a little bit, and the wizard felt himself holding his breath in anticipation.  He was desperately afraid, though, of what she might tell him.  But he had to know, if his act of bringing her back had done more damage than put a little darkness in the souls involved.

“I’ve tried,” she admitted.  “I’d heard the stories of what Jack and Henry both experience when they die, and I was curious to know if my own experience was any different.  But…I can’t.  Remember, that is.  It’s as if I went to sleep and, a hundred years later, woke up.”  She gave him a small smile.  “So, we still don’t know what it’s like to truly die.”

Merlin felt relief at that.  He didn’t know what he would have done if he’d somehow ripped her from an afterlife…or a current life, where her soul had reincarnated and had moved on.

“Now,” her smile went even warmer, “I don’t know about you, but climbing a mountain makes me hungry.  So, why don’t we head back down and grab some lunch?  You have a mate who’s very worried about you, you know.”

Merlin did know that.  “Then let’s go,” he agreed. 

Together, they got up from the ledge, and began their trek back down the mountain, Merlin’s hearts feeling lighter than when he’d crept up there, so many hours ago. 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

29 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Unknown Location

HYDRA Basecamp

 

Suzie Costello – reborn Chastity Langdon – realised something was going on.

Ever since she’d been brought to this place, wherever it was, HYDRA had been intent on putting her to work.  Her background in quantum physics had been seen as useful, and so she had a place in their lab with her own equipment…and her own guards, who were always watching to make certain she didn’t try anything.

Not that she would, as long as Rima, her wife, was being used as leverage against her good behaviour.

And she was being used against Rima, as well, since her wife was also useful to their captors.

She was just grateful that they hadn’t discovered Peter…or Owen Harper, as he’d once been named.  Suzie and Rima – who’d been on the old Torchwood team as Diane Holmes, after Suzie’s demise, and had been with Owen back then – had been planning on asking Peter to join them in a triad, but hadn’t gotten around to it.  And HYDRA obviously hadn’t sniffed that little detail out.

Suzie hoped more than anything that he’d gone to Torchwood when she and Rima had vanished.  That way, perhaps Jack and Ianto knew she hadn’t betrayed them.  That she’d been a back-up plan in case their original plan of getting the Master’s ring out of Hubworld failed.

It had been a wasted effort.  Without the Darkhold, no one knew how to retrieve the biodata from the ring and to resurrect the Master.  Honestly, Suzie was glad of it.

It hadn’t stopped them from trying scientific means, but that had failed terribly.

Today, she wasn’t in the lab.  Suzie hadn’t been summoned, and had instead been told to work in the small cabin that she and Rima shared.  If she’d been in the lab, she never would have witnessed the ruckus going on at the centre of the lashed-together buildings that HYDRA was calling a base.

When Suzie had been brought there – wherever it was – she hadn’t been impressed.  There were about a half a dozen cabins interspersed across a small island in the middle of a lake that always seemed to be surrounded by fog.  The main lab building was a bit sturdier than the prefabricated cabins, but it wasn’t all that large, either, and it was pretty ancient as far as she could tell.

It was the circle of ancient trees at the exact centre of the island that had held Suzie’s attention.   Even though she didn’t have a lick of magic in her, she could practically smell the power radiating from those trees.  No one really went there, except for the couple of sorcerers that were a part of HYDRA.

Apparently, they’d lost the really powerful one they’d had when she’d been arrested by Torchwood.

That gave her such a sense of pride, even though she wasn’t in Torchwood in this life. 

Suzie had had time to think about her reasons for not going to Hubworld and letting Jack and Ianto know she was back; she’d even asked Rima and Peter not to do it, either, even though they both had tried to talk her into changing her mind.  Suzie hadn’t wanted to face her former bosses, not after what she’d done.

However, her fears had proved groundless.  Ianto had accepted her wholeheartedly, as had Jack.  Maybe, after all this was over, the three of them might change employers.  Suzie had been very much impressed with Torchwood’s labs, and she’d felt welcomed by Fitz and Simmons for the short time she’d been there.

Hopefully, Jack and Ianto would forgive her for her stealing the ring and turning it over to HYDRA. But then, there had been extenuating circumstances, and Suzie recalled clearly that Toshiko had been accepted into the team after she’d done almost the same thing, when her mother had been kidnapped by terrorists and they’d used the woman to get Tosh to do what they’d wanted.

So, there as hope that she would still be welcomed when this was all over.

If she lived through it, of course.

There wasn’t room to land ships on the island, so a transmat had been set up smack dab in the middle of the settlement.  From where Suzie was sitting on the tiny porch of the equally tiny cabin, tablet in hand, she watched as whoever it was who’d just transmatted in be confronted by John Garrett, who was also a reincarnation of an original member of HYDRA, and who had supposedly been SHIELD at one point.  From what Garrett had intimated, he’d been friends with Phillip Coulson.

The man who’d just shown up was yelling, but Suzie couldn’t make out the words.  Garrett reacted badly to whatever he was being told, because he hauled back and decked the newcomer, knocking him back on his arse. 

It had taken Agravaine to pull Garrett off, and the man climbed slowly to his feet, wiping blood from his mouth. 

Suzie went back to her tablet, secretly pleased that this HYDRA cell didn’t get along all that well.

“What was that about?” Rima asked, as she joined Suzie on the porch, sitting on the plascrete floor of the porch and leaning against her wife’s legs.

“No idea, but Garrett wasn’t happy.”

“Good.”

The pair of them were silent for a while.  Suzie held the tablet in one hand, the other resting in Rima’s dark hair, and she simply revelled in her wife’s presence.  It would have been perfect if not for the fact that they were prisoners.

It wasn’t long before the woman strode toward the transmat.

She gave Suzie the shivers.  Tall, blonde, with dark eyes and a tendency to too much mascara, the woman was power and grace all rolled up into a very attractive package…if Suzie was into evil masochists, that was. 

The woman’s name was Morgause.

Suzie knew she was one of the HYDRA leaders.  That she was in charge of their little enclave here.  There was something about her that was somewhat disturbing, and Suzie couldn’t put her finger on what it was.

She did know, also, that this woman was also a reincarnation, and that she’d been reborn without the magic she’d had in her previous life, which had a tendency to make Morgause angry most of the time.  Serious anger management issues, really.

 Morgause met four men, and together they got onto the transmat and vanished.

“Why do I think that’s not good?” Rima mused.

“Because you have good instincts,” Suzie complemented absently.  Her mind was working on the problem she’d been given; not so much as to solve it, but to sabotage it long enough for Torchwood to find them.

There wasn’t a doubt in her mind that someone would rescue them.

“I just need one chance at that transmat,” Rima said quietly.  “I know I can break the lockdown code and get us away from here.”

Suzie didn’t say anything to that.  Her wife had been talking about escape ever since Suzie had arrived, a little over four months ago.  While Rima was a genius at mechanical systems, Suzie had her doubts they’d be able to get away with it.  She’d stopped voicing them when Rima had gotten irritated at her for wanting to wait for rescue, instead of trying to escape themselves.

It wasn’t that Suzie was a coward…alright, maybe she was, just a little.  But she was honestly afraid of them getting caught, and Suzie thought she understood their captors well enough to know that they wouldn’t tolerate it, even though both of them were being useful at the moment.  Within the first week Suzie had been a witness to an execution, and it hadn’t been pretty. 

These people were zealots to their cause, which quite rightly frightened Suzie into compliance.

They’d tried to convert her.  The day after Suzie had been ‘escorted’ to this island she’d been approached by Morgause, who’d explained to her all about HYDRA’s goals.  Basically, toppling the Imperial family and taking their place as the head of the Human Empire, and Morgause had offered her a place within their new dictatorship. 

Suzie wished she’d pretended to be interested.  Perhaps she would have been given a bit more freedom to poke around, and possibly get the two of them off this prison.  But she wasn’t that good an actress and would never have been able to pull it off.

It obviously hadn’t occurred to Rima, either, so Suzie didn’t feel quite so bad about it.

She had no idea how long they’d been sitting there when the transmat activated.  On the pad stood Morgause and her troops, but they weren’t alone.

Suzie’s heart froze when she recognised one of the new people.

It was Lisa Harkness-Jones.

Suzie had met her back on Hubworld.  She was Jack and Ianto’s daughter, who just happened to be the reincarnation of the evil witch, Morgana le Fay.  Apparently, Lisa wasn’t evil, which was a good thing in any sort of opinion a sane person might have had. 

Lisa didn’t look at all happy as she stepped down from the transmat pad.  She was wearing the official Torchwood tunic over a deep green skirt that fell to her calves, flowing as she walked.  Flat shoes were on her feet, and her hair was in a professional-looking twist at the back of her neck.  There were guns pointed at her…no, at her companion.  They were holding his safety above Lisa’s head, and the young dragon looked royally pissed off about it.

She was about to tell Rima who the young ‘girl’ was, when her wife gasped sharply.   Suzie glanced down; Rima was slightly pale, her mouth dropped open in shock.  Her dark eyes were on the man who was standing next to Lisa. 

He was of average height, more silver in his hair than brown, slightly stocky and dressed very well.  If Lisa didn’t look happy, then this man was downright furious, and he was busily haranguing Morgause as if he wasn’t risking his life by talking back to the woman. 

“I know him,” Rima whispered, her shock turning to awe in a heartbeat.  She clambered to her feet, and Suzie had to grab onto her hand to hold her back from going over to the stranger and doing something silly.  “Bloody hell, he survived…”

“Who is he?”  Suzie was positive she’d never seen the older man before in her life.

“His name is Rhys Williams, and he was taken by the Old Cardiff Rift back in 2016.”  The awe morphed into sheer happiness, her smile blinding.  “We’d all thought he was lost…”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

29 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Gliese 581g

Hubworld

 

Rhys was feeling a bit too old to keep up the people wrangling.

Oh, he really wasn’t all that old, going by the current time’s standards.  He would be one hundred and fourteen this year, and the doctors were certain he’d have at least another fifty years in him, but really…he just felt like it was a bit much.

Not that he really blamed Owen for being a bear.  Hell, if it was Samara missing Rhys would have been ready to commit murder on the ones who’d taken her.

When Jack had asked him to meet with the reincarnation of their former teammate, Rhys had been excited about it.  He was well familiar with how it worked, because of Clint, Lisa, Arthur and Merlin, and of the people Phillip worked with, but Owen had been a different thing completely.  For one thing, everyone so far he’d met had at least resembled the people he remembered.  Even Fitz and Jemma, despite being from another planet and looking like insects, had a certain cast to them that made them recognisable to him from almost the beginning.

Owen had been a very different kettle of fish.

Jack had said that his old friend’s current race were called the Polarians, from a planet called Polaris Four.  He’d been warned that Owen didn’t resemble his old self at all.  He hadn’t been expecting the really tall, red-haired and white-skinned alien who’d greeted him that first time.

Of course, the moment he’d opened his mouth, Rhys had known that this really was Owen Harper.  The snarkiness that had poured from the man’s lips made it obvious, after the relieved pat on the shoulder he’d received from his old friend. 

The sarcasm, though, had been even more biting than Rhys could recall, but then his girlfriends were missing, presumably in HYDRA’s clutches. 

Girlfriends.  Plural.

While Rhys had never met Suzie Costello, since she’d died before he’d even known exactly what Torchwood did, he did remember Diane Holmes.  She and Owen had had a long-distance relationship even before Rhys had joined that original team, and had then been together up until the time he’d been taken by the Rift.  Apparently, they’d gone the distance, which was a good thing.

Knowing that Owen and Diane had found each other again had warmed his heart.  Knowing that there was a third side of that relationship now should have been a bit mind-boggling, but really wasn’t.  If he had to admit, if anyone in the old team who would have been in some sort of romantic triad it would have been Owen Harper.

And maybe Eion Gwynne.  But Rhys hadn’t seen hide nor hair of him, except that Anwyn’s mate, Gwaine, looked a hell of a lot like him, which gave Rhys certain ideas…

Reincarnation could be a right bitch, really.  You never knew what you were gonna get.   Rhys only hoped that, if he did it and remembered who he was, that he didn’t come back as some sort of worm or snake or something.  That would have been embarrassing.

He’d most likely be asked to wrangle more people.  His lot in life, really.

At that moment, though, he wasn’t wrangling anyone, which was a bit of a relief. 

Owen was in the lab with Jemma and Fitz.  The three of them had bonded over science, and it was just a bit fun to watch them working together again.  Owen called himself a Magical Theorist, which basically meant he knew magic without having any himself.  The trio were going over information that Phillip had sent them from Stark’s World, and they had their heads together, two with antennae and one with such bright red hair it looked like Owen was on fire.  Rhys didn’t understand one word in ten, but was confident they knew exactly what they were going on about. 

He only hoped they’d find something that would lead them to whoever had killed Sabrina, and had attacked Rowena and Henry. 

Rhys watched from his stool in the corner of the lab.  Really, he had no idea what he was doing there.  It wasn’t as if he could actually be of any help, but at the same time he was hoping maybe his presence would at least be a form of support to the scientists working so feverishly on whatever the hell Phillip and his team had found.  He doubted it, though.

He stifled a sigh.  Maybe he should go back to Ddraig Llyn?  Although, it wasn’t as if Samara was even there.  She’d gone out with Nathan in their hunt for Henry, who was somewhere lost in the Pacific Ocean.  Her unique sense of water should be of a help to them, along with the use of the drones that Torchwood Central had lent.  If anyone could find a single person in an immense ocean, it was Samara Harkness-Williams. 

“You look completely bored,” a voice said in his ear, making Rhys jump slightly.

He turned his head, and saw Lisa standing next to him.  “Yeah, I am actually.”  He was glad to see her; the last thing he’d heard, she’d been in the middle of an intake case and hadn’t been able to take her own leave of absence until she’d gotten her newest displaced temporal refugee settled. 

His granddaughter tugged on his sleeve.  “Come on.  I’m done here for now.  Let’s go home.”

That sounded an excellent idea, and he said so.

The three scientists didn’t even seem to notice them leaving.

 

**********

 

Hubworld still amazed Rhys, even after being in the future for as long as he had.

When he’d been with Torchwood, never had he imagined what it would become.  Stepping out of Torchwood Tower and into the red sunlight, Rhys slipped on the sunglasses he’d taken to wearing when he was on Hubworld; there was something about the luridness of the light that gave him headaches.  According to Jack and Ianto, he wasn’t the only one.  There were plenty of people who’d been born on worlds where the sun was different, and so he didn’t feel self-conscious about wearing the special, polarising lenses that he’d been given all those years ago.

“How’d your case go, then?” he enquired of his granddaughter.

Lisa turned a very satisfied expression on him.  “Very well.  It’s usually easier to intake someone from the future, than from the past…”

They walked toward Phillip and Clint’s home, where Lisa had been staying.  She’d actually moved out years ago, needing to be on her own, but had come back during that mess at the Library, being there with Clint while he’d been pregnant and worried about Phillip’s disappearance.  She’d never left, and had been of invaluable help with baby Daisy. 

Still, she had her own job to do, and she shared with Rhys as they made their way down the street, toward the house.  Lisa would be putting in for her own leave as soon as things were taken care of with her refugee which, according to her, would be in the next couple of days.  She talked about repatriating the being to his own people, and how his adjustment was going, and Rhys listened avidly, understanding just how jarring it was for someone to be lost from their own time.

He’d had family, though.  Lisa’s case did not, and would be reintegrating into his own past.  In ways, that had to be worse than having to learn all about the future.  At least, it was in Rhys’ opinion. Apparently in practice it wasn’t, according to his granddaughter, and she would know what she was talking about.

Phillip and Clint lived in what would have been called a brownstone back in Rhys’ time.  It was a multi-storey building in a residential area that wasn’t all that far from Torchwood Tower.  It just seemed like it was, set back away from the bustle of the city proper.  There weren’t any pedestrians in that section at the moment, and it was peaceful to just walk along the sidewalk, enjoying listening to his granddaughter ramble on about a job she so obviously loved.

For the moment, they had the house to themselves, with Phillip and Clint offworld, and their kids also gone and doing what they did.  Rhys was worried a little about Skylar, but he was with his theatre group, and surrounded by friends as well as being bodyguarded by Alyce and Robyn.  He was as safe as he possibly could be and not be at Ddraig Llyn.  They would be back amid family soon anyway, as soon as the run of Skylar’s current production on New Wales had finished.

They were about fifty feet from the front stoop of the house when Rhys noticed the man across the street.

He was tall, and blocky; if Rhys had to say, he looked as if he was built like a brick shithouse.  He was damned intimidating, and Rhys was instantly on guard against him, wondering if this was who’d attacked Henry and Rowena and who’d killed Brina.

Lisa had noticed something was off with him, because she stopped talking and glanced in his direction, frowning.  “Grandtad?” she murmured, confused.

Rhys opened his mouth to tell her to get to the house, when the second man, equally intimidating, stepped to the curb just ahead.

His granddaughter caught on quickly.  Her eyes went into their dragon aspect instantly.

Rhys knew she was ready to change her shape, in order to protect him.  Lisa was one of the most protective people he knew, and he was friends with Jack and Ianto. 

But, before she could do just that, a voice behind them said, “Hello, sister.”

That had both of them spinning round to face whoever had said that.  It wasn’t any of Rhys’ dragon grandchildren, so that meant the greeting was confusing in the extreme. 

The woman who stood there was wearing a dress that was vaguely medieval, the skirt brushing the plascrete of the sidewalk.  The blackness of it made her complexion look downright spectral, and there was far too much make-up about her dark eyes.  Her blonde hair was loose to her waist, and her expression was one of familiar superiority, coupled with pleased expectation.

Beside him, Lisa went white as a sheet.  Her eyes flared back to human, and her hand reached out, snagging Rhys by the arm and gripping his bicep in a vice-like grasp.  He didn’t protest, even though it would leave a bruise, knowing his granddaughter was totally shocked by whoever the hell this woman was.

“Morgause?” Lisa gasped almost inaudibly.

Rhys’ heart jumped in surprise.  Certainly, he knew the story of Lisa’s previous life as Morgana, and how she’d worked with her half-sister, Morgause, in her attempts to take over Camelot.  The woman confronting them was apparently her reincarnation, judging from Lisa’s acknowledgement. 

And Lisa wasn’t at all happy to see her.

Not that Rhys could blame her.  She’d worked long and hard to divorce herself from her past life, and that would have included the ones who’d been on the path to conquest with her.  This had to have been bringing up all sorts of memories for her.

Morgause, though, was pleased to see her.

“it’s good that you remember me,” Morgause purred, taking several steps closer.  “I’ve missed you, Morgana.”

“That isn’t my name,” Lisa hissed.  “I’m Lisa Harkness-Jones.”

“No,” Morgause said patiently, “You’re my sister, Morgana.  And I’m here to bring you home.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you,” Lisa vowed.  “I’m perfectly happy where I am.”

“Then, I’m just going to have to convince you.”

The sudden coldness of a gun barrel against his temple had Rhys freezing in shock.  Lisa must have felt it through their contact, because she looked at him, her eyes narrowing angrily as she took in the weapon and its implicit threat.

“You kill him,” she swore, “and each and every one of you is dead.”

“It won’t come to that,” Morgause assured her.  “You just need to come with me.  You’re needed.”

Suddenly, it occurred to Rhys that Morgause was in on this HYDRA thing.

It made sense.  Here she was, another reincarnated soul with former memories, and she knew who Lisa had once been.  It had to have been HYDRA, with their magical knowledge of just who was carrying whose soul about.  Morgause being involved was the only alternative.

But HYDRA wanted Lisa for something.

At least they weren’t threatening to kill her.  Rhys didn’t think Morgause would.  He, however, was fair game, but he’d lived a much longer life than he’d planned, and he couldn’t let himself be held over his granddaughter’s head, because he had no doubt that Morgause was about to ask Lisa to do something she didn’t want to do.

Something that only Morgana would have been capable of doing.

“Sweetheart,” he murmured, “you don’t have to do a thing you don’t want to.”

“Grandtad…” Lisa was obviously distressed by the threat of the gun at his head. 

Then she spun toward Morgause, fury making her tremble.  “I’ll go with you, but you need to let my grandfather go.”

Something flickered over Morgause’s pale features, and while Rhys couldn’t read it, he suspected she wasn’t happy that Lisa was calling him Grandfather.  Too bad.  That was what he was.  It might not have been by blood, but it was in every other way that mattered.

Then she smiled, a sly thing that didn’t bode well for Rhys’ peace of mind.  “But I need him.  I need him to get you to do what I want.”

Lisa looked as if she wanted to tear into each and every one of them, but didn’t dare.  Rhys felt angry himself at being used as a bargaining chip to get his granddaughter to do HYDRA’s bidding, and was halfway tempted to get the bastard with the gun to shoot him in order to give Lisa a chance to get away.

But…

Maybe this would work out.

Rhys wished he could somehow signal Lisa, to let her know that he had the vague stirrings of a plan that required Morgause and her bully boys to take them with them wherever they went.  There were still two innocent people out there, and if they could find them and somehow escape…it was a chance they needed to take.

Damnit, he hated playing the damsel in distress.

But this was their chance to find out just what HYDRA was up to.

Rhys rested a hand on Lisa’s shoulder, being careful to move slowly in order to avoid getting himself shot.  Her silver-green eyes met his, and he suddenly wished he was telepathic, like Fitz and Jemma were, because he really wanted to communicate his plan to her.

He didn’t think he was able to, but he knew his granddaughter, and she wasn’t about to let him get shot, no matter what he told her to do.

Lisa sighed.  “Alright, I’ll come with you.”

Morgause looked extremely pleased.  “Then, let’s be going.”

From one of her pockets the woman pulled a silver disc.  A teleport disc, he recognised it instantly. 

Bloody hell, he hated those things…

 

 

Chapter Text

 

29 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Stark’s World

Cartel Space

 

“You really think you’re going to get him to talk?” Clint asked dubiously.

Phillip favoured him with a shrug.  “He’s a villain.  Maybe I can convince him to do a bit of monologuing.  You know how much they seem to enjoy doing that.”

The Doctor thought that might work.  Villains did like the sound of their own voices.

They’d dumped Derek Anthony in one of the cells at the main security centre a couple of buildings away from the Central Computer’s Tower.  It was a grey, plascrete room with a plain metal table and a pair of chairs, a bar across the top of the table where a prisoner could be handcuffed. 

Derek Anthony wasn’t handcuffed, which the Doctor thought was a shame.

They were standing in the surveillance suite, watching the man on cameras that were hidden within the room, although Anthony had to know they were there.  He looked completely relaxed, as if he was waiting for dinner instead of an interrogation. 

“If anyone can get him to spill his guts,” Stark said through the comm unit the Doctor was still wearing, “it’s Agent.”

The Doctor really wanted to know the story behind that nickname.  He had a feeling it would be pretty funny.

“I’d like to stand in on the questioning,” the Time Lord requested.

“Actually,” Phillip mused, “that might be a good idea.  I’m fairly certain he doesn’t know who you really are, yet, and that can work in our favour.”

“He’s a really cool customer,” Clint observed.  “He’s been in there for hours, and he doesn’t seem all that ruffled.”

“Well, then I think it’s time we ruffle him.” 

With those words, Phillip stepped out of the suite and down the corridor, toward the secure interrogation room.  The Doctor followed eagerly, because he knew he was going to enjoy this very much.

There was a guard in the red and gold Stark livery on the door, and the man turned and disengaged the lock as they approached.  “I’ll be just outside if you need me, Sirs,” the security man said. 

The Doctor doubted they would, because Anthony didn’t seem to be the one to get his hands dirty, but it was nice to know they had back-up.

Anthony glanced up as they entered, a superior smirk on his face.  “Oh, have you come to escort me out of the building?  How nice.”

“These are some very serious charges against you,” Phillip commented, taking the seat opposite their prisoner.  The Doctor leaned against the wall, arms crossed, giving Anthony his best glare.

It didn’t seem to affect him, which was disappointing.

“You have no proof.”

“On the contrary, we have enough proof to get you extradited back to Imperial space to stand trial.”

“Cartel Space is neutral.  There are no extradition treaties with the so-called Human Empire.”

“You’re right,” Phillip conceded, “however, the accords your previous CEOs signed when applying for residency on Stark’s World gives the Central Computer the right to deport anyone who breaks the laws here, which is what you’ve done.  I’ve already received approval from the Central Computer to take you into custody.”

“And just what laws have I broken?”

“You’ve wilfully created technology that is patently useable as a weapon, and have allied yourself with a terrorist organisation.  Those are more than enough to get your ass kicked off this planet.”

Anthony finally seemed to lose a little of his previous calm.  “You can’t prove any of that.”

“We have the initial reports on your nanotech, and it’s pretty conclusive.”  Phillip leaned back in his own seat.  “It would go easier on you if you’d just answer the questions I have about HYDRA.  Perhaps I can get you into a nice, cushy upper echelon containment facility instead of a protracted stint in Stormcage, or a prison planet where you’d be doing hard labour for the rest of your life.”

“HYDRA’s responsible for a lot of death and destruction,” the Doctor added.  “You can pretty much bet whatever punishment you receive isn’t going to be pleasant.”

The prisoner gave them another smirk, and the Time Lord was impressed by Anthony’s sheer chutzpah.  “I have nothing to say.”

Phillip gave him a cool glare. “You do realise that HYDRA’s not going to be as loyal to you as you are to them.”

Anthony crossed his arms, returning Phillip’s glare with one of us own.  “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Certainly, you had to be wondering why HYDRA’s assassin used one of your data chips and conveniently left it at the scene of a particularly grisly murder?”

Oh, Phillip really was good.  The Doctor had been wondering that very same thing, because if HYDRA had been counting on Anthony’s doomsday weapon to give them an edge, then why incriminate the company – and by extension, the man – in Sabrina’s death?  And there was Phillip, using that little piece of information as leverage against Anthony in his quest to gain more information on HYDRA and their assassin.

For the first time Anthony looked uncertain.  “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“I believe you do.” Phillip came forward, resting his hands on the tabletop, lacing his fingers together and giving Anthony a hard staredown.  “I’m aware that you know exactly who I am.”

“Of course I do.”  The man sounded completely dismissive.

“Then you must know that I was fighting HYDRA back in the twenty-first century.  So you must also know that I’ve probably forgotten more about HYDRA than you have ever known.  And I can tell you this: HYDRA doesn’t care about you.  They only care about their goals, and somehow you’ve failed in whatever task they’ve given you.  They’ve used the murder of one of my operatives to implicate you, in order to get you out of the way.  HYDRA’s loyalty to you ended the moment they concluded that you’d been unsuccessful.  If it wasn’t to lay the blame on you for Sabrina Jones-Swann’s killing, then chances are they would have arranged their assassin to come after you.  The fact that they’re willing to burn both you and your research says a lot about your failure, doesn’t it?”

Oh, the Doctor hoped that Phillip never questioned him, because he’d have been spilling secrets all over the place.  Not that that would have been particularly hard, because the Doctor was well aware of his tendency to ramble.

“Damn, and I thought you were badass before…” Stark whispered in awe through the personal comms.

The uncertainty that Anthony was displaying grew, and he shifted slightly in his seat.  It was enough to give away just how bothered he was by Phillip’s observations.

“At the moment,” the immortal continued inexorably, “we have you on, at the very least, admission to being involved with a terrorist group and conspiracy to commit murder – “

“I didn’t kill anyone!” Anthony denied hotly, the last of his calm completely gone.

Well, that didn’t take as long as the Doctor had thought.

“No, but we have evidence that you were involved, at least peripherally – “

“How do I even know you have anything that can trace back to me?” the man challenged.

Reaching into his pocket, Phillip withdrew the data crystal in its clear evidence bag.  He tossed it onto the table.  “I wasn’t lying to you when I claimed we’d found this, and that it linked back directly to Persephone Corporation…and that’s you, Mr Anthony.  You, as the CEO, oversee your company and its employees.  Now, if you can prove that this data crystal got to the scene of Ms Jones-Swann’s murder innocently, that particular charge will be withdrawn.”

He paused, waiting patiently as Anthony fidgeted in his uncomfortable chair, staring at that tiny piece of tech as if it had personally betrayed him.

The Doctor knew that Phillip sat there, quietly, for two whole minutes before he removed the data crystal from sight.  “I guess you don’t have anything for me, then.”  The immortal stood.  “But while you sit and stew here, waiting for official transport, you might want to think about what I’ve said.  HYDRA’s betrayed you, Mr Anthony.  Their assassin was the one who left us this evidence, linking back to your company.  If the assassin had meant to keep you in the clear, you can bet they would have removed anything that would have led to Persephone Corporation.  So, do you really still owe them your silence?”

With those parting words, Phillip swept out of the room, and the Doctor followed, far more impressed than he’d ever been.  Once the door was closed and locked, he laughed.  “That was fantastic. Honestly, Phillip, very well done.”

The tiny smile the immortal wore shone in his pale eyes.  “Thank you, Doctor.  Now, let’s see how long it takes for him to consider talking to us.”

He made his way back to the security suite, where Clint and Nicole waited.  The moment they were both over the threshold, Clint had grabbed Phillip by the front of his jacket and had him pressed up against the wall, where he did his best to remove the immortal’s tonsils with his tongue.

Nicole sighed, shaking her head.  “I’m sorry about my parents, Doctor,” she said, sounding slightly disgusted. 

“To be fair,” the Time Lord answered, “what Phillip did in there was impressive.  I can hardly fault Clint for…rewarding him.”

“But in my security suite,” Stark groused, scandalised. 

Clint separated from his mate somewhat reluctantly.  “Don’t worry, we don’t do public shows.  Your digital virtue is safe, Stark.”

“I’m not worried about my virtue, Hawkass…it’s Agent’s that’s in danger!”

“I lost my virtue a long time ago, Stark,” Phillip said dryly.  “After all, I do have a biological daughter now.”

“I did not want to know that!”  The living computer actually made gagging noises, which had Clint rolling his eyes and Phillip looking smug.

At least they weren’t like Jack and Ianto, who were lovey dovey all of the time.

Phillip took a step back from his mate, and if the Doctor was any judge it was done somewhat reluctantly.  “If I remember correctly, from experience HYDRA agents are usually fairly loyal.  Let’s see if they’re the same in the future as they were in the past.”

 

**********

 

The four of them had just been sitting down to lunch when a call came over the comm.

“Director Coulson, Director Harkness is attempting to contact you,” the anonymous voice from Stark’s communication hub murmured in each of their ears.

Phillip looked concerned.  They’d all heard about Henry being found, so it couldn’t have been that.  No, this was something else, and the Doctor was suddenly afraid that HYDRA had struck once more. 

They left their lunch untouched and headed toward the comm console that Stark had set up for their use.  It had been the first thing the living computer had done, making certain they could be reached at any time, and Phillip had let Stark know how grateful they were for the courtesy. 

Phillip slid into the seat at the console, inputting his codes and connecting the call.  The screen lit up, revealing Jack, looking tense and upset and the Doctor knew immediately that he’d been right in assuming something was very, very wrong.

“Lisa and Rhys have been kidnapped,” he said without preamble.

Phillip stiffened in his chair.  Nicole made a hissing noise in distress, and Clint let you a string of curses that were entirely justified.  All the Doctor could think of was that it was a good thing neither of them was dead.

“Do we know what happened?” Phillip snapped in anger, although that hadn’t been directed at Jack.

And Jack was obviously not taking any offence at Phillip’s tone.  “Cameras show that they were approached as the pair of them headed toward your home – “

“This was on Hubworld?” Clint snarled incredulously. 

That was surprising.  Hubworld’s security was some of the best in the Empire, tightened up ever since HYDRA had reared its ugly head and Suzie Costello had managed to steal the Master’s ring out from under the noses of Fitz and Simmons.  It should have been impossible for anyone to have taken Lisa and Rhys forcibly from Hubworld.

Apparently, it hadn’t been.

“They were approached by four men and a woman,” Jack went on, not answering Clint.  But then, he really didn’t need to.  “From what we’ve been able to gather from the footage, we believe they threatened Rhys’ life in order to get Lisa to cooperate.”

“Then it was Lisa they wanted?” Phillip’s voice had gone low, which meant he was at his most dangerous.  He loved Lisa perhaps as much as he did his own children, and had been close even before Samara had discovered that the young foundling dragon had been a reincarnation of Morgana le Fay, the ancient sorceress who’d managed to conquer Camelot, albeit briefly.  Phillip reminded her of her dragon father’s human form, and had been more comfortable around him than her own parents at times.

“Lisa seemed to recognise the woman,” Jack said.  “I showed a still frame to Arthur, thinking it was someone from Morgana’s past…and he claimed it was Morgause, the woman who’d been Morgana’s half-sister.  It was Morgause who’d eventually made Morgana realise she could be Queen of Albion.”

Oh, this was even worse than HYDRA poking its nose out of the woodwork.  Lisa had done her best to put Morgana behind her.  The Doctor was very much aware of just how much Lisa hated that part of herself, and how she’d recreated herself as Lisa Harkness-Jones, daughter of Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones, and not Morgana le Fay, bastard child of Uther Pendragon and half-sister to Arthur, and who had been driven to madness by a lying parent and the mores of the time she’d been born into. 

Lisa had had the benefit of a loving family in this lifetime, and Arthur had forgiven her for the past.  And now, that past was back in full force, and had taken Lisa and Rhys, who was more than likely going to be used as leverage against her. 

“There’s something else you should know,” Jack continued. 

“Can this get any worse?” Clint asked rhetorically.

Jack didn’t deign to answer his son.  “That information you sent on to Fitz and Simmons…it contained information on Derek Anthony.  Arthur knew him as well…as his father, Uther.”

“I just had to say something,” Clint muttered, aggrieved.

“One more thing.  It’s the name Lucy gave Arthur and Merlin.”

“Let me guess,” the Doctor spoke from his position at Phillip’s left shoulder, “another reincarnation?”

“Yes,” Jack confirmed.  “It was John Garrett.”

Phillip’s spine stiffened.  “Of course it was.  This is the confirmation we needed that he was involved in this.”  His voice was cold, and the air around the immortal grew as chilly as his tone.

“Agreed.  I told Arthur to let Steve know, as well as Melinda.  John Garrett isn’t an unusual name, though, so there might be a bit hard to track and we need all the help we can get.  We’ve put out an alert on it, and on the name we think he’s going by now…Garrett Paxton, and his ship.”

They’d explained all about that once the Doctor and Phillip had been rescued from the Library.  Their former teammate, Suzie Costello, had been forced into stealing the Master’s ring by HYDRA, who had taken her wife hostage.  Torchwood had done all they could to trace the ship, the Typhon, but it had been lost by ImpPat ships in hyperspace.  They’d thought the ship would have gone to the Library, but it had never shown up.

John Garrett had been a friend of Phil Coulson’s, who’d turned out to be HYDRA.  The Doctor didn’t envy the man, having Phillip Coulson on his trail.

“Where are these reincarnations coming from?” Nicole demanded.  “This shouldn’t be happening!”

“But it is, and there’s nothing we can do about it except stop them,” Jack soothed.

His former companion was correct.  They needed to stop HYDRA and the reincarnations of all of these enemies that were popping up, when it should have been impossible. 

“Can we bring Arthur here to confront Uther?” Phillip asked.

That earned him a sharp grin from Jack.  “As soon as the TARDIS can get here.”

The Doctor nodded.  “I’m on my way.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

29 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Stark’s World

Cartel Space

 

Merlin stood beside his mate, as Arthur watched the man who was the reincarnation of Uther Pendragon cooling his heels in the interrogation cell.

He hadn’t changed all that much.  He was perhaps a little thinner, a little sharper, than the Uther he remembered.  Still, he felt an undeniable shiver down his spine, and the irrational fear that seeing the former King of Albion engendered.  Merlin very well remembered the terror of living under that man’s tyrannical rule, of hiding himself and his magic and living with the very real fact that his very existence was considered against the law in Uther’s reign.

Things had been so much better when Arthur had taken the throne.  Magic had flourished, and he and Arthur had been happy together…up until the time Morgana had made her final assault against Albion.  They’d had twelve good years before the end. 

It was different now.  Arthur had been reborn immortal, and a dragon, and Merlin had come back as the son of the Last Time Lord.  They were truly happy, with a son of their own, and they’d been discussing adopting one of the dragon eggs that his mother had retrieved from various times in the past.  They’d done so much good, rising above even the destinies that had been laid for them. 

His mother had talked to him about being weighed down by his destiny.  She’d been right, and Merlin had felt much better…until he’d been faced with the fact that the very enemy of magic had been reborn, and had created some sort of doomsday weapon. 

Who’d joined HYDRA.

Who seemed to be as virulently anti-magic as he’d been in his first, remembered, life.

Who shouldn’t even be remembering that past anyway.

“This isn’t right,” Arthur muttered.  “He shouldn’t be here.”

Phillip rested his hand on Arthur’s shoulder.  “Let me go in first.”

Arthur looked relieved.  “Thank you, Uncle Phillip.”

“I’d save you from this if I could…”

“I know.  But if anyone can get information out of him, chances are it’s going to be me.”

The older immortal squeezed Arthur’s shoulder in sympathy, then left the room.  Arthur only had eyes on the monitor as they watched Phillip enter the room on the screen, where Uther was sitting, looking mad enough to chew titanium.

“You want me to go in with you?” Merlin offered, even though he didn’t want to be within a hundred feet of Uther Pendragon.

“I appreciate it, but we all know how Uther felt about magic, and it’s pretty obvious now that you have it.”  Arthur’s voice was wry, even as his gaze never left the screen.

“Have you given any thought to what I said the last time I was here?” Phillip enquired, sounding almost polite.  His back was to the camera, so Merlin couldn’t make out his expression, although he was willing to bet his uncle was wearing the familiar, bland mask of Torchwood’s Director.

“If you think I’m simply going to give you what you want to know, you’re sadly mistaken.”  It was definitely Uther’s voice, only there was a difference in the accent that made this whole thing seem even more surreal, if that was possible.

“We have our scientists looking into the nanotechnology you were trying to perfect, and they tell us it was never going to work.  Is that why HYDRA decided to set you up to take the fall?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“I’m talking about the inherent instability of the nanobot matrix.  Surely you had to have realised they would break down almost immediately upon being exposed to air.”

The camera had good enough resolution on it to make out Uther’s features, and Merlin could tell he wasn’t at all happy with what Phillip was intimating.

While Merlin wasn’t as much a scientist as Fitz and Simmons were, he did have a basic understanding of the technology involved.  But it was the magic that had been infused within the microscopic robots that the wizard was much more familiar with. 

He’d read the report, and what their magical theorist had come up with was true: the dark magic that had been used in the construction of the nanomachines were what was making them unstable. 

The link between magic and science was fraught to begin with.  Merlin knew this as well as he knew his own name.  While he’d had quite a bit of success with such things as the personal translation devices that were now a staple of Torchwood’s mission to aid time and space displaced innocents, there were also certain things that magic simply wasn’t compatible with.

The nanobots that Phillip and the others had discovered at Persephone Corporation had been one such thing.

It really boggled his mind, though, that Uther, of all people, had been content with augmenting his technology with magic.  Merlin had lived during Uther’s reign, and had seen the man’s rampant hatred toward magic first-hand.  For him to have relied upon it when building his newest weapon was a bit beyond what Merlin had ever expected from the man.  It was almost inconceivable that Uther Pendragon would fall back on magic in order to achieve his goals, not after what had happened in their previous lives. 

Still, it hadn’t been magic that had been very strong to begin with.  Nicole had shared her conclusions with him, and he had to agree with her.  Taking Lucy Cole out of the equation had been the very best thing they could have done, if it meant that HYDRA didn’t have access to a powerful magic-user any longer. 

It had also occurred to him that they’d taken Lisa because they’d known she was Morgana, and that Morgana had been a very power sorceress in her own right.  How were they going to react when they realised that Lisa didn’t have any magic?  Would that put her at more risk than she already was in?  And would they take things out on Rhys?

It was a genuine worry, one that he knew his mate shared.

“I have it on excellent authority that the technology and the dark magic you were trying to combine would never have worked,” Phillip continued.  “Did your cronies in HYDRA know, Mr Anthony?  Did they plot to see you out of their hair because of this catastrophic failure?”

Their prisoner said nothing.  There really wasn’t anything to say to Phillip’s accusations.

“You were set up, Mr Anthony.  Or should I call you Uther Pendragon?  Which would you prefer?”

At that question, Arthur left the room.  Merlin wanted nothing more than to go with him, but he’d only be a distraction to the verbal spell that was being woven in that room. 

Even in the slightly lower resolution of the security feed, Merlin could tell that Uther had gone pale, but not with fear…but with rage, the muscle in his jaw jumping and his hands clenched on the tabletop as if he wanted to reach across and punch his interrogator in the face.  Phillip was pressing all of the necessary buttons to get their prisoner to lose control, and it was working quite well. 

As Merlin watched, the door opened, and Arthur stepped into the interrogation room. 

Uther’s head snapped upward, and a sneer wiped away the anger he’d been experiencing.  His eyes narrowed as he took in the man who’d once been his son, but he didn’t seem overly surprised to see Arthur.

A hand landed on Merlin’s shoulder, and the wizard jumped a little before realising it was his own father, trying to offer some measure of comfort.  “He’ll do well,” the Doctor reassured.

Merlin couldn’t help the tiny smile that curved his lips upward.  “I know.  I pity Uther, actually.”

That earned him a small, near silent laugh.

“Will you excuse us please, Uncle Phillip?” Arthur’s voice was clear over the speakers.

That question earned him a scoffing noise from Uther. 

While Merlin couldn’t make out Phillip’s face, the immortal was relaxed as he gave Arthur a nod.  “Of course, Arthur.”  Then he stood and vacated the room, leaving Arthur alone with the reincarnation of the man who’d once been his father.

“I’ve been expecting you, Arthur,” Uther commented as Arthur took the seat that Phillip had been using.  “I thought they might attempt to use our emotional connection against me.”

It was a low blow.  Arthur had loved his father, back during that first, remembered, life, even though he’d fully understood that Uther had been a despot and cruel to an extreme.  He’d been hurt when Uther had been murdered, and had mourned the only parental figure he’d ever known.

“We have no emotional connection,” Arthur denied quietly. 

It was a lie.  Merlin knew it.  Uther might not have been his father in this life, but he had been before, and Arthur had truly loved him.  Seeing him there, now, and knowing he was working with HYDRA had been a blow that had damaged the good memories he did have of his time with Uther Pendragon.

Uther looked as if Arthur had just slapped him.  “How can you say that?  I’m your father – “

“No.  My father was a man my mother met on Farpoint Station.  My mother is Anwyn Harkness-Jones, the oldest child of Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones.  They have been my family for so many times longer than you were.  And I’ve become one of the very things you so despised back in your time as King of Camelot: a dragon, a magical creature, and do not pretend that you wouldn’t see me dead if you could.”

Uther’s sneer returned, and Merlin knew his mate’s heart had to be breaking at the sight of the superior expression.  “You’re right.  You’ve become a traitor everything I’ve ever stood for.  You are a part of the problem that HYDRA is trying to solve, and nothing you can do will stand in our way.”

There it was, on record, of Anthony’s involvement with HYDRA.  Arthur had managed to make Uther mad enough to admit it under official surveillance.  

This had to be wrecking his mate.  Yes, it had been so very long since there’d been any sort of familial affection between the two, and yet there once had been, and Merlin wanted more than anything to be in there to support his mate.

Arthur shook his head.  The way he was sitting, his face wasn’t visible to the camera, but Merlin just knew there was disappointment there.  “HYDRA has betrayed you, but your own arrogance won’t allow you to see it.”  He leaned forward.  “They have arranged the murder of my aunt, Sabrina.  They have set you up to take the fall for it.  And yet, you’re sitting here, giving them your loyalty blindly.  They are not coming for you.  They don’t care one whit about you.  You have lost your usefulness, the moment it became apparent that your doomsday weapon wouldn’t work.  Uncle Phillip has pointed this out to you, and yet you won’t see it.”  He then sighed.  “That’s always been your weakness, Uther…your blindness.  You were blind to the fact that it wasn’t magic that killed Ygraine…it was you.  You who made the deal with the witch in order to conceive an heir.  And, when she died, you refused to take responsibility for what you’d done and, instead, blamed innocent men, women, and children and had hundreds put to death.”

Uther was suddenly on his feet, looming over Arthur, who looked perfectly relaxed from his seated position.  “You lie,” he hissed.  “Magic killed your mother, and it needed to be wiped out!  And now it’s back, due to that damned mate of yours, and Torchwood, and you!  You support aliens and Inhumans and you don’t care for your own race any longer!  You were supposed to be the Once and Future King, and that meant you should have protected your own.  And you failed, Arthur.  You failed, and now it’s up to HYDRA to fix what you’ve done!”

“He really is a sick bastard,” Clint murmured, faint horror in his words.

Merlin couldn’t disagree.

The thing was, Uther didn’t know what it meant for Arthur to be known by that ridiculous title.  It had meant that his mate carried around a destiny that was as heavy as Merlin’s own.  It had meant suspicion when the people in power had found out just who Arthur Harkness-Jones was.  Arthur had very nearly been denied control of Torchwood in the beginning, and had had to reassure the Imperial Throne that he didn’t mean to force a coup and take control of the Empire.  The only reason Arthur had decided to take back the Pendragon name was so that no one could connect him back to the Jack Harkness that had run Torchwood for so very long, not wanting to wreck the timelines or draw attention to just who and what the infamous immortal leader of the Torchwood Institute truly was: Time Agent Boe, the renegade, the man who’d run with the Time Lord known as the Doctor and had become something more than just a conman.

Yes, eventually he’d been able to admit all of that, once it was past his grandfather’s time with the Time Agency.  But, by then, his identity was too well known, as both a mythical figure and as a Star Dragon, and Arthur had had to live with the consequences of his wide-spread fame.

Merlin wanted nothing more than to go into that room and set Uther Pendragon straight, but he had to trust his mate to take care of business.

And he could tell that Arthur wasn’t reacting to Uther’s tirade.  He simply sat there, his head tilted upward so he could look into the fierce expression that was directed at him. 

“You don’t understand, Uther.  I have been protecting my own.  Whether you like it or not, back in that first life I was born of magic.  I might not have had any of my own, but that didn’t mean it hadn’t affected me in ways no one could have foreseen.  From the moment I was born, I had a destiny to help bring magic back into the world…and then, when I was reborn, into the universe.  This is what you don’t understand…magic has always meant to be here.  Your attempt to destroy it failed because magic is as elemental as the air; it’s a part of life itself.  It only took me realising my true path to figure that out.  But, you never will.  You can’t see beyond your own prejudices and hate.  And see where it got you?”  Arthur’s arms went out, as if he was embracing the room around them.  “You’re a prisoner.  You’re going to spend the rest of your life in a cell somewhere, simply because you wouldn’t recognise the truth if it stood in front of you and shouted your name.  HYDRA somehow awoke your previous memories and indoctrinated you into their circle, and then dumped you the moment you ceased to be useful to them.”  He paused, cocking his head slightly.  “You know, this sounds very familiar.  I wonder where I’ve seen that before…Father.”

Uther sat back down, hard.  It was as if Arthur saying this to him struck a chord where Phillip’s words hadn’t.  But then, that was understandable; Arthur had been Uther’s son.  They’d had a bond, despite their distance now. 

And Arthur was right about Uther.  He’d used magic, until it was no longer useful to him, and then he’d tried to eradicate it.  He’d used Balinor to summon the dragons, and then attempted to murder Merlin’s former father when the dragons were gone.

No wonder HYDRA had found Derek Anthony, and brought Uther Pendragon back to the surface.  They’d had a use for him…and then, as both Arthur and Phillip had pointed out, they’d set him aside when the plans they’d had for him had fallen through. 

They still had no idea how HYDRA managed that, and Merlin was positive that Uther wouldn’t have cared.  Still, it was something they’d need to figure out at some point, in order to keep it from happening again.

Arthur was standing.  “I seriously doubt you’ll tell us anything.  You’re in too deep.  But know this:  we’re going to stop them.  We’re going to war against HYDRA, me and my family.  If HYDRA promised you they’d get rid of magic, they lied.  I’ve seen the proof of it.  They’ve already attempted to steal the most powerful book of dark magic in the multiverse, but they failed.  The reincarnation of Morgause Gorlois is working for them; did you know that?  And now we know they also have Morgana.  I’m quite certain you remember your own daughter.  What do you think they’re going to be doing with all that magic?”

Merlin noticed that Arthur didn’t mention that Morgana – Lisa – didn’t, in fact, have any magic this time around, but chances were Uther wasn’t aware of that. 

“They have a magical assassin, one that gladly gave you up to us.  Think about it.”  Arthur rose.  “I don’t believe we’ll ever see each other again. And you can trust me when I say, your next life won’t remember this one.  Which can only be a good thing.”

Uther was silent.  His face was stony in its outrage…or was it even anger?  Had Arthur’s comments made any sort of difference?

Merlin doubted if, or if it had that it would be enough to sway Uther into divulging his secrets.  He was stubborn, and blinkered, and refused to see the bigger picture.

And now, he was going to be spending the rest of his life in prison, and not in the company that he’d run until HYDRA had brought back all those hidden memories of Camelot and misguided visions of what he’d believed would be the perfect kingdom.

Arthur was halfway to the door before he turned back to Uther.  “It’s a shame, in a way.  I think I would have liked to have gotten to know you in this life.  I would have liked for you to have met my family.  You could have been a part of something so much bigger, but you bought into HYDRA and their lies.  You’ll never meet my son, and he’ll never know the reincarnation of the man who could have been another grandfather to him.  Not that I think you would have accepted Rory as family. After all, he’s a wizard…just like Merlin is, and a dragon…like I am now.  It’s sad that your narrow-mindedness wouldn’t allow you to see the universe for what it is.  Good-bye, Uther.  I hope you rot.”

With those parting words, Arthur left the interrogation room. 

“I had no idea I could be so proud of anyone not my own son,” the Doctor said, admiringly.

“That was very well done,” Phillip agreed.

“He’s almost as good as you are, Agent,” Stark put in.

The door to the suite opened, and Arthur stepped through.  Merlin was next to him like a shot, his arms around his mate, pride and sadness warring within him.  Arthur embraced him back, his face buried against Merlin’s neck, and he could feel him breathing deeply, as if trying to gain control of his emotions.

Arthur was a proud person.  He didn’t like seeming to be vulnerable.  Yet, in that moment, he was accepting the comfort that Merlin was offering, which spoke more deeply of his state of mind than anything else.

Then he broke away, but he took Merlin’s hand, his mate’s heat against his palm.  “I’m sorry he didn’t give us anything,” Arthur said, his voice soft and sad.

“Don’t worry about it,” Phillip assured him.  “You’ve given Uther something to think about, and it’s only a matter of letting him digest things.  Stark has given us permission to take him with us when we go, as long as we keep him updated on our progress.  The security forces have been tasked with questioning all of Persephone’s employees.  They’re also taking the company mainframe apart for any sort of clue the Central Computer might have missed…although, that doesn’t seem likely.  Stark is very good at what he does.  They’ll also data mine the dedicated server for any other information that wasn’t sent on to Torchwood.”

“You know it,” the living computer said.  “I’ll let you know if I find anything.”

“Thank you, Stark,” Phillip said gratefully.

“It’s not a problem.  It’s been kinda nice getting a chunk of the gang back together.  And I’ll keep on making my own enquiries.  I need to make sure that HYDRA doesn’t have anyone else on my planet.”

“I think we’re done here,” the Doctor said.  “We can transfer Uther to the TARDIS, and then to Stormcage.  Perhaps he’ll decide he’ll want to speak to us, but until then we’re going to need to find some new leads to follow.”

“That’s about what I was thinking,” the immortal assented.  “We should be getting back to Ddraig Llyn, anyway, and back near the centre of the action.  Things are happening, and I just get the feeling we need to be home.”

Merlin nodded.  While he wasn’t anything close to a precog - although there were spells for that, he’d never been any good at them – his own instincts were telling him the same thing. 

They might have stopped this one plan, but there had to have been others at play. 

And it was high time this family took the offensive.

They just needed to know what offensive to take.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Smuggler’s Moon

Killian Two

Undeclared Space

 

Cadi had been feeling a low-grade anger ever since she’d discovered that her twin had been attacked.

When they were children, she and Rowena had been incredibly close.  But, as they’d gotten older, and each taken their own path, the pair of them had drifted apart, Rowena to academia and Cadi to…other pursuits.  Still, that didn’t mean she wasn’t fiercely loyal to the woman she’d shared their Tad’s womb with, and when someone hurt one of them…the other could be relied on to get vengeance.

Now, she and her younger brother, Alun, were halfway across the Twelve Galaxies while Rowena recovered, and Cadi wanted nothing more than to find this so-called Dragon Slayer and slay them, for Rowena and for Sabrina, who had counted on Cadi to back her up and it hadn’t been enough to keep her from getting killed.

She’d been numb and in so much pain over Sabrina; but Rowena had re-ignited her inner flame, until Cadi was ready to scorch things.

She had hopes they’d find a trail on Smuggler’s Moon, where Sabrina had picked up the lead to Stark’s World, which had ended up panning out after all from what Phillip had reported to her.  Only it appeared that it had also been a trap, which meant that HYDRA had deliberately led her sister to her death. 

Smuggler’s Moon was one of fifteen moons orbiting the gas giant Killian Two.  It was in what was generally known as Undeclared Space, a tiny corner of the Empire that no one really paid any attention to, and where the blind eye was turned to whatever happened there.  The Moon was the only one of the system that was inhabited, but the other fourteen were a wealth of minerals and other, saleable, materials, and those on Smuggler’s Moon weren’t afraid to exploit them for whatever they could get.

Cadi had been to the Moon many times in her rather chequered past; in fact, she’d seen the place when the first people had set up shop there, carving out their small section of space and hoping they wouldn’t be annexed by the growing Human Empire.  She knew more about the place than most of the current residents did, and had a small claim on one of the more distant, tinier moons, where she kept a small hoard and liked to go when things got too much for her.  It was a bit like going home, only Ddraig Llyn would always be where she felt the safest.

This trip, though, she wouldn’t be visiting her property.  She had a mission to fulfil.

Sabrina hadn’t told her who her contact had been on the Moon, but Cadi thought she could nose around, using her cachet as one of the most-wanted privateers in the Empire and outside of it to get what she wanted.  There were resources she could tap into, and she planned on hitting up every single one of them.

She needed answers, and she was determined to get them.

Smuggler’s Moon was a rocky body that was somewhat smaller than Earth’s own natural satellite.  It didn’t have an atmosphere; environmental domes covered the cratered surface, like tarnished gemstones glittering in the greenish-gold glare from Killian Two.  As the ship approached, lightning flashed through the roiling clouds of the planet, a large, yellow storm turning and twisting through the clouds that obscured the planet that was at the heart of the gas giant.  Just beyond the Moon, one of the other moons could be made out, this one not round, but a potato-shaped spinning body that moved a little faster than Smuggler’s Moon, gaining distance as she and Alun watched.

There was a little traffic going to and from the Moon, and Cadi radioed in for clearance to land.  She was given coordinates to the next free landing bay, and then told to wait for instructions.

“Even this far off,” Alun said jokingly, “I feel like I’m being tainted by crime.”

Cadi snorted.  Her younger brother was an Adjudicator, so for him to have agreed to come with her would have grated a bit on his do-gooder heart.  Not that Cadi was completely corrupted; a lot of what she did was for those who couldn’t help themselves, it was just that she was more prone to do what needed to be done in an illegal manner. 

Still, Sabrina’s death had had her seriously considering giving up the life of crime and settling down, at least for a little while.  Maybe adopt one of the baby dragons that were just waiting to be hatched back in that stasis vault at her parents’ house.  She’d meant to, back when River had first brought all those eggs home, but she’d never gotten around to tying up loose ends in order to step away from the illegalities she was known for. 

Now, though, it was certainly something to think about.

“Just stay close,” Cadi quipped, “and I’ll protect you from all the free-floating villainy of the place.”

“I shall count on my big sister to look after me,” he answered dryly.  “How hard is it going to be to find the contact Sabrina met with?”

Cadi had been giving that some thought.  “I think the best thing to do is find an information broker, one who can trace back Sabrina’s movements during to her visit to the Moon.  Otherwise we might not get very far, even with my reputation.  And, brother dear, you just scream ‘law enforcement’.   Hopefully you’ll at least be tolerated since you’re with me.”

“What can I do to avoid getting pegged as an Adjudicator?”

“Nothing much, I’m afraid.  The one good thing we have going for us, is that I’m going to be telling everyone and sundry that you’re my brother.  That should definitely afford you a lot of protection.”  It also didn’t hurt that they looked remarkably alike, but then Tad had been the one to carry them both, and because of that they could have almost been twins themselves. 

“Maybe you should have brought Clint instead…”

Cadi shook her head.  “There was no way Clint was going to leave Phillip alone.  You can’t have missed how clingy he’s gotten since Phillip’s…accident.”

In fact, Phillip almost dying had shocked them all.  Cadi, for one, had begun taking her brother-by-mating’s immortality for granted, so to have him come that close to leaving them all for good…she really couldn’t blame her brother for not wanting to let his mate out of his sight, at least for a while. 

“You’re right,” Alun conceded.  “Still, I hope I’m not too much of a liability.”

Cadi flashed him a sincere smile.  “Never that, baby brother.  I’m glad you’re with me.”

She was.  For perhaps the first time in her life, Cadi was afraid of being off on her own.  There was someone out there who could kill a dragon, and that frightened her. 

Maybe she’d been taking her own immortality a bit for granted, as well.

The comm chirped, and traffic control told them they could now land.  Cadi took the Free Wheeler in under her own power, instead of letting the automated docking computer take over, and she had the ship landed within one of the airlocked bays smoothly and perfectly positioned.  “Is your gun charged?” she asked as she got up from the pilot’s chair.

Alun answered in the affirmative. 

Cadi glanced at him, taking in the all black ensemble and realising that her brother was never not going to wear that colour.  She really couldn’t say anything about it; her own outfit was all black, except for the crisp white blouse she wore under the tight-fitting leather corset.  Even the beads she’d woven into her hair were black.

“Let’s go and track down the bastard who sent our sister to her death,” Alun growled. 

Cadi couldn’t agree fast enough.

They exited the ship, into the small docking bay that they’d been directed to.  The place was grimy after hundreds of years of ships coming and going, exhaust tinging the once-white walls a faint brown.  All of the detritus of a working bay was scattered about: fuelling lines, shelves of maintenance equipment, and a few pieces of heavy machinery were in their own section of the area, while a large, double set of sliding blast doors took up nearly one entire wall.  The clear dome overhead was slightly distorting the stars and the light from Killian Two.

A representative of the docking authority was awaiting them, ready to be bribed for letting the ship stay there, unmolested.

That was how Smuggler’s Moon was run: by bribes and illicit dealings, and by overcharging for services rendered.  Cadi haggled for a few minutes over just how much she was willing to pay – it was expected of her, and she wasn’t about to give away the fact that she didn’t give a damn what she paid as long as she could keep the Free Wheeler where it was for the time being. 

After a few minutes, money exchanged hands and the representative left, satisfied.  Alun looked fairly impressed by Cadi’s negotiating skills, but she simply shrugged at his raised eyebrow.

They hadn’t even stepped out of the bay when they were accosted by a hulking Ogron wearing something that vaguely resembled a kimono that barely reached its hairy, bowed knees.

“You ap Llyns?” the Ogron asked in his deep, rumbling voice.  Ogrons weren’t known for their intelligence, and they made excellent enforcers and bodyguards.  Seeing one on Smuggler’s Moon wasn’t unusual, but being accosted by one who knew their name was.

“Who’s asking?” Cadi challenged, her hackles up.  She hadn’t been expecting them to be approached so quickly, and it was bothering her.

“Sakura wants to speak you,” the Ogron answered.  “You come.”  Without waiting for them to agree to anything, the creature turned and headed down the corridor, toward the main areas of the Moon.

If she’d been surprised at the Ogron knowing who they were, it was nothing compared to that announcement.

It must have really shown on her face – and that was disappointing, because Cadi had long cultivated her Tad’s bland mask and was quite good at it by now – because Alun, goosing her a little to get her to move after the Ogron, asked her what was going on.

“Sakura is the premier information broker on Smuggler’s Moon,” she explained as they kept up with the Ogron.  “No one’s ever seen them; hells, no one even knows what their gender is…if they have one.  They’ve only been around for about three years, but everyone knows if you want to find something tricky, you try to hire Sakura.  I guess you could say they’re the ghost of Undeclared Space.”

“I take it, this wasn’t part of your plan.”

No, it hadn’t been.  Cadi would have been happy to speak to one of the lower level brokers.  But, apparently, Sakura had known they were coming, and it had been important enough to actually summon them. 

So, they accompanied the Ogron into the main dome of Smuggler’s Moon.  If Cadi had been asked, she would have said she loved the hustle and bustle, the shouting of peddlers and merchants hawking their wares, the press of various and sundry moving along the close-bunched booths and shops.  There was a tavern on almost every lane, the smells of food wafting out over the crowds as they went about their business and competing with other, less savoury, odours that the air circulators couldn’t quite dissipate.  The dome arced overhead, the green and gold expanse of Killian Two filling most of the clear plasteel material, only smaller ships and the odd tiny moon crossing across the planet and breaking the uninhibited view.

Cadi knew the reputation Smuggler’s Moon had outside Undeclared Space: it was a home for criminals, dirty and cramped and with shady deals going on around every corner.  A lot of that was true; this many people gathered in such a small place was bound to make the atmosphere a bit claustrophobic, and there were those to whom personal hygiene wasn’t something they particularly paid any attention to.  As to all the illegal goings’ on…well, certainly, that happened here, but honestly there wasn’t a place out there that didn’t have some sort of crime going on at any time of the day. 

But Smuggler’s Moon had many more regulations that many of the so-called ‘civilised’ worlds out there.  There had to be, if the people were to be protected.  There weren’t shoot-outs going on, nor robberies, nor any other sort of violent crime, simply because each and every person to come through the Moon was inherently dangerous.  No one wanted to piss off the wrong being, it was bad for business.

The Ogron took them through the main market area, and then out through a tube that led to the next dome over, a smaller one that wasn’t nearly so bustling.   This dome wasn’t clear; it was more like a bunker, with doors along its length that were more like airlocks than normal doors, solid things that each had wheels and keypads, most of the lights on them green.  Each was decorated with a little sign or some sort of memento, and it was all very domestic. 

Cadi knew, from knowing the beginnings of Smuggler’s Moon, that this used to be all storage areas, but had been converted to flats where the permanent residents of the Moon lived.  She’d never been in there before, so this was the first time she was actually seeing any of this.

The Ogron stopped at one of the doors, this one with a keypad lit in red.  He made a huffing noise, paused as if trying to figure out what to do, and then rested his hand on the control panel. 

There was a soft beep, and the wheel on the door began to spin on its own.  The Ogron pulled the once-sealed door open, motioning with one arm broadly.  “Inside.  Sakura inside.  Go.”

Cadi felt they really didn’t have much of a choice.  Not that she didn’t want answers, but this felt a little like walking into a trap.

Still, this was Sakura, who had the reputation of being far sneakier if they wanted to be than simply sending someone to fetch them out in the open.

She glanced at her brother; Alun nodded once, and she trusted him to have her back.

Cadi stepped over the raised lip of the door jamb, Alun right behind her.

The room beyond was homey.  Thick, dark red carpets were on the floors, hiding the industrial permacrete that made up this section of the Moon’s domes.  The bare walls were covered with hand-drawn plans and notes on various pieces of tech that Cadi didn’t recognise, only that it was far in advance of anything she knew. 

Well-worn and mismatched pieces of furniture took up most of the front room.  Behind a two-thirds wall was what was most likely the sleeping area of the residential space; against that wall was a computer set-up the likes of which Cadi had never seen before.  There were six screens attached to the wall, images flickering across them like a kaleidoscope of colour and movement.  A desk was below those monitors, keyboards and various other computer bits taking up most of its surface. 

There was a person sitting at the desk in a tall-backed chair.

Behind them, the door slammed shut with a hollow clang.  Cadi didn’t jump at the sound, but it was a near thing.

A sigh floated up from the chair.  “I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve told Garrg not to slam the door.”

The chair turned, and Cadi had one of the many surprises of her long life.

The figure in the chair was a child. 

If she had to guess, the dragon would have put her at about ten standard years.  She had vaguely Old Earth Asian features, but her shoulder-length hair was brilliant white, and she had electric blue eyes.  Her dress fit her exotic features; it was a more traditional-looking kimono, and her feet were bare.

The girl smiled brilliantly.  “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Captain ap Llyn…or should I say Harkness-Jones?”

That startled Cadi.  She’d changed her name to protect her father when his proper time frame came around.  She hadn’t gone by that name in at least a thousand years.

Which meant that this…person…also knew she was a Star Dragon.  Not something she’d actually broadcasted.

“And Adjudicator ap Llyn…also Harkness-Jones,” the girl – obviously the mysterious Sakura – grinned at Alun.  “You know, if you wanted to all remain anonymous, you shouldn’t have chosen the same last name.”

“It’s not usually something most people put together,” Alun admitted, his voice suspicious.

Sakura laughed.  “But I’m not most ‘people’.”

“Just why did you send your Ogron friend after us?” Cadi asked sharply.

Her tone didn’t seem to be the reason that Sakura’s face fell.  “I heard about Sabrina.  I’m sorry for your loss.”

She was totally sincere, and Cadi was grateful for it.

“Did you know her?” Alun enquired.

Sakura shook her head.  “We never met…but as you can see, there’s a reason for that.”  She gestured to herself.  “No one takes a child seriously, and the information I arranged for her to have on occasion was too important for her to doubt.  Her, and Director Coulson, have never even spoken to me directly.”

Cadi knew she had a point.  Seeing the fact that the premier information broker in quite possibly the Twelve Galaxies was a little kid would have been off-putting, to say the least. 

“When I heard what happened,” Sakura went on, “I immediately started checking sources and seeing what I could discover.  I knew that Sabrina had come to Smuggler’s Moon looking for information on something, but for some reason she didn’t contact me.”  The girl looked concerned, and it was far too grown up expression for her young face.  “I decided to find out just who she talked to, and this is what I came up with.”

She turned back to her computer screens, tapping away at the keyboard to her right.  The upper right-hand screen flared, and a static picture appeared.

It was of Sabrina.

Cadi stepped closer, her eyes fixed on her younger sister, her heart aching at the sight of her, alive.  This would have been just before Sabrina had called in a favour, and Cadi had been more than happy to be her back-up, as she had so many times before.

“I traced her to one of the many taverns in the main dome,” Sakura continued.  Cadi could have told that much by the bar and the drink that her sister had in front of her.  “This is where it gets interesting.”

The static image turned out to be security camera footage – and for a criminal underworld, Cadi knew for a fact that there were a lot of surveillance devices throughout the Moon – and it advanced forward in fast motion until Sabrina had been joined by a woman.

She looked fairly non-descript, with sharp features and dark hair pulled back in a messy bun.  A rather basic coverall and boots made up her ensemble, and she wore a gun low on her hip. 

Cadi didn’t recognise her, and she said so.

“That is the privateer known only by the initial, H.  She and her partner run a ship out of the Moon, specialising in running illegal substances throughout the Twelve Galaxies.  Mostly drugs, but they have been known to carry guns and other such things, as long as the pay is good.”

Ah, now that was familiar.  Cadi had never actually met the woman, but the rumours about her were pretty dire.

“I’ve heard of her,” Alun piped up.  “I have a file about three inches thick on her and G, the aforementioned partner.  Every time we seem to get close enough to them, they disappear.  It’s quite irritating.”

“Honestly,” the child snorted, “I wouldn’t mind if that pair were caught and tossed into Stormcage.  They skirt even the rules here on the Moon, and that’s saying something.  Orchrist Creed isn’t at all happy with them at the moment, and I’ve already forwarded on to him what I’ve found out about them leading a Torchwood operative into a trap.”

Cadi knew Orchrist Creed.  He was the one ostensibly in charge of the Moon, ruling the Council of Captains with an iron fist.  She’d once been invited to join the Council, but she’d declined, not wanting to get involved with all the politics.  She much preferred her freedom to come and go as she pleased.

“We might be on the dark side of the law here, but even we know to respect Torchwood.  Most of us do, you know.” Her electric eyes met Cadi’s.  “Torchwood hasn’t done a thing against any of us, and in fact Directors Pendragon and Coulson have actually come to us and asked politely for things like information.  I’m quite sure Director Harkness would have done the same thing, if we’d had the network back then that we do now.”

“I guess I’m a little surprised by that,” Alun admitted.  “But then, Torchwood does a lot of things behind the scenes that don’t get out into the public eye.”

“Well, pardon me for saying so, but you’re an Adjudicator.  The only reason you’re trusted here is because you’re Captain ap Llyn’s brother.  And, before you say anything, we’ve all known that for ages now.”  She smirked.  “If you hadn’t wanted it to get about, you wouldn’t be sharing the same, assumed, surname.”

Alun shrugged, accepting the implied rebuke.

“Now, as I was showing you,” Sakura went back to her screens, “Sabrina met with H, who must have put her on the trail to Stark’s World.  I’m willing to bet H was paid to set her up.”

The bright flare of anger made it hard for Cadi to breathe.  “Do you know where H and G went?”

“I’m working on that now.  I should have something soon, unless my networks totally fail me…and they haven’t yet.”

“Thank you for this,” Cadi said, heartfelt.  “We might have been days in finding this out if you hadn’t had your Ogron friend come and get us.  How much do you want in payment?”

Sakura turned back to her.  “No, I don’t want anything.  I only want to help.”

Cadi narrowed her eyes at the girl.  “No one gives their services for free on the Moon, so there has to be a catch…”

“There’s no catch,” Sakura assured her.  “Believe me or not, there’s no catch.  I’m doing this because I owe your family, and it will only scratch the tip of the debt.”

“You know our family?” Alun asked, surprised.

To Cadi, that made sense.  That Sakura, the infamous information broker, wouldn’t have just volunteered her services, even if she’d had dealings with Sabrina – and Phillip – in the past.  And it couldn’t have been that long ago, judging from the girl’s age and the fact that Sakura had only been operating for about three years now. 

If she was ten now, that meant that this impossible child had started her business when she’d only been seven.  That was an incredible thought.

Sakura nodded at Alun.  “The next time you speak to Ianto, tell him Cherry Blossom says hello.  He’ll understand.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

30 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Ddraig Llyn

 

Jack wanted to be doing something, but at the moment there wasn’t a lot he could do.

Later today, Rowena would finally be moved home.  Gareth had signed off on it, even though he’d been a bit hesitant.  Henry had been all for it, and Jocelyn and Abraham had backed him up, even going so far as to speaking to Anwyn about using her ship, Serpent’s Tooth, for the actual transfer from the Moon to Earth.  Ships that size weren’t usually allowed to land in the valley, but this was a special occasion, and every single resident had agreed to let it happen since Rowena in dragon form wouldn’t fit in the usual shuttle, and they didn’t have a transmat large enough.

She would be escorted to one of the houses close by, one that her sisters had been fixing up for her and her family.  It had been voted on that there would always be someone with Rowena, even though they were fairly safe in Ddraig Llyn.

Although, they’d all thought Hubworld was safe, too, and look what happened there…

Jack felt frantic over Lisa and Rhys, and he was very worried about his mother.  Samara wasn’t getting any younger, and while she was in the best of health, losing her husband like that had to be wearing on her. Then, add to that Lisa being missing as well, and the immortal could understand why his mother was a wreck. 

But, at least she had Daisy to take her mind off things. 

When Phillip had gone to Stark’s World to follow Sabrina’s trail – taking Clint and Nicole with him, because neither one was about to let Phillip out of their sight anytime soon – Samara had volunteered to look after little Daisy.  Skylar was also offworld, wrapping up his tour with the theatre group he was with so he could be free to take as much time off as he could, and it had left the family without a sitter for the baby except for Nathan, who had happily acceded his little sister to his grandmother. 

Skylar was due back tomorrow with Alyce and Robyn, who’d gone along with their cousin to act as unofficial bodyguards.  Jack felt somewhat better that they were all together, but couldn’t wait for them to arrive back home, and to relative safety.

Morgan was also gone, off with her band, Starshine, and James was with them.  They had three more concerts to play, but then they, too, would be back home.  Jack didn’t think anyone would try to strike against them, since there were just too many people surrounding the tour for just anyone to attempt anything, but Morgan didn’t have her dragon form yet which just added that little bit more worry onto Jack’s already burdened shoulders. 

As did Pryce being offworld as well, taking care of her businesses.  At least she had Oswyn along with her, to watch her back.

As long as any member of his family wasn’t nearby, he was going to fret.

At least, he wasn’t alone in that.

Ianto was just as worried.  His mate was currently outside, flying, trying to take the edge off his nerves.  Jack was concerned for him; the dragon hadn’t been eating, or sleeping well, and it was his hope that having most of the family home would get him back to an even keel.  Jack could understand Ianto’s distress; he was feeling it himself.  But he also knew that they needed to be strong, and if Ianto didn’t start taking care of himself – or let Jack take care of him – it would weaken him. 

He’d never seen his mate like this, and it saddened him.

The TARDIS crew had arrived earlier, after dropping Uther Pendragon off at Stormcage pending trial.  Phillip and Clint had gone back to Hubworld to check in with the testing being done on the tech they’d found at Persephone Corporation, but if the Doctor was right – and Jack didn’t doubt that he was – then that had been a doomsday weapon that, if it had worked, would have put HYDRA into a position of power.  There would have been no telling what they would have done to it, although Jack had his suspicions. 

The Doctor had also gone to Hubworld, River in tow, to help with the science part of things.  Between the Time Lord, Jemma, Fitz, and Owen, certainly they would be able to find out something.

Cadi and Alun hadn’t checked in yet, but Jack knew they had to have arrived at Smuggler’s Moon by now.  He chewed on his thumbnail as he stood at the large window that looked out over the lake that had given the valley its name, not really seeing anything as he tried to come up with their next step in discovering HYDRA.  The main problem was they really didn’t know all that much.  Uther wasn’t talking, despite both Arthur and Phillip pointing out to the man that HYDRA had betrayed him.  Lucy hadn’t been all that forthcoming, either, but they had an ImpSec warning out to be on the lookout for Garrett Paxton, aka John Garrett, and his ship, the Typhon. There were also warnings out for Morgause, and Agravaine, but it was Garrett Jack thought they’d find first.

Now, it was a waiting game.  Until they had more information, there wasn’t a lot they could do.

Even Steve and his specialised team had come up blank, which was worrying.  It was as if HYDRA had completely gone to ground, and it was Jack’s hope that Cadi and Alun would come up with something they could use.

The longer they had to wait, the more likely it was that something would happen to Lisa and Rhys.  And there was still the Dragon Slayer out there, waiting another opportunity to strike.

“Dad?”

Jack turned.  Emlyn was standing behind him, looking small and tired and so very far from the glamourous front she put on when out in public.  “Hey, sweetheart.”  He held out an arm in invitation.

She accepted it, and Jack tucked her against him, holding her and wishing he could take all this stress away. 

As they both watched, Ianto’s dragon form soared out over the lake.  Rory, red and gold scales flashing in the sunlight, followed his great-grandfather; he was accompanied by brown William, feathered Bronwyn, and dark blue Erik.  Ianto’s scales didn’t seem as vibrant to Jack, which added even more worry to his already overfilled plate.

“Is Tad going to be alright?” Emlyn asked softly, as if she was somehow reading Jack’s mind.

He sighed.  “He will, but it’s going to take some time.”

“It really has to be hard on him, because Sabrina had been named after Aunt Sabrina, and she’d also been killed the same way…”

That was something that Ianto had mentioned, late in the night, as they lay together in their nest on the uppermost floor of their home.  “You’re right,” he admitted.  “When Sabrina was born, your Tad had asked that we name her after his sister, as a way to remember her.”  Jack had willingly agreed, just as Ianto had agreed to name one of their children Alyce, after Jack’s long-dead daughter.  “Once we find the one who killed her, and hurt Rowena, your Tad will recover.”

“Then that’s what we’ll do.”  She sounded so very confident, so Jack tightened his arm around her in silent thanks. 

They were silent a few more minutes, and then Emlyn spoke again.  “What about you, Dad?  How are you doing?”

Jack opened his mouth to say he was fine, but changed his mind.  Emlyn would know he was lying.  He considered his words.  “I’ve lost so many people, sweetheart, but this time…I carried Sabrina.  When we heard, it felt like someone had carved a piece of my soul away.  I’ll never get that back, no matter how many children we have.  If something happened to you, I’d feel exactly the same way.”

Emlyn rested her head on his shoulder.  “Then I’ll be careful and not die.”

“I’d appreciate that.”  It was nice to hear her say that, but Jack knew, deep down, that he had a better chance of living for eternity than Ianto or any of their children or extended family…except for perhaps Henry.  He was a true immortal, always coming back after dying, and it was a burden that Jack would always carry with him.  Dragons were a form of immortal, but they could die, and one day something would happen and another child or grandchild would be taken from him, and he’d have to deal with the same pain.

Back in the beginning, when Jack had first realised he was immortal, he’d vowed never to get close to anyone he would only lose in the end.  That vow had fallen by the wayside when he’d met a certain dragon, and he could never regret it.

The Doctor had once told him that, one day, Jack truly would die, and on that day the Last Dragon would die with him.  He didn’t know if the Time Lord was just taken with a flight of romantic fancy, or if he knew something Jack didn’t, but it was a comforting thought even if he wasn’t going to count on it.  Because, one day, the Earth would die, and any member of his family with a deep connection to the planet would be cut adrift to, one day, join their world in death.  That would mean Ianto, and their adopted children.

The Star Dragons, the ones born of both Jack and Ianto, could conceivably carry on.  They weren’t linked to the Earth the way true dragons were, so there was every chance they would be fine. 

Thinking that had Jack considering Empress Danielle’s question, about the clan having their own planet.  Honestly, he just couldn’t see it working, not without somehow severing the mystical connection that dragons had to the Earth.  And then there were the Great Dragons, the very spirits of the planet, who wouldn’t be able to leave. 

It was a nice dream.  But the moment they’d learned that Ianto couldn’t stay more than six hundred years away from Earth it had become just that…a dream.

“Dad,” Kaitlyn’s voice interrupted his introspection.

Both Jack and Emlyn turned to regard his younger child.  Kaitlyn looked excited about something.  “What’s going on?”

“It’s Cadi and Alun,” she reported.  “They’re calling from Smuggler’s Moon.”

Jack’s heart began to race.  “Go and fetch your Tad,” he told Emlyn, knowing that she had her dragon form and was most likely able to catch the group of flyers up.

Emlyn nodded sharply then darted from the room, doing as Jack bid.

Jack himself strode into the lounge, where several other members of his family were seated, expressions expectant as the immortal used his wrist strap to loop the comm into the large vidscreen on the wall over the fireplace.  Instantly, it flickered on, revealing Cadi and Alun in what looked like the cockpit of the Free Wheeler.

“Your Tad is on his way,” he greeted them.  “Please tell me you have some news.”

“We have news,” Alun answered. 

“We have a very credible lead,” Cadi added.  She looked fierce, and Jack was so very glad to see his daughter back, instead of the quiet, withdrawn child who had sat in that very room on the day Sabrina was laid to rest.

Relief crashed through Jack at that pronouncement.  Perhaps, once they had something to do, Ianto would let him take care of him.  Jack had been feeling completely helpless, and this might be the break they’ve needed.

“I want to get Phillip in on the conversation,” he told his children. “He and Clint are on Hubworld at the moment.  Let me get him in while we wait for your Tad.”

“I’ve got it, Grandfather,” Arthur said.  He was already leaning over the comm control unit that had been placed on the coffee table, using his Torchwood codes to get a priority line to Hubworld.  Merlin sat beside him, and Samara with little Daisy taking up the rest of the sofa.

In seconds, the screen split, and Phillip and Clint were visible in the second pane.  Jack couldn’t help but notice just how tired his son-by-mating looked, and he knew from Clint himself that Phillip was also having trouble sleeping.  Daisy made a gurgling, happy noise at seeing her Dads on the screen, waving her little legs around as if trying to reach out to them. 

“We’ll be home soon, baby girl,” Clint crooned to her, wriggling his fingers at her.

“The Doctor and River are on the way up,” Phillip said.  “I take it you found something?”

“We did,” Cadi confirmed.  “We’re just waiting for Tad and the rest back home to show up before getting into details.”

“We’re here,” Ianto reported, practically stalking into the lounge, children trailing along behind him like a row of eager ducklings.  There was an air of excitement accompanying them, and Jack hoped the news really was good.

“Go ahead, you two,” Jack ordered, inadvertently using his Captain Harkness voice.

Neither Cadi nor Alun seemed to mind.  “It seems that Sabrina met with a privateer known only as H,” Cadi began.  “We have digital evidence of the actual meeting.”

“I’ve heard of H,” Phillip said, frowning.  “I can’t see Sabrina taking her word for anything.”

“Who is this H person?” Jack wanted to know.

“She and her partner, G, are two of the worst of a bad bunch,” Alun answered.  “Drugs, guns…you name it, they’ve run it.”

“Apparently they’re not exactly liked on Smuggler’s Moon at the moment, either,” Cadi added.  “We have it on excellent authority that H and G are on the outs with Orchrist Creed, the titular head of the Council of Captains.  It was getting to the point where they weren’t going to be welcome anymore.”

That was bad.  Jack knew that Smuggler’s Moon had their own rules, and if these two weren’t going by them then they were really bad news indeed.

“I can’t see Sabrina believing anything that H might tell her,” Phillip argued.

“She did because H claimed that the information came from Sakura,” Cadi said.

“Who’s Sakura?” Rory asked, confused.

“Sakura is arguably the best information broker in Undeclared Space,” Phillip answered.  “No one knows who they are, or where they came from, only that they’ve only been in the business for three standard years and already have a reputation for thoroughness and relative honestly.  Torchwood has acted on information relayed from Sakura before, and it was always accurate.”

At that moment, the Doctor and River appeared in the view from Phillip’s office.  “Did we miss anything?” he asked, sounding almost breathless.

Clint repeated what Cadi had said, as Phillip turned his attention back to the comm meeting.  “If H somehow convinced Sabrina that Sakura was behind the information, then I can certainly understand why she followed the trail.”

“This means that H and G are undeniably HYDRA,” Arthur added.  “Or at least they were paid a very substantial sum to set the trap.”

“I wouldn’t doubt it was both,” Alun said.

“What else did you discover?” Ianto asked.

“We’re pretty certain we know where H and G have gone,” Cadi said.  “Alun and I are going to follow the trail Sakura managed to find for us.”

That had Phillip sitting forward.  “Sakura gave you this?”

“Yes.  She’s not at all happy that H used her name to lead Sabrina into a trap.”

“She?  That’s a little more than we knew about her before.”

“Wait a moment,” Ianto interrupted.  “I know what you’ve said about this mysterious Sakura, but are we positive this information isn’t going to lead the two of you into another HYDRA trap?”

It was a fair question, one that Jack agreed with, and said so.  He wasn’t about to let two more of his children walk into danger if he couldn’t help it.

Alun and Cadi glanced at one another.  Then Cadi said, “Tad, Sakura said to tell you that Cherry Blossom said hello, and that you’d understand what that meant.”

That…sounded familiar to Jack, and it took Ianto going pale and clutching onto the back of the sofa for the memory to come back to him.

Jack felt a little faint as well.

“You know who Sakura is?” Phillip asked, worry slipping into his tone.

“Are you both okay?” Cadi wanted to know.

Jack looked over at this mate, meeting Ianto’s shocked eyes.  He shook his head.  “Phillip, you’ve met her.  You just don’t know her by the name Sakura.”

Torchwood’s Director looked confused.  Then his face cleared.  “She’s a reincarnation?”

That had everyone’s attention.  For it to be a reincarnation that only Jack and Ianto knew, it would have been one of their original team. 

Jack’s heart swelled.  Owen, Diane, Suzie…and now Toshiko Sato. 

“You knew her as Toshiko Sato,” Ianto was saying even as Jack was thinking it.

Clint grinned like a madman; it took Phillip a couple of seconds to let the old memories fall back into his mind, judging from his expression.  “Toshiko Sato is Sakura?” Phillip asked incredulously.

Ianto nodded.  “Cherry Blossom is the name she used during that Year, back when she was leading the Resistance against the Master.  Sakura is Ancient Earth Japanese for Cherry Blossom.”

“But why hasn’t she come home?” Jack asked plaintively.  The three of them had been particularly close; Ianto had thought of Toshiko as his sister, and he’d been heartbroken when she’d finally died.  Yes, he could understand why Owen, Diane, and Suzie hadn’t come forward, but Toshiko…

“She might have been waiting,” Cadi answered. 

“But why?” Ianto echoed Jack’s complaint.

“Because she’s about ten standard years old at the moment,” Alun stated. 

Alright, Jack could understand that, in a way.  This version of Toshiko would have family, and every single reincarnation that had arrived back into their lives – with the exception of Suzie, Owen, and Diane, and they had their own set of reasons – had waited until they were old enough to be out on their own, so as not to upset anyone they had back at home.  Plus, it was too hard to explain to family that you were someone different from what loved ones assumed…unless they were the parents of Jemma Simmons and Leo Fitz, who welcomed the idea of reincarnations with open arms and scientific papers.

Phillip’s eyes got wide.  “Are you telling us that Sakura is not only the reincarnation of one of the smartest and most competent women I’ve ever known, but she’s also a child?”

“Oh, that is awesome,” Clint enthused.  “Trust the reincarnation of Tosh to be even smarter now than she was back on the old team.”

“Her memories must be fully integrated,” the Doctor said.  Jack knew that, while this regeneration hadn’t known Toshiko, his last one had been aware of her during that Year, and had met her for a short while on the Valiant after the paradox had ended.  He’d also seen her during that mess with the Daleks stealing the Earth, but that had been a very fleeting thing.

“Bring her home, Cadi…Alun,” Ianto ordered.  “Bring her home.  Tell her she needs to come back to her family, and any biological family she has there bring them as well.”

“We will, Tad,” Cadi vowed.  “When we leave, she’ll be with us.”

Jack couldn’t help but smile.  They would do as Ianto asked, and Toshiko would be back amongst them once more.  And she was a child, which was inconceivable to him, living on Smuggler’s Moon and running an information network that even Torchwood could count on. 

That was his amazing Toshiko, so very brilliant.

“You’re not going after H and G alone,” Phillip proclaimed.  “We can meet you somewhere along the route.”

“Phillip’s right,” Jack said.  “We have no idea what you’re going to be walking into.  We’ll come up with a team and we’ll meet up.”

Alun looked slightly relieved, and Cadi nodded.  “If what Sakura was able to discover was accurate, then H and G were heading to Trafusis.  It’s not on the transmat network, but Dahlnia Prime is.  We should be there in three days, and we can pick up whoever you decide to send.”

“Sounds good,” Jack agreed.  “We’ll see you then.”

Jack could only hope that this was a step in the right direction. 

And now, they had one of their own back, even if it was under such unusual circumstances.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

30 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Unknown Location

HYDRA Basecamp

 

Rhys paced all night in the room they’d dumped him into, worried about Lisa and what they might be doing to her.

Sometime before dawn, Lisa was pushed into the room.  She looked even paler than usual, her silver-green eyes red-rimmed and tired.  Rhys immediately pulled her into a hug, wrapping her up in his arms securely, wanting nothing more than to comfort his granddaughter and to wipe away whatever they’d put her through.

There was only one, uncomfortable bunk in the stone room, and Rhys set her down and let her lean on him, all the while silently cursing their kidnappers.  He had no idea where they were, only that it seemed like in the middle of nowhere…which was a good hiding place, to be honest.  No one would think of looking for them on what seemed to be a small island in the middle of some body of water with lots of fog attached.  About the only thing he did know was that they were on Earth, because he could feel it.

He wanted to ask her what happened; what was going on.  Sure, he’d guessed that Morgause would most likely use some sort of emotional blackmail to get Lisa to do what she wanted.  That would make the most sense, and when that failed they’d probably threaten his life.  He wanted to tell her not to give in, that her being in HYDRA’s pocket wasn’t worth his life, but Rhys knew damned well she wouldn’t go for it.  That she’d do everything she could to protect him, no matter what that meant doing.

“I know where we are,” were the first words she uttered.

They’d been sitting there quietly for a bit, to be honest Rhys had lost track of time, only to notice that it was still dark outside when she finally spoke.  He stiffened slightly out of surprise.  “How do you know that, cariad?” he asked, resting his chin on her hair.

“Because I’ve been here before.”

Now, that was startling.  “In your previous life?” he guessed.  It was an educated one; as far as he knew, Lisa had spent much of her time on Torchwood-related worlds, in her position in Intake, and in Ddraig Llyn.  None of which looked like the island they were currently on.

He felt her nod.  “Back when I was Morgana, yes.”

She fell silent, and Rhys let her be. She’d talk when she was ready.

“This is Avalon,” she suddenly blurted.

Now, that was a shock, and no mistake, even though Rhys had realised that they were back on Earth from the moment they’d set foot on the island, through his bond with the Earth Dragon.

Of course, Rhys knew all about Avalon.  After all, his great-grandson was Arthur, the Once and Future King.  He’d been interred on Avalon after his death at the hands of Morgana and Mordred, and his body had been there for thousands of years, uncorrupted by time because of the spells that Merlin had cast on it out of grief and despair and loss. 

It had been GenCorp that had discovered Avalon after so many millennia, when magic had begun to completely fail once and for all.  They’d come to Avalon and taken Arthur’s body away, and it had been Jack and Ianto and Anwyn and the Doctor, as well as the man who’d known himself as Emrys, that had eventually freed Arthur’s soul in order for it to continue its journey and eventually be reborn into his current life. 

As far as he knew, Anwyn still held title to the land around the area, including the lake and Avalon itself.  For HYDRA to have set up base there took balls.

Despite himself, Rhys was reluctantly impressed.

“Wait,” he said, “if we’re on Avalon, what about that Lady of the Lake person?  Isn’t she supposed to be somewhere around?”

Lisa frowned.  “I haven’t seen her, but that doesn’t mean anything.  Freya could be anywhere.  But I can’t understand why she didn’t try to warn anyone that there were interlopers here.  At the very least, she could have contacted the Water Dragon to let Tad know what was going on.”  She shook her head.  “They shouldn’t be here, and I can only guess it was Morgause’s doing.”

So, they had to count any sort of help from the Lady of the Lake out of the equation.  Still, there had to be a way off without using the transmat.  At least, they were on Earth, and not some planet Rhys had no idea about.

The thing was, he’d been around the Magic School enough to know that Avalon was a very special place, where magic was concerned.  Yes, it had been Arthur’s resting place, but from what Rhys had heard it had been one of the remaining places of power on the planet before Merlin had managed to bring magic back to the universe.  This island should be sacred, and yet HYDRA had decided that it was a really good idea to put their base there.  It felt vaguely like sacrilege.

They needed to find a way to get some sort of signal out, so their family could find them.  Because Rhys seriously doubted anyone would’ve been thinking to look practically under their own noses. 

“Morgause grabbed me because she thought I still had all my magic,” Lisa went on.  “She said she needed me for something, and then tried to recruit me.  I laughed in her face.” 

Rhys hugged her closer.  “I’m proud of you.”

His granddaughter snorted.  “Well, it was funny that she didn’t take into consideration that I might have been reborn without power.  After all, she was, so I’m not sure why she thought I’d be any different.  She’s not able to do what HYDRA wants her to do, and the one sorcerer she does have access to isn’t nearly strong enough.”

“And what is that?” He was very curious to know exactly what HYDRA was up to, although he could guess that some of it had to do with that tech that Phillip and his crew on Stark’s World had managed to locate.

“They need a powerful sorcerer,” she answered.  “There was that weapon they were creating on Stark’s World, I do know that much, but Morgause played it all close to her chest, so to speak.  She doesn’t trust me, and I certainly don’t trust her.”

“Good on you, cariad,” he congratulated.  He was even prouder of her for not seeing through any sort of coercion or sweet talk that Morgause would have laid on her.

“And then she keeps calling me Morgana.  I swear, she keeps that up and I’m going to punch her in the face.  She just doesn’t seem to understand that that’s not me anymore.”  Lisa sighed.  “Is it so wrong that I just want to forget about my past self?”

“No, it’s not, and if she cared about you, she’d understand.”

Lisa had done everything in her power to leave her previous life behind.  There had only been once where it had been useful, and that had been with that mess at the Library…which Rhys was now glad to know all about.  Yes, he understood all about secrecy and how he wasn’t Torchwood anymore, but when it was family he wanted to be clued in, thank you very much. 

He certainly got why Lisa wanted to forget.  After all, Morgana had been mad and evil and not what you wanted to brag to friends about.  She’d been afraid of those returning memories, as well, and had hidden herself for a long time before Samara had gotten to the bottom of things.

Goddess, he loved that woman.  He’s always be glad that he’d gotten up the guts to ask her to marry him.

Samara had to be frantic with worry over him and Lisa.  Well, not only her.  But he had faith that they’d be searching for them, it was just that Rhys was pretty damned certain they’d never think to look for them at Avalon.

Yep, they definitely needed to get some sort of signal out, and he said as much to his granddaughter.

“Morgause sort-of showed me around,” she said. “She seems proud of this place and wanted to impress me, I think.  Not that it did…this is more of a camp than a true base, and really…from what I saw HYDRA’s not as big as we were all thinking.”

“This could just be one of their bases, though.  Who knows how far they’ve spread?”

She conceded the point.  “Morgause did show me the lab.  They’re not as advanced as I would have thought, but they’re trying to meld magic and technology in ways that I don’t think are all that compatible.  I mean, I don’t know that much about it, mainly because we didn’t have all this sort of thing back when I did have magic, but I have listened to Merlin and he seems to know a lot about it.”

Rhys knew that Merlin had worked on the translation slash comms that most Torchwood operatives – and time-lost people like him – were issued, but from what he understood they were more a combination of magic and Time Lord tech, based on what the actual TARDIS did.  They were dead useful, he had to admit, because not only did they translate speech, but written words as well. 

Not that Rhys needed one any longer, but he did know just how important they were to anyone who didn’t speak the main language of the Human Empire, what was called Galactic Standard.  He’d been shocked when he’d found out that English – and his own Welsh – had become obsolete.  Well, not so much obsolete but changed beyond recognition.  Ianto had explained some theory about language changes and shit, but Rhys hadn’t really paid all that much attention mainly because it wasn’t all that important to know.  It had happened, and that was that.  Any other time Rhys would have thought he was too old to learn a new language but Samara had been an excellent teacher.

Dating disguised as language lessons had been fun. Especially when his ‘teacher’ had such a talented tongue…in more ways than one.

“Did you see anything else?” he enquired.  The more information they had, the better their chances.

“Morgause bragged a lot.  She also fed me the HYDRA propaganda, about making the Empire a better place and needing to take control.  I admit, I had to laugh at that, because even if they got past the Shieldsmen to reach the Imperial family, there was still Torchwood, and you know damned well Phillip wouldn’t let that stand.  Neither would Dad and Tad.  And that’s not even counting the Vow of Vengeance we’ve all taken.  I told Morgause she was going to be shit out of luck. That’s when she had me escorted back here.  She’s probably thinking I’m going to eventually come round to their way of thinking because of who I was.”

“Probably.  But they don’t know you very well then, do they?”

Lisa chuckled.  “Nope.  Not at all.”

After that, they sat silent for a bit, until both of them dozed off.  It had been a long and terrifying night, and Rhys was exhausted; he wasn’t a young man anymore, able to work long shifts and keep up with the stress.  Sure, he still had a bit of time in him, but he was still over a hundred years old.

They were both roused by the sound of the door’s lock disengaging, and the door opening.  They sat there as Morgause entered the room, and the woman frowned at seeing them curled up together.  Rhys wanted to come right out and tell her to go fuck herself, but that wasn’t the way to go.  There was still a chance that they might be separated, and he was determined to stay with his granddaughter.  He didn’t want to give them any sort of excuse to part them.

“Morgana – “ she began.

“Lisa.” 

Good, she wasn’t going to put up with that sort of nonsense.

“Your name is Morgana.”

Lisa stood up to face their kidnapper.  “No, my name is Lisa.  Lisa Harkness-Jones.  The daughter of Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones.  And Rhys Williams is my grandfather.  I won’t be what you want, Morgause, and you’d best get used to the disappointment.” 

 Her back was straight and proud.  There were certain mannerisms that their family had come to recognise as Lisa channelling her inner Morgana, but this wasn’t any of them.  This was pure Lisa, and she was strong and sure of herself, and Rhys loved her so much.

Rhys stood up with her, to support her.  She glanced at him, and smiled, then turned back to Morgause.

Who was shaking her head in denial.  “You’re my sister, Morgana.  You’ll always be my sister, and I want you by my side.”

“That isn’t going to happen.  I’m happy with who I am, and you cannot change that.  I won’t help you or HYDRA, Morgause.  Get that through your head right now.”

Rhys leaned over and kissed her on the temple.  “I am so very proud of you, cariad.”

She blushed under the praise.  “Thank you, Grandtad.”

Morgause had stepped forward, her face thunderous.  “You keep away from her,” she snarled.

“Oh, go screw yourself,” Rhys snapped, letting his temper get the better of him in that moment.  “Lisa’s mine, and you can’t have her.”

“And you’re mine, Grandtad.”  She took his hand.  “Let us go Morgause.  You’re not going to get what you want from me.  I already told you, I have no magic in this life, and I won’t go along with your schemes.”

“And what if I can give you your magic back?” Morgause challenged.  “What would you say to that?”

Lisa stiffened at that.  Rhys knew it was possible; he’d heard the story of how Merlin’s previous incarnation before this one, Emrys Gryffudd, hadn’t had any magic, and yet the Doctor had managed to tap into the man’s previous memories in order to call Ianto and Anwyn under the geas of the Dragonlord, in order to prove to Emrys that he was more than just a science drone.  But then, those memories had been very close to the surface at the time, and Merlin had eventually been reborn with full use of his magic.  How Morgause could do what the Doctor had managed to was a question Rhys wasn’t sure he wanted answered.

“That’s not possible,” Lisa denied.  “You don’t have the power to do that.  Even you told me that much.”

“But I have this.” 

From a pocket in her jacket, Morgause withdrew a clear crystal.  It was the size of her fist, and it glittered under the indirect lighting of their cell…because that was what it was, a prison they’d need to escape from.  It was flawless from what Rhys could tell, and even though he, himself, had no magic he could feel the power of it fluttering against his exposed skin.

If he thought Lisa was stiff before, there was nothing to compare with the stillness she exuded at the sight of that stone.  “Where did you get that?” she hissed, sounding very much like a dragon in that moment.

“I thought you might recognise this,” Morgana purred, holding the stone between her fingers, letting its rough edges catch the light.  “I got it from the Crystal Cave, of course.  Dear Lucy was the one who enchanted it, however.”  Her expression turned hard.  “We know what Merlin did to her, and for that he’ll pay.  But now, we need a new, powerful ally, and we want you to be that.”

“You’re not listening to me,” Lisa snapped.  “I do not intend on helping you.  Even if you give me my magic back against my will, I will not help you, not after what you’ve done to my family.  Your assassin killed my sister.  They tried to kill another of my sisters.  Nothing you can say or do will get me to join your side.”

“I just don’t think you have proper motivation.”  The smirk was knowing. 

Before Rhys could react, Morgause was thrusting the crystal toward Lisa.

A blinding white light arced from the stone.  It struck Lisa in the chest, blasting the air from her lungs and the force of it would have tossed her backward if not for Rhys’ grasp on her hand.  He was able to reel her in against him, holding her up as the light engulfed her.

Then it engulfed him as well.

Every single nerve ending was sparking in agony.  It danced along his body like St Elmo’s Fire, licking through him like an unstoppable tide.  He could feel the power of the Earth Dragon rising within him, fighting off the foreign magic; under his feet, the ground heaved, throwing him and Lisa back onto the bed, which creaked under the impact of both of their weights.

Rhys hadn’t had a lot of use for the magic he’d gained from the Earth Dragon, not since he’d relocated to new Avalon to help Merlin with running the Magic School.  It had lain dormant just under his skin, and in fact, he’d really forgotten about it. Being in a place of such history and power, and then being consumed by whatever the hell Morgause had done, was too much. 

Being back on Earth meant he could access it once again.

And the ground shook at his call.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

30 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Ddraig Llyn

 

The roar outside had Ianto running for the front door, his family with him.

He recognised the sound immediately.  He didn’t even need to see the Earth Dragon to know his call.

The Great Dragon was fully formed, standing on the village green, head raised and wings mantling.  Ianto was in his dragon form before he’d fully realised the change, and he could feel his family changing around him, ready to support him in whatever was happening.

“My Friend is in danger,” the Earth Dragon growled.  “He is being attacked by unknown magic!”

Ianto shivered at that.  He knew very well that Rhys was connected to the Earth Dragon through his mark, and through the vow he’d made when he’d become the Friend of Earth.  Yes, he’d been living on another world for years, but that did not negate that bond.

If the Great Dragon was now reacting to Rhys being injured, that could only mean one thing.

Rhys was back on Earth, and they could locate him and Lisa.

“Do you know where he is?” Jack demanded.

“Yes,” the Earth Dragon answered sharply.  “He is on Avalon, on the Isle of Magic.”

“That’s not possible,” Merlin denied.  “How could he possibly be there?”

“I know not, only that is where he is, and he is under attack.”

“Then that’s where we’re going,” Jack said.  He was also in his dragon form, but he changed back quickly.  “We can’t use the transmat, since there’s no station nearby.  So we’re going to have to fly.”

Dragons could fly very fast, but it would take them at least two hours to get to Avalon.  Still, they knew where Rhys was, and that most likely meant that Lisa was there as well.

“Everyone who can’t fly on their own,” Jack continued, “you can ride.  Mom,” he turned to Samara, “contact Phillip and see if the Doctor can’t get the rest of the family there any faster, then be ready to leave.  No one gets left behind.”

Jack didn’t mention having the Doctor coming to pick them all up, but Ianto could understand why.  As much as the Time Lord was so certain he could pilot just fine, there were far too many times to count where his coordinates had gone awry, and if they didn’t arrive on time at least the rest of the family would be able to make their move against their enemies.

There was no doubt in Ianto’s mind that this was HYDRA.  They were actually quite smart to hide on the very island that his family had owned and left to regain its magic over the centuries.  It was ironic that a terror organisation that was determined to take on Ianto’s clan had settled there, of all places, with its connection to magic and to the Once and Future King. 

“What about Daisy?” Samara asked.  She was currently holding the child, who seemed to understand something was happening and was being fussy, trying to escape Samara’s arms even though she couldn’t fly as yet.

“She comes as well,” Ianto answered for his mate.  “She’s family, and deserves to be with us.”

“I’ll carry Gran and Daisy,” Emlyn volunteered, her silver-grey scales like smoke against the grass that still remained green despite the snow and winter chill.  “I can carry them as well as Aymara with no problem, and she can help Gran with Daisy if needed.”  Her mate was already standing next to Emlyn, her hand resting on her shoulder.  Bronwyn was nearby, her brightly coloured feathers a sharp contrast to her mother’s own scales.

Samara left to do what Jack had ordered her to, heading back into the house.  Ianto turned to regard his mate, willing to take his direction in this, knowing that Jack’s tactical mind was only matched by Arthur’s, even though his mate often thought otherwise. 

“You will ride with me,” he told his mate, as if there was any doubt.  No one would else would carry Jack, and he wouldn’t be able to take his own dragon shape outside Ddraig Llyn.

Jack nodded once, an emphatic movement.

“You will go with our blessing,” the Water Dragon intoned.  She, and the other Great Dragons, had appeared.

“We will not interfere with your clan’s vow,” the Fire Dragon assured, fiery wings heating the air as they beat in time with Ianto’s heart.

“Also, seek to know the whereabouts of the Lady of the Lake,” the Air Dragon added.  He had appeared beside the Earth Dragon, blue scales flaring back the Fire Dragon’s brightness. “She would have warned us of HYDRA’s infiltration if she had been able.”

“Avalon is a seat of power,” the Earth Dragon concluded.  “It is being violated.  That cannot be tolerated.”

Ianto understood what it meant for them to stand aside and let the clan strike first, especially the Earth Dragon, with Rhys in danger.  He appreciated their implicit trust in the family to handle things and their need to fulfil their own vengeance.

“Once we get there,” Jack turned in a circle, regarding the array of dragons and mortals that were taking up the banks of the lake.  When his eyes met Ianto’s, the dragon patriarch nodded, acceding control of the situation to his mate, “we will surround the island.  We’ll need a surveillance flight over the area, but I suspect if Clint and Phillip get there first we might already have that done.”

“Avalon is mine,” Anwyn snarled.  “No one should be there without my permission.”

“We’ll see about making it more secure after we’ve gotten Rhys and Lisa back,” Jack promised.  “This will not happen again.  No one hurts one of our own, and in a place that’s ours.”

“Grandfather,” Arthur spoke, Merlin already up on his back and prepared for the flight, “they’re most likely going to have some sort of transmat on the island.  It’s the only way they could have gotten there without Orbital Control knowing about it.  We’re going to need to disable that.”

“Agreed,” Jack nodded.  “Merlin, you think you can take care of that?”

“I can,” the wizard said, with certainty.  “I’ll just need to be close enough, but Arthur can get me there.”

“Then Arthur, you and Merlin have your orders: find the transmat and take it out.”  He turned back to the rest of the family.  “Emlyn, you’re responsible for your Gran and niece.  They need to be there, but they’re not combatants – “

“I have power, Jack,” Samara interrupted, re-joining the group, wearing a heavy coat and scarf, and with Daisy bundled up even though the baby really didn’t need it; being a dragon, the cold wouldn’t bother her. “And Rhys is my husband – “

“I understand, Mom, but you’ve never used your magic in a combat situation.   Besides, your control over water will come in useful once we disable the transmat, because they’ll most likely want to flee the island and you can keep them from doing that by boat.  We don’t know Freya’s status; she’s most likely been taken out of play, since the Air Dragon is right: she would have gotten out any sort of warning that something was going on, and she didn’t.

“Emlyn, you’ll keep anyone off your grandmother’s six as she’s working,” Jack went on.   

“You can count on me,” his daughter swore.

“Is the Doctor bringing the others?” Jack asked.

Samara nodded.  “Phillip said he was fetching the Doctor immediately.  He also did mention aerial reconnaissance, and keeping the Doctor from going in with metaphorical guns blazing and with no plan.”

Phillip and the Doctor had grown to become close friends ever since events at the Library, and Ianto had faith that his son-by-mating would be able to control the Time Lord long enough for them to get there.  The Doctor did have a tendency to go off half-cocked, and they couldn’t afford that right now.  The last thing needed was for the Doctor to get grabbed by their enemies, which was bound to happen where he was concerned.  The Doctor and jail cells were on the proverbial first-name basis.

“Then let’s get what we need to and go,” Jack commanded.  “We need to get there sooner, rather than later.”

Ianto agreed.  It was time to take the fight to HYDRA.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

30 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Avalon

 

The TARDIS materialised on the shore of the lake, the island swathed in in its ever-present wreath of obscuring mist.

Phillip stepped out of the machine, followed by the others.  The chill of the cloying air didn’t bother him at all, nor his companions, and his eyes tried to penetrate the fog that surrounded them.

In many ways, the fog was a good thing.  It meant they wouldn’t be seen by whoever would be stationed on watch out on the island.  He almost felt as if he’d stepped out into a dream world, and the immortal wondered where the sudden flight of fancy had come from, as he usually wasn’t given to them.

It might have had something to do with the magic.

Even though his ice magic was Asgardian-based, Phillip could sense the sheer power coming from the middle of the lake.  It pattered against his bare skin like a hard, summer rain, negating the cold fog, and it warmed him in ways he hadn’t felt in quite a while.  He wanted to revel in it, but there wasn’t time, and for one of the very few times since he’d discovered his own magic he felt at peace with it.

The world was quiet around them, as if the very planet was holding its breath.  He didn’t speak, not wanting to break that preternatural silence.  It was supposed to be daytime, but the mist gave everything a twilight haze that, once again, would only help them in any approach they made toward their final destination.

The only problem was that the low-lying clouds would obscure the island from sight, at the same time it kept their presence unknown.  It evened the playing field a little, although Phillip would have wished for more of an advantage.

When Samara had called and told them about Avalon, to be honest Phillip had been a little surprised.  Avalon was literally the last place they would have searched; which, in the end, made it the perfect place for the kidnappers to hide.  It also made sense when knowing that it had been the reincarnation of Morgause Gorlois who’d come for Lisa, obviously in a bid to get Morgana to work with them.

He had no doubt this was HYDRA.  Whether it was the main group or a splinter cell, he didn’t know…yet.  But they were going to storm the island, find out all they could, and get their family back.

“It is way too quiet,” the Doctor murmured, coming to stand at the immortal’s shoulder.

Phillip had to agree, and said so. 

“It’s an expectant hush.”  Clint stood at Phillip’s other side, Nicole with him.

“That’s quite poetic,” River commented, next to her husband.  There was a faint sarcasm in her words.

Clint wasn’t wrong, though.  It was like a silence that seemed to be waiting for them to erupt into action and break it at any moment.

“I’m glad I brought the TARDIS in quietly,” the Time Lord added.  “She would have been heard all the way across the water and given us away.”

“Let’s run a reconnaissance flight,” the immortal said.  “I want to get the lay of the land before the rest of the family shows up.”

“Going to be hard to see anything in this fog,” River said, as the golden glow of Clint’s transformation glittered against the drops of chill mist. 

“We can only hope it’s clear over the island,” the purple dragon replied. 

The Doctor handed Phillip a pair of old-fashioned flying goggles, and then headed back toward his time machine.  “I’m going to use the TARDIS’ sensors to see if I can find any sort of technological readings over there as well.”

“Good idea,” Phillip agreed, putting on the goggles and clambering up onto Clint’s broad back, making certain he was seated securely before tapping his mate on the side of the neck to signal his readiness.

With a powerful flexing of muscle, the dragon launched them into the still air.

Phillip really hadn’t gone flying all that much, and every time he found himself doing it he had to wonder why that was.  There was an exhilaration in flying with his mate that was unmatched.  They’d done the mating flight…well, in as much as a dragon and a human could, and was one of Phillip’s most treasured memories, but beyond that he could honestly say they’d flown together only a handful of times in the nearly hundred years they’d been together.

He leaned forward, face pressed against Clint’s finely scaled neck, wind whipping his hair and clothes as they gained altitude.  The cold didn’t bother him, even if he hadn’t had the warmth of his mate settled about him, and he was certainly glad of the goggles, making a mental note to thank the Doctor for them once they were done.  They certainly saved his eyes from drying out in the brisk wind.   

Clint suddenly burst from the misty cloud cover and into bright sunlight.  He angled in the direction they believed the island to be, and Phillip leaned over the side enough to see below, trusting that Clint wouldn’t let him fall.

Luck – or something else entirely, from what his magical sense was telling him – was on their side, and the fog broke over the island of Avalon.

To be honest, Phillip didn’t know all that much about the place.  He’d heard the stories, knew that Arthur had been interred there, and that his body had been found by a bunch of opportunistic scientists who’d believed they could use his genetics to create a race of supersoldiers, which had failed spectacularly when Jack, Ianto, and the Doctor had gotten involved.  After those events, the current iterations of Arthur and Merlin had been reborn, and that was a new and different story entirely.

He also knew that Anwyn officially owned the property for miles around, but had left it untouched, to regain the magic that it had once lost.  Freya, the Lady of the Lake, also lived there, the immortal spirit of a woman who’d died in Merlin’s first, remembered, life, and who had actually been a friend of the then-wizard’s and who’d been cursed by dark magic to turn into some sort of hell beast, but had been cured at her ‘death’. 

Beyond that, Avalon was a mystery to him.  He’d never been, and he was looking forward to taking it back from what had to have been HYDRA.

His eyes picked out details below them.  Avalon was a rocky outcrop in the middle of the lake, bare except for a single ring of trees at the direct centre of the island, a plinth of stone rising up from the island’s body within it.  The place wasn’t very big, longer than it was broad, and at one end he could make out six ramshackle-looking cabins circling a tiny clearing, and he considered to have been some sort of living quarters.  On the other end of the island was a building that looked to be about two storeys tall, which Phillip guessed was some sort of lab or offices…or a combination of both.  There was an ancient, faded insignia on it, and he couldn’t make out what it was. 

There was nothing within the circle of trees except that single, natural altar.

But, even as high as they were, Phillip could feel the magic emanating from the grove.

This must have been where Arthur had been laid to rest by Merlin, five millennia ago.  Phillip was gratified that they hadn’t desecrated the place, and was glad that someone in the HYDRA camp had decided to leave it in peace.  He did have to wonder if the very magic of the grove had contributed to that.

He became more and more convinced that the mist surrounding the island wasn’t quite as natural on continued exposure.  Phillip grew certain that it was there to protect the island from prying eyes, and that it had to have been someone who’d been familiar with this place to have led HYDRA to it.  To him, that pointed towards Morgause as the culprit, unless there was another magical person from Merlin’s past involved.  He knew HYDRA had to have other magic users, but he doubted any of them truly knew where Avalon had been.  No, it must have been Morgause.

Clint made several passes over the island, careful to stay above the covering mist, and it seemed as if luck was on their side, as no one appeared to be looking up; Clint had to have been obvious, his purple and black scales a blot against the blue sky.  Phillip’s eyesight wasn’t good enough to catch the smallest details, but he knew Clint would, so he trusted his mate to see what the immortal couldn’t.  He did make out people moving around down there; however, they were too far up for him to do any sort of identification.

There was also signs of destruction all over the island, as if an earthquake had struck.  That must have been from Rhys, and his reaction to whatever had been done to him.  One of the buildings looked as if it had been shaken down to its foundations, and others were damaged.

Good.

By the time they’d set back down near the TARDIS, Phillip felt as if he had a good read on the camp they’d seen.  There weren’t that many people that he could tell, but unfortunately there was no way of telling just what sort of weapons were there, or what sort of magic they were dealing with.  The ancient grove was pretty much swamping everything else, and he had hope that Merlin, when he got there, would be able to get them a better idea of what they’d be dealing with, magic-wise.

A part of him had wanted to go in and take them on, just him and Clint, but that wasn’t the smart thing to do.  They could easily be overpowered if they weren’t careful, no matter how powerful he felt in his own magic, and he still had no notion if the so-called Dragon Slayer was on site.  There was no way he was going to risk his mate without back-up from other dragons.

There was a very tiny part of him that wanted to be concerned with him being that comfortable with his magic, but wasn’t it about time he got over himself on that score?  After all, the magic was now a part of him, and not utilising a resource wasn’t very smart, even if it was a resource he didn’t particularly want.

“You get the lay of the land, as it were?” the Doctor asked.  He was leaning against the cloaked TARDIS, and it looked strange to see him resting against seemingly empty air.

“We need to get everything down before the rest of the family arrive,” Clint said, now back in his human form.  “There’s a lot going on they’ll want to know about.”

They all went back into the time machine, to find River at the console, staring at one of the monitors and not looking very happy.  “We have some pretty advanced readings coming from the island,” she reported.

“There’s a large building on the far end that I’m fairly sure is their lab,” Clint said, joining her.  “I’m willing to bet that’s where most of those readings are coming from.  There’s a logo on that building, and I suspect that might be the old GenCorp symbol.”

“That makes sense,” the Doctor said.  “There was an old generator station set up there, but all the equipment was taken out when we originally cleared the island.”

“They must have repurposed the original building,” Phillip offered his opinion.  “Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell if there was any magic around, because of the inherent magic of Avalon itself.  And I didn’t see any sign of the Lady of the Lake, so we have to assume they’re holding her somewhere…or they managed to kill her.  Although, if I had to assume anything, it would make sense she’d be held prisoner somewhere.  I can’t see them doing away with a possible asset like her.”

The Doctor was nodding.  “I met her once. I got the impression then it would be very hard to hold her anywhere…and that was back when magic wasn’t nearly as powerful as it is now.  It would take a lot to keep her under wraps.”

“There also wasn’t any sign of either Lisa or Rhys,” Clint said, “but I doubt they’d be out in the open.”

“But there were definite signs of an earthquake,” Phillip pointed out.  “Rhys must have really let loose down there.”

“There’s no telling what they must have done to him to cause him to lose control like that,” River said. 

Phillip had to agree.  While Rhys was known to have a temper, causing earthquakes wasn’t something he usually did.  It actually made him think of the first Daisy he’d known, the one who’d been Inhuman…and as close to a daughter he’d had for a long time.  They really could have used her power in their attack.

He wished she was here now, but she was long dead.  It had been so good to see her, when he’d been overloaded with his ice magic and she’d brought all the TAHITI information from the past to help him.  He’d named both of his children after her, and to his amazement Clint had agreed with him.  But then, even back then his mate had seen how much that Daisy had meant to him, and he remembered it.  In fact, according to his mate, she’d given Clint Barton the shovel talk, way back when, and Phillip wished he could remember it because it had sounded hilarious.

He did hope she’d reincarnate someday, and recall her previous life.  Phillip would certainly love to have her back, in whatever capacity he could.

They gathered around the console, and together they put together a map of everything they’d seen.  As Phillip had guessed, Clint had caught a lot of what he hadn’t, but at the same time there were things that Phillip had noticed that his mate hadn’t.  They’d always made a good team, and this just reaffirmed that.

“Do we have an ETA on everyone else?” Clint asked.

“Well,” the Doctor hummed in thought, “given the average speed a dragon can fly, and assuming they left Ddraig Llyn almost immediately, it should take them two hours to get here.  Which,” he glanced at his watch, “should be anytime now.”

They wouldn’t be able to see the TARDIS in stealth mode, so Phillip decided to wait outside.  Clint was just behind him, and together the mates left the time machine to stand beside her, thinking that the mist about the island would conceal their presence from unfriendly eyes. 

It wasn’t a long wait before wings appeared in the sky.

While this wasn’t the entire family - several were still offworld, including their own son, Skylar, and Rowena was still hurt – it was still an impressive sight to see most of the clan in flight.  Phillip’s heart swelled with pride at being a part of the family, and fierce love for each and every one of them filled him to the brim. 

“Now,” the Doctor murmured, amazed, “that’s not something you see every day.”

He was quite correct.

Clint was back in dragon form by the time Ianto touched down, Jack sliding off his back with practiced ease.  It was odd not seeing him in his own dragon form, but Phillip was well aware that he wouldn’t be able to change into it outside Ddraig Llyn. 

It was at times like these that Phillip wished he, also, had a dragon form.  He wanted nothing more than to fly with his family, under his own power.  But that wasn’t possible, and so he quashed that thought back down and out of the way, instead walking up to Jack and nodding at his father-by-mating’s greeting.

“We have the layout of the base,” he reported.  “Clint and I did several flyovers, and there wasn’t any sort of alarm at our presence.  I doubt very highly they can see past the mist.”

“Were you able to pinpoint the transmat they must be using?” Arthur asked, his large red body landing next to his Grandtad’s.

“We did.  Clint says it’s in the exact middle of the camp they have set up.”  He unrolled the flimsy that the Doctor had printed out, from the map they’d constructed using the TARDIS’ database.  He held it up so Arthur and Merlin, who was seated on his mate’s back, could see it. 

Merlin looked furious.  Phillip could understand. 

“Then we stick to the plan,” Jack said.  “Arthur, you fly Merlin over and he’ll take out the transmat with his magic.  Phillip, Clint…did you see any boats around Avalon?”

“No,” Clint answered.  “It looks like they were relying on the transmat.”

“Why can’t Arthur just flame the machinery?” William asked.  He seemed a little jumpy, but then Phillip couldn’t blame him.  After all, it was his sister and grandfather they were going into save.

“We can’t risk a fire getting out of control,” Jack pointed out.  “Merlin can use his magic to keep the damage down to just his target.”

The young dragon subsided, obviously getting the point.

“Anyone not with a dragon form,” Jack called out, “I want you in the TARDIS.  Doctor, can you get into this building and take care of anything there?”

“Of course I can,” the Time Lord answered, sounding slightly offended by the question and the implied aspersions to his piloting skills. 

“Phillip, I want you to go with them.  You have the tactical know-how to take care of whoever you’ll run into.”

The immortal nodded.  Jack’s plan made sense.  Although he’d really wanted to fly in with Clint, he would abide by his father-by-mating’s command.  Besides, he understood how useful he’d be on the ground, and leaving the Doctor in charge of that sort of assault was like asking to be captured.  It wasn’t that he didn’t respect the Time Lord, he just understood the man’s penchant for stepping in with both feet and not paying any heed of the danger.  It worked a lot of the time, but in this circumstance Phillip would rather not give HYDRA the chance to gain any other hostages. 

“Emlyn, you’ll watch out for Samara and Daisy, as you swore?” Jack asked his daughter.

That was when Phillip noticed that Samara was there, and was carrying Daisy wrapped up in a blanket. 

Phillip wasn’t certain how he felt about his daughter being so very close to a warzone.  It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Samara; he did, and Samara did have her own version of magic to use in case she needed to defend herself and the child.  But things were about to get quite dicey, and knowing that Daisy could potentially be in harms’ way would be a distraction he wasn’t certain he could put out of his mind for the duration.

Although, he did understand why they hadn’t left her behind; there wouldn’t been no one else to watch her that was completely trusted, if the entire available family was involved in this action. 

When this had started, it had been decided that Samara and Rhys’ daughter, Helena, and her side of the clan would have been safe from the Dragon Slayer and from HYDRA, since the very mortal part of the family hadn’t broadcasted their relationship to the Star Dragons.  Jack and Ianto had proclaimed them out of this business, and as the patriarchs of the clan their word was law, but Phillip knew that Helena hadn’t liked it one bit, and had told her much older brother that in not-so-nice terms, having inherited Rhys’ natural ability to rant at what she saw as an injustice. 

Still, it would keep them safe and, if anything, Jack was very much aware of just how mortal his sister and her family were, and he would do anything to keep them around for as long as he could.  He’d already lost so many mortal members of his family. He’d do what was needed to protect the ones he had left, even if they didn’t want to be protected.

And, if Phillip did misappropriate a couple of Torchwood’s internal security force as surveillance on the Harkness-Williams’, then no one needed to know that except him and Melinda.

It made him feel better that Emlyn would watch out for them, as well.  He trusted Clint’s sister, and knew that Emlyn would understand his worries.  Emlyn’s own mate, Aymara, was already making her way into the TARDIS, and their daughter, Bronwyn, was among those who would be flying onto Avalon with the rest.  He would have faith in her to take care of them with every breath in her body.

Still, they might have been safer in the TARDIS, and would have said so if he didn’t understand that Samara might very well have her own part to play in the battle to come.  With her power over water, she would be able to prevent anyone from leaving the island if they tried to escape once the transmat was disabled.

“I will protect them with my life, Dad,” Emlyn promised.

“Mom, Clint didn’t see any boats, but you know what to do if anyone tries to leave the island by water.”

“I do,” Samara answered fiercely.  Phillip had to admire the simplicity of Jack’s plan in this regard.  It would keep Samara away from the majority of the action, and yet give her something to do while she waited for them to bring Rhys back to her.  Because he knew Samara, and she would never willingly stay behind when her husband was in danger.

“Then the rest of us will await Arthur and Merlin taking out the transmat before flying in,” Jack said, climbing back up onto Ianto’s broad back.

It was Ianto who leaped into the air first.  The rest of the family followed, and Phillip stood by the open TARDIS doors, his eyes on only one of them, his mate’s dark scales a contrast among the other colours of his clan.  He sent up a silent farewell to Clint, really wishing he could be flying with him but understanding his duty.

“Come on, Dad,” Nicole’s voice brought him back down to Earth.  “Let’s go and kick some HYDRA arse.”

He looked at her.  She had the same fierceness within her as her dragon relations, and not for the first time was Phillip looking forward to the day when she’d gain her own dragon form.  He had a feeling it would be as spectacular as her twin’s, who also flew with the family toward their clash with HYDRA.

“Yes,” he acquiesced.  “It’s time to go and do just that.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

30 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Avalon

 

Suzie was in the lab when the earthquake hit.

What she’d been working on…well, it was pretty useless, really.  Not that she ever intended for their nanotech project ever working, because she knew very well that magic and tech didn’t mesh all that well, no matter what Morgause claimed, even though Suzie herself didn’t have an ounce of magic in her.  She’d been involved with projects attempting to do that very thing, and Peter was a magical theorist, so she had a basic knowledge of magic that a lot of scientists lacked.

She and Rima had discussed it, and her wife had convinced her that neither of their lives were worth the millions – or perhaps billions – of innocents out there who would be affected by this sort of weapon, even if Suzie had a chance in any hell of getting it to work.  Not that she would even try, of course.

The one wizard HYDRA had was next to useless, really.  Apparently the young man – a boy, really – had absolutely no formal training and was using a spellbook he could barely read.  Suzie had wanted to ask where he’d been dug up from, but was afraid to.  She got the distinct impression he wasn’t there because he’d been given permission to work with them.  She did all she could to make sure he knew she wouldn’t hurt him, but she felt it was a bit too late for that.

At this point, it was simply a balancing act…how to give them just enough advancement for their captors to keep them alive, while they awaited rescue.

Rima seemed to think it would be soon, after the new arrivals yesterday.  Suzie had to agree.  She’d figured out that Jack and Ianto and Torchwood would have had no real idea where to find them, unless they got extremely lucky, but now Morgause had gone and kidnapped their daughter and, from what Rima had explained, a very good friend.  Her wife had confidence that a certain Rhys Williams could, somehow, get the signal out that neither of them had worked out how to do yet.  Or at least be able to help them with that.

Suzie was surprised to see Rima have so much faith in one person, but then she’d known the man back in her days as Diane Holmes.  It made her wish that she’d been around as well.  She’d missed so much, having killed herself, and was now more than ever angry at herself for giving herself up to the darkness that Ianto had sensed within her, and had kept him from fully trusting her back then.

It also made her sad, in a way, because in her heart Suzie knew their idyllic time on Proxima Prime was coming to an end.  Jack and Ianto knew about them now, and Suzie was aware of just how glad they’d been to see her, despite what she’d done in her previous life, and although she believed they’d never force them to leave their home, it would happen.  It was more than gratifying to know they’d forgiven her, even if she’d betrayed them once more, but she also knew how they felt about a loved one being used as leverage.

They’d recruited Toshiko Sato, after all, and Suzie knew the story about the tech genius’ mother.

In a lot of ways, Suzie was looking forward to having her old team back, even though her time with them had ended in tragedy.  Even though Ianto hadn’t trusted her with his greatest secret.  She could understand it, honestly.  And she could accept it, knowing that he trusted her now.  Or, at least he had. 

Rima and Peter had been trying to convince her to go back with them for years, but Suzie had been so adamant that they’d never forgive her for what she’d done.  Turned out they’d been right when they’d claimed that wasn’t true.  Ianto had accepted her at once, and so had Jack…even though it had taken him a little bit to remember her.  She could understand that, as well.  Being immortal had to be hard on someone not born to it.

Knowing Peter, he would have gone to Torchwood when she and Rima had vanished. Was he out there now, trying to find them?  Was he in the lab at Torchwood Tower, doing whatever he could to come up with some way to bring them home? 

Suzie missed him like she’d lost a limb, as did Rima.  They were definitely asking him to marry them the moment they saw each other again.

Although she might need to get used to calling him Owen once more.  She knew how much he hated being called Peter, but had only been willing to keep the name for her sake.  Which proved how much he truly loved her.

Still, they would have to stay alive in order to be rescued, and that meant pretending to actually work on a project that Suzie was positive would fail.

At least they hadn’t put her to figuring out how to access the Master’s biodata within that damned ring.  Apparently, even Morgause had realised that was a lost cause without the Darkhold, which was now safely back in Torchwood hands. From what she had overheard they’d burned Agravaine’s cover within the Tower in order to get to the ring, and had no other moles within Torchwood to find a way to retrieve that damned book.

They’d tried to locate someone else within Torchwood’s organisation who’d been a useful reincarnation, and that they hadn’t been successful.  That was how Suzie had discovered the way they’d been finding reincarnations and awakening them to their previous lives.  It didn’t seem to work every single time, which was an interesting development. But any other souls that might have worked for HYDRA weren’t that deep within Torchwood itself, so that plan had failed.  Morgause had wanted to send someone in undercover, but Agravaine had pointed out that Coulson and May would be on the lookout for that sort of thing now that they knew about him.  The chances of getting anyone into Torchwood now were nil.  They’d only had Agravaine inside because he’d joined Torchwood before his memories had been recovered.

Suzie was glad of that.

And so, she was pretending to work.  She’d uselessly been going back over the notes from the original nanotech project and silently cursing whoever had come up with the idea when the earthquake struck.

Glassware shattered and tables shook as the quake rattled the building.  Suzie grabbed onto the nearest set of shelves, ones that she knew were bolted into the wall, and held on for dear life.  Intellectually, she knew she should get outside, but she didn’t think she’d make it without some fairly serious injury.  So, she stayed where she was and rode it out.

It seemed to go for an inordinate amount of time.  Suzie had never experienced an earthquake before, so she really had no frame of reference as to how long they should last.  But, eventually, the ground settled, and she was able to let go of the shelving unit, easing her cramped fingers open in order to release her grasp on it. 

Immediately she left the building, taking refuge outside, joining the others who’d been working within.  The lab building was on the opposite side of the island from the housing area, and she made her way toward it, needing to check to see if Rima was alright.  She skirted the grove; the place gave her the shivers, and she couldn’t say exactly why.  Maybe it was the fact that it felt like what a cemetery would; cold, and quiet, and dead despite the thriving trees that encircled the clearing within.

The quake had done some damage to the structures there.  One in particular was badly hit, walls completely collapsed.  The one next to it was the one she and her wife had seen Rhys, and eventually Lisa, escorted to and held in under guard.  That roof had collapsed and the one window had been broken out, and the door was off its hinges as if it had been wrenched away.

Morgause sat outside on an overturned log, someone wiping away blood on her forehead.  From what Suzie could tell, the woman was going to have a wonderful shiner as well, and she was sitting awkwardly, as if she’d injured her ribs.

Inwardly, Suzie was leaping up and down in vindictive joy.  It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.

There were people inside the nearly collapsed structure, and as Suzie watched, two men carried the unconscious form of Rhys Williams out of the wreckage.  Another man followed, Lisa limp in his arms, and he looked as if he was struggling slightly to hold her.   Suzie vaguely wondered if dragons weighed more as she was making her way toward them, hoping she could help.

As she got closer, Agravaine approached.  “What the hells happened?” he demanded.

Morgause looked totally pissed off.  “I attempted to use the crystal on Morgana.  What I hadn’t expected was her so-called grandfather having magic of his own.”  She waved a hand at the localised destruction.  “He caused this when the crystal’s power backlashed into him, because Morgana was holding his hand.”

“That’s something new,” Rima murmured in her ear.  Suzie started, not having noticed her wife approach close enough to put her arms around her.  “Back in my time, Rhys didn’t have magic.”

“Well, he certainly does now, if Morgause is to be believed,” she whispered back. 

Suzie knew what crystal Morgause had been talking about, and she had to wonder why she’d try to use it on someone with their former life’s memories intact.  As far as she was aware, it only worked on reincarnations that couldn’t recall them.  But then, that was the only use she’d seen.  It was very possible Morgause knew more about it than Suzie did.

Rima let go of Suzie, and headed over to the unconscious man, who’d been dumped unceremoniously onto the ground.  When one of the HYDRA agents tried to stop her, she rolled her eyes.  “I might not be a medical doctor, but I’m quite probably the closest thing you have to one.  Let me take a look at them both, see if they’re alright.”

A nod from Morgause had the agent stepping aside and letting Rima past.  Rima was a mechanical engineer, but had had some first aid training and knew her way around a human – and sometimes not-so-human – body.  She was quite possibly the closest thing they had to a medic on the entire island. 

Suzie watched as Rima knelt beside Rhys, resting her fingertips against his throat to check his pulse.  She got a closer look at the man her wife had known in her first life; Rhys Williams was stocky, but not overweight, his hair more silver than dark, and she suspected the man would have been a jovial sort in any other situation than being held prisoner on an unknown island. 

Rima checked him over thoroughly.  “It’s some sort of shock,” she reported.  “He should regain consciousness fairly soon.”

She then went over to where Lisa had been laid out, a little more gently than Rhys had been.  Rima did the same checks, pronounced her also in shock, and prescribed getting both of them off the chilly ground and into another of the buildings that were still standing, preferably hers and Suzie’s.  “That way I can keep an eye on them,” she said, as it looked as if Morgause was going to argue.  “Do any of your people know how to treat for shock?  I doubt it.”

Suzie couldn’t help but smile at her wife’s courage at standing up to Morgause the way she was.  Rima had once told her that they really had nothing to lose; she was positive they were going to be killed when their usefulness was at an end.  She was right, but they had some hope of rescue, and Suzie wasn’t about to give that up.

“Fine,” Morgause huffed.  “Take the man into the cabin.  But Morgana goes to my private quarters.  I want to be there when she awakes.  She’ll need me when her full magic returns.”

As the people went to obey, Suzie couldn’t help the shudder that went through her.  That explained the use of the crystal on someone who already had their memories intact: they wanted to reawaken the magic that Lisa hadn’t been born with this time around.  Suzie could see the reasoning behind it: Morgause was hoping to bring Lisa – or Morgana – back to her side by returning her magic to her.  The thing was, Suzie remembered that meeting back at Torchwood Tower, when they’d brought in Lisa as a consultant over the Darkhold.  She’d gotten the distinct impression that Jack and Ianto’s daughter had wanted nothing to do with Morgana and her magic.  If the crystal worked, and Lisa had her former life’s power back, Suzie couldn’t imagine this going well at all.

Rima didn’t look happy at the arrangement, but she knew when to pick her battles, and at least they had access to Rhys.  Suzie could see the muscle jumping in her jaw as Rhys was manhandled into their quarters and deposited onto the bed not at all carefully, and it took the two of them to get him into a comfortable position and covered with a blanket. 

Rima ducked back outside, leaving Suzie alone with the unconscious man.  While she couldn’t hear what was being said, she could certainly understand the tone of anger in her wife’s argument with Morgause, and she just knew it was about Lisa.  Not that Rima was going to win, but it was in her wife’s nature to push back when she knew the decisions being made were bad ones.

The earthquake had knocked a few of their meagre belongings around, and Suzie started with the clean-up, determined not to go back to the lab today.  Yes, she’d have to tomorrow, and do the clean-up there as well, but she wasn’t about to leave her wife alone with someone Suzie wasn’t familiar with, even if Rima had known the man currently laying on the bed they’d been provided.  It had been in a previous life, and people did change.

Eventually, Rima stormed back in.  “Morgause has no clue what she’s doing,” she fumed.  She dragged one of their hard-backed chairs over to the bed and dropped down onto it, sighing deeply.

“I could have told you that,” Suzie answered bluntly.

“And you have, several times.”

“She’s expecting Lisa to just go back to her old life,” Suzie continued.  “I might have only met her the once, but I can tell you right now that’s not going to happen.  From what I saw, Lisa was bound and determined not to be Morgana, and this is just going to push her over the edge.”

“And you’d be right.”

The very male groan had them both glancing over at the shifting Rhys Williams.  His eyes were open, but there was a lot of pain in their dark depths, and it made Suzie wish they had some sort of painkiller around to give him.

Then he caught sight of Rima, and those eyes went wide.  “Bloody hell,” he gasped, struggling to rise.  “It’s brilliant to see you again, Diane.”

Rima laughed.  “And you as well, Rhys.  But don’t you dare get sucked up by another Rift, you hear me?” She waggled a finger at him, before leaning forward and wrapping him up in a welcoming hug.

“Don’t plan on it, love,” he answered quietly.  “Kinda found my perfect life here.”

“I’m so glad you’re alive.”  Rima sounded almost like she was crying.

The embrace went on just long enough that Suzie was beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable.  Then they broke apart, Rhys giving her an appraising look before favouring her with a small, sincere, smile.  “And you’re Suzie.  Owen’s gonna be so glad to know you’re both okay.”

Suzie found herself grinning, it matching the one gracing her wife’s tear-streaked face.  “He came to Torchwood, then?”

“Yeah, he did.  In fact, from what I understand you just missed him…he was in the building as you were leaving it, as it were.”

Her heart lurched painfully at that.  Knowing that Peter…Owen…had been that close, was heart breaking.  “He knows what I did?” she asked cautiously.

Rhys shifted so that his back was propped against the wall that the bed was butted up to.  “He does, but he told us everything, so we all get it.” 

That was a relief, knowing that everyone was willing to forgive her for stealing the Master’s ring. 

“He’s back at the Tower,” he continued, “helping as best he can.  From what I’ve been able to tell, Fitz and Jemma adore him, insults and all.” 

“We need to get out of here,” she said, in lieu of coming right out and thanking him for letting them know Peter was safe.

He seemed to get it, though.  “Pretty sure I just gave our people a big sign of where we are.”

“How did you get magic, Rhys?” Rima asked.  She sat down next to him.

The smile he gave was a joyful one.  “You’re looking at the current Friend of Earth, that’s how.”

Rima was grinning so widely her cheeks should have been hurting.  “That is brilliant!”

Suzie frowned in confusion.  “I’m sorry?”

“Oh right.  You don’t know about the Great Dragons.” Rhys shifted a little to get more comfortable.  “They’re the spirits of Ianto’s people: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water.  They choose mortal Friends, and those they pick gain a bit of power.  For me, it’s all about the Earth.” 

That really didn’t enlighten Suzie all that much, but she supposed once she hung around Ianto and Jack for a bit, she’d end up learning more than she ever thought possible. 

Rhys looked at Rima.  “How big was the earthquake?”

“Pretty big,” she chuckled.  “Does that mean we’re on Earth, then?”

“Yeah.  Lisa says this is Avalon.”  Then his eyes darted about the room almost frantically.  “Where’s Lisa?”

“With Morgause,” Suzie answered the question.  Avalon?  The ancient resting place of King Arthur?  That would certainly explain all the free-floating magic that even she could sense, and the dread she got from the circle of trees.  This was an old burial site, and they were disturbing it by being there, even if Arthur wasn’t really dead anymore.

“I tried to convince her to bring her here with you,” Rima added, “but she’s so convinced that Lisa’s going to wake up and want to join her, once she realises she has her magic back.”

That got a few curses from their ‘guest’.  “Like that’s gonna work!  The last thing Lisa wants is anything to do with Morgana and that life.  Damn Morgause for doing that to her!”

“How badly is she likely to take it?” Suzie asked worriedly, although grateful to have her own suppositions confirmed.

“Pretty fucking badly.  Lisa’s been glad not to have magic.  She didn’t want it.  This is gonna wreck her.  Well, we’ll know when she wakes up, the fireworks are bound to be spectacular.  Unfortunately, I doubt they’d let me within a hundred feet of her, not when Morgause is convinced she’s gonna change Lisa’s mind, and since I’m her Grandtad me being around would only make Lisa more stubborn.”

“Do you think the Earth Dragon knows where you are now?”  Rima wanted to know.

“You can count on it.  And if the Earth Dragon knows, then Ianto does too.  He and the family have called a Vengeance Vow down on HYDRA for…oh, hell, you don’t know about Sabrina, do you?” His eyes met Suzie’s.

She remembered Sabrina, from her time on Hubworld.  “Jack and Ianto’s daughter?  I’ve met her, yeah.  What happened?”

“She’s dead.”  Rhys’ face turned sad.  “She was killed by what we’re certain was a HYDRA assassin who calls himself the Dragon Slayer.”

Suzie collapsed into the second chair, her knees suddenly weak.  Yes, she hadn’t known Sabrina all that well, but she was Jack and Ianto’s child, and HYDRA had murdered her.  Sabrina had seemed like a decent person, competent and kind, and Suzie would have liked to have gotten to know her better if betrayal hadn’t come between them.  Now, that would never happen. 

“Poor Jack and Ianto,” Rima said, looking distraught.  “This has to have been so rough on them.”

“Been rough on all of us.  The assassin also struck at Rowena, another of the kids, and it was only sheer luck that he was interrupted.”

“That’s one vow I’d like to be a witness to.”

Suzie agreed.  She might have betrayed her former bosses, but no one deserved to have their children hurt or killed.  Outliving a child had to be the worst thing a parent could do.

“Have you heard anything about a man calling himself that?” Rhys asked urgently.  “Anything you can think of…”

Rima shook her head. “No, but then they don’t exactly trust us with all that much.”

“Rima’s right,” Suzie agreed.  “We’ve managed to see quite a few things, but nothing about someone going around and killing dragons.  I wish we could help…”

“Nah, sweetheart, don’t worry about it.  You’re practically prisoners here, so that’s understandable.”

“They’re using us against the other to force us to work on this project.  They’ve been hoping to make some sort of nanotech weapon…”

“We know all about that, yeah.  In fact, Owen’s helping with going through all the research we found at another HYDRA site.”

That was a relief, that Peter was safe.  In the back of Suzie’s mind, she’d been carrying the terror that HYDRA would find out, as much as they’d kept his part in their relationship under wraps.  It hadn’t been for any other reason that they’d enjoyed it, that sneaking around and keeping secrets had been a bit of fun, but now it was as if fate had stepped in and had decided they needed to keep things hidden. It had meant that Peter had remained safe, and had been able to contact Torchwood.

No, it was Owen.  She had to get used to that, if they were going to spend more time with Jack and Ianto.  She knew he’d be glad to get that name back.

“From what I overheard when I was by the lab,” Rhys continued, “there wasn’t much hope of it ever working.  Thank Goddess for that, it would’ve been a mess otherwise.”

“I’ve been trying to delay,” Suzie admitted in a whisper.  “I kept hoping someone would find us…”

“Well,” their new friend was jovial about it, “I’m dead certain we’ll be having company soon.  Then we can sit back and enjoy the show when it happens.”

The relief Suzie felt was very physical.  So, she did the only thing she could think of.

She climbed up onto the bed and leaned against Rhys’ comfortable bulk, and it wasn’t moments later that Rima was on the other side.  There was a faint blush on the man’s face, but he wrapped his arms around them.  “If I wasn’t a married man…” he teased lightly.

Rima smacked him in the chest.  “Shut up, Rhys Williams, and let us just sit here.”

His arms tightened about them.  “I can do that, love.  I can certainly do that.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

30 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Smuggler’s Moon

Killian Two

 

“I did sort of suspect that Sakura was someone from Dad and Tad’s past,” Alun commented, “but Toshiko Sato?  The Toshiko Sato?”

Cadi couldn’t agree more.  They’d grown up on stories about various members of their parents’ first Torchwood team and, while their Dad had forgotten a lot about that time, Tad hadn’t, and he’d been fond of telling them about the woman he’d considered his sister, and just how brave and wonderful and intelligent she’d been.

Sometimes Cadi had wondered if her Tad wasn’t remembering people a bit more fondly than they really were.  But, judging from what Sakura had put together, it was obvious that she was just as brilliant now, if not more, than she’d been back then, and that Tad hadn’t been exaggerating one whit.

“Let’s go and see if we can convince her to come home, shall we?” Cadi suggested.

Together, they left the Free Wheeler and headed back into the dome. They hadn’t had their Ogron escort with them when they’d come back to the ship, but that was fine; Cadi had a fine sense of direction, and it took them no time at all to get back to Sakura’s quarters. 

She was glad that their fathers’ original team were finally coming back.  Cadi knew that her Tad had been starting to despair of it, when so many others had been reincarnated from Arthur and Merlin’s time, and from Phillip’s as well.  Hells, her own brother had been Phillip’s lover in his previous life, brought back through destiny and, from what Clint had claimed, a prophecy given by a fortune teller back in his youth as the Amazing Hawkeye.  Yes, Clint has also been a part of Torchwood, but he was more Phillip’s lover than her parents’ teammate.

However, Suzie Costello had returned, as had Owen Harper and Diane Holmes.  And now, Toshiko Sato who, arguably, was the one person her Tad wanted to see the most. 

She was hoping they could talk her into coming with them.  Tad deserved to have his mortal sister back.

Garrg, the Ogron, was standing guard outside when they arrived.  He gave them both the stink-eye as he stood there, blocking their path, and it took Sakura’s voice over the door comm for the being to stand aside and let them pass.  Garrg had apparently forgotten who they were, but then Ogrons weren’t known for their deep thinking.

Sakura was still sitting at her computers, her back toward them.  “You got the information back to Jack and Ianto?” she enquired as she worked, images flickering across all of the monitors almost too quickly for Cadi to decipher.

“Tad wants us to bring you home, Aunt Tosh,” she said by way of answer, only realising that calling the diminutive figure ‘Aunt” felt completely right.  She was the reincarnation of her father’s mortal sister, and Cadi was going to recognise her as such.

Those small fingers ceased their movement on the keyboard.  “What did you call me?” the information broker asked almost so silently that, if it hadn’t been for Cadi’s dragon hearing, she might not have heard it.

“Aunt Tosh,” Alun affirmed.  “You’re our Tad’s sister.  You might not be a dragon, but you’re our Aunt Tosh.  And Tad would like you to come home.”

“He’s…not angry at me not coming forward sooner?”  There was something plaintive in her voice now, as if she was expecting the invitation to be withdrawn as quickly as it had been offered.

“No,” Cadi answered.  “He’s…confused, but you’re not the only one to come back from the old Torchwood team.”

“Who all’s come back?”

“Suzie Costello.  Owen Harper.  Diane Holmes.  Plus, Rhys Williams, but he’s been with the family for years now, after he fell through the Old Cardiff Rift.”

“I…knew about Rhys.  He hasn’t exactly kept a low profile, especially because his arrival had almost caused a war.”  Toshiko chuckled weakly.  “But the others…I didn’t know.  Even Suzie?” She sounded incredulous, but Cadi couldn’t see the expression on her face; it wasn’t quite at the right position to reflect from the monitors. 

“Yes, but she’s in trouble, and so is Diane.  HYDRA has them.” 

Toshiko cursed.  She finally turned the chair around, looking up at them with those vibrant, electrically blue eyes.  “I hadn’t intended on coming back…not yet, anyway.  I was hoping to get my network of informants and tech up and running for a couple of years, and then I’d go to Hubworld.  It would have been a fantastic resource for Phillip to use.”

“I don’t think they care about that, Aunt Tosh,” Alun pointed out.  “They’re just glad that you’re back.”

Sakura – Cadi’s Aunt Tosh – was considering.  She knew the moment that the girl would be coming with them when she practically leaped out of the chair, coming to hug them both. 

Cadi felt tears welling up in her eyes as she returned the hug.  They might have lost Sabrina, but maybe she could deal with it a little better knowing that she’d gained an aunt out of all the pain and heartache. 

After she’d given Alun as big a hug as she had Cadi, Toshiko had headed into the back room, calling out over her shoulder.  “I don’t have much personal to pack up, but there’s a lot of tech gear I’d like to take with me.  Can one of you ask Garrg to bring the antigrav cart round?  I’d hate to have to carry it all…”

 

**********

 

It took surprisingly little time to get Toshiko’s life together and packed away in the hold of the Free Wheeler.

As they worked, Cadi explained about meeting some of the family on Dahlnia Prime on their way to Trafusis, and the girl had been fine with it, saying she could still access her network in order to search out any more information on just what H and G were up to.  Personal information on them was hard to come by; from what the information broker had been able to dig up, they’d been on the scene for years, but recently things had seemed to change for them.  Up to about a year ago, they’d been the usual sorts of criminals, running through the darker areas of illegality and gaining a cutthroat reputation for always getting the job done, no matter who was hurt in the process.

However, then their gigs had become more…secret.  And they’d managed to run afoul of Orchrist Creed over an assassination that the crime lord had objected to.  Oh, they’d shown contrition over stepping on the being’s metaphorical toes, and had sworn they hadn’t known that the person they’d gone after had been one of Creed’s trusted lieutenants, but there never had been a real reason given for the hit in the first place, and rumour had it that the pair had hoped to destabilise Creed’s powerbase and take over Smuggler’s Moon.  It hadn’t worked, but it was the attempt that counted.

Toshiko hadn’t been able to get anymore, but she wasn’t averse to trying other, deeper, means to discover things. 

And Cadi wasn’t averse to letting her do it, as long as she was safe aboard the Wheeler when she did.  It wasn’t that she didn’t trust the genius…it was other people she didn’t trust, and she wasn’t about to go back and tell her Tad that she’d lost her Aunt Tosh so quickly after finding her.

The last thing Toshiko did was tell Garrg that she wasn’t going to need his services any longer, but that she’d make certain he had an excellent reference.  The Ogron looked as if he was going to cry, and it was all Cadi could do not to pry the creature away when he started hugging Toshiko, and looked as if he didn’t want to stop.  She was half-afraid he’d inadvertently crush her.

At their parting, Toshiko pressed a credit stick into the Ogron’s hand, and Cadi had to wonder just how much was on it.  Probably quite a bit, since Sakura had made a lucrative business in dealing with information.  The Ogron was most likely set for life.

Three hours after Cadi and Alun had gone back to fetch their aunt home, the Free Wheeler left port, heading out toward the jump point to the sector of space where their destination was located. 

It had been a very long time indeed since Cadi had been to Dahlnia Prime.  The planet was now completely recovered from the near-extinction event that had befallen it almost seven standard decades ago, when a large asteroid had passed incredibly close to the atmosphere, enough to disrupt the planet’s magnetic field.  It would take them three standard days to get there, and that would give Toshiko a chance to work some magic with her information gathering skills.

It still amazed Cadi that someone as young as her new aunt had managed to build up such an impressive business, and said so.

Toshiko looked faintly embarrassed as she set up her main terminal, connecting it to the ship’s comm system.  “I started regaining my memories almost from the time I could walk.  My parents thought I was touched in the head, and I had to prove myself fairly early in order to keep them from dumping me off at a hospital or an orphanage somewhere.  They were killed when I was five, but by then I was practically an adult in a child’s body, and was able to take care of myself.  I knew no one would take a child seriously, but I needed a way to keep myself fed, so I used my old memories and taught myself how to crack into all sorts of computer networks. Can you hand me the sonic pliers, please?”

Alun did as she asked, and she continued.  “I came across Garrg when I was six, and thought he’d be a perfect bodyguard and gofer.  In a lot of ways, he’s more a child than I am.”

“You feel guilty about leaving him on his own?” Cadi guessed, tucking her leg under her.  The ship was on auto, and they’d decided that Toshiko’s computers would best be set up in the Wheeler’s small galley, where there was a large enough table to hold it all. 

“Not really,” she admitted, using the pliers to twist some hardwires into one of the computer’s ports, “because I know he can take care of himself.  He’s been doing it longer than I’ve been alive…well, at least in this life.  He’ll be fine.  It’s just…I’m going to miss him.  He was a decent companion, if not overly bright.  He’ll land right back on his feet again.”

Toshiko sat back, grinning at the pair of them.  “You’re going to need to tell me all sorts of stories about Jack and Ianto,” she said cheerfully.  “I have the official stuff, but I’m sure there’s a lot out there that’s either apocryphal or just plain wrong.  I’d really like to hear all about them while we’re in space, and while I’m trying to get back on H and G’s trail.”

Cadi and Alun exchanged their own grins.  “We’ll be more than happy to,” she answered, “but in exchange we’d like to hear some stories about them.”

“Rhys has told us some,” Alun added, “but there’s always room for more tall tales.”

“It’s a deal,” Toshiko laughed.  “I’m sure I can come up with a few things that Rhys wouldn’t share, or wasn’t around for.”

“Then I’ll make the coffee and we can talk.”  Cadi stood up to get to the coffee machine, anxious to hear more about her Dads.  “I can’t make it like Tad can, but it’s not that bad.”

“I cannot wait to have Ianto’s coffee again,” Toshiko enthused.  “That is, if he lets me.  I do happen to be a child at the moment.”

“You might have a point,” Alun agreed.  “He didn’t let the hellions drink any until they’d turned eighteen.  Something about caffeine and stunting their growth.”

“That does sound like Ianto,” Toshiko said.  “Let me get this finished, and then I’m all yours.”

Oh, Cadi hoped so.  She wanted to keep her Aunt Tosh around for as long as she could.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

30 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Avalon

 

The wind was bracing as they flew over Avalon, Merlin’s magic keeping the worst of it from drying out his eyes, wishing he’d thought of glasses or goggles or something.

The anger was back.  HYDRA had set up on Avalon, the very place where Arthur had been interred, before he’d reincarnated into the dragon he was now.  Avalon was special, one of the most magical places on Earth, and they’d…desecrated it, as if the place’s history didn’t mean a thing to them. 

Well, he was pretty certain it didn’t.

He was desperately worried for Freya.  She would have warned at least the Water Dragon that something was wrong on the island…if she’d been able to.  Merlin honestly didn’t think she was dead; Freya had died once already, and had become the Lady of the Lake because of it.  No, she was somewhere close, and HYDRA had something to do with her absence.  She’d been a friend, so there was no way he was going to let them keep her prisoner any longer.

Nor were they going to get away with holding either Rhys or Lisa, either.

Arthur had gained a lot of altitude, and it took Merlin a moment to magically enhance his vision enough to make out the additions to the island, as well as the damage done by what had to have been a groundquake, most likely created by Rhys himself.  The Earth Dragon had been certain his Friend had been hurt, and this was the proof.  But what had HYDRA done to him?  Had it been Morgause? She’d been the one to coerce Lisa into going with her, seemingly using Rhys as leverage, so that was a fairly certain bet. 

He needed to save Lisa, in a way he’d never been able to do with Morgana.  Looking back on things now, Merlin knew he’d contributed to Morgana’s slow descent into madness, and the last thing he wanted to see was Lisa going that same way.  He’d do anything in his power to keep that from happening.

He remembered the day she’d finally admitted to them all who she truly was; whose memories she’d been carrying around, and the sheer terror of being recognised.  In truth, she was very much like Morgana in looks, and sometimes her mannerisms could slip into what he could recall Morgana behaving like, but Lisa Harkness-Jones was someone above and beyond Morgana le Fay, and she’d worked hard to become her own person. 

The last thing Merlin wanted was to see Morgause wreck that.

He was aware that Arthur felt the same way.  His mate had been ecstatic at getting his sister back, even though Lisa was technically his aunt now, that there was no way Arthur would ever hold anything against her, even his own death.  Lisa had been so very afraid of them both, but the moment she’d realised that she didn’t need to be had been obvious to them all. 

No, Morgause was going to pay for what she’d done, and Merlin was going to protect Lisa with everything he had within him.

The sharp, bright edge of anger rode in his thoughts, and he harnessed it to his magic, no longer afraid of the darkness he’d been so terrified of.  His mother had been right, everyone had that darkness within them, and it was how they reacted to it was what made them who they were.  There truly was no darkness without the light, and it had always been there but Merlin hadn’t seen it until it had been forcibly brought out into his awareness by his use of Lucy’s corruptive magic.

The Darkhold, though, had known.  It had sought out that darkness and had tried to co-opt it, to bring it to the surface and to use it to bend Merlin to its evil will.  No, the Book of Sins wasn’t sentient, by any stretch of the imagination, but like drew to like, and its very nature linked itself to the parts of him that Merlin hadn’t even been aware of.

Thank Goddess that thing was gone now.  He’d no longer be tempted by its siren song.

He leaned far over his mate’s powerful shoulder; he could feel Arthur’s muscles bunching under his thighs as they flew over the island of Avalon, both watching for where the transmat had been set up.  Uncle Clint had seen it clearly as a spot at the centre of the irregular circle of small cabins that had been constructed on one end of the island, and it wasn’t long before he caught sight of the area his uncle had indicated. 

Merlin called his magic to him, knowing just the spell he wanted to use in order to put the mechanism out of commission.

It was pinpoint magic.  A disruptive power that would fry the device beyond any further use.  It would make certain that no one down there would be able to fix it quickly, and would give the clan time to get things under their control.

Give them time to find Lisa and Rhys.

As Arthur circled the area, Merlin leaned out over his mate’s side, pointing his finger at the small sliver of silver, chanting the words of the spell in a voice that wouldn’t have been heard over the wind.

That didn’t matter.  The magic heard, and responded.

A thin bolt of golden fire leapt from his outstretched digit, arcing through the air and, with tremendous accuracy, struck the transmat mechanism.  Even from that height, Merlin could tell it was a direct hit, sparks flying from the now destroyed machine.

He reached up, activating the comm in his ear.  “The transmat is out.”

“Copy that,” his Granddad Jack answered.  “We’re coming in.”

Merlin tapped the place between Arthur’s shoulderblades, a signal they’d worked out long ago to let the dragon know that it was mission accomplished.  Arthur did a little wing waggle in response, and then turned back toward the shore, to meet up with the rest of the family and to fly in together. 

The flight of dragons rose above the ever-present mist, and Merlin’s hearts soared at the sight he’d never truly seen before, not like this.

The Jones Clan was going to war.

Arthur made a lazy loop around the flight, taking a place just behind and to the left of Grandtad Ianto.  On his back, Jack was almost flat against the green scales, arms outstretched as if he was hugging the dragon underneath him, greatcoat flapping in the wind like a cloak. 

To the other side, flying in formation, was Anwyn, in her traditional place as the eldest.  Spread out beyond the three dragons in the lead was the rest of the family: purple; and red and gold; and blue; and brown; rainbow feathers and Oriental black.  There were nine in total, not the entire family, but enough for what was needed to be done.

He and Granddad Jack were the only riders, but they were going to be the only ones needed.  The rest were infiltrating the lab building that Clint and Phillip had seen, and had marked on the map of the island.  They would take care of things there, while the dragons would handle HYDRA on the ground.

Adrenaline was causing the rictus grin that had decorated Merlin’s face.  He wasn’t a violent person usually, but this was a special case.

These people had injured his family.  They would pay for that.

As patriarch, Ianto would have right of first strike.

Merlin watched as he took it.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

30 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Avalon

 

They couldn’t risk fire.  Not when there were members of the family down on Avalon.

So, Ianto did the one thing he could, the one weapon he had in his arsenal that was a distance strike that wasn’t his inner flame.

He used a single Word of Power.

Magic had never been Ianto’s forte.  He’d never really learned.  However, his father had once taught him a Word of Power, one that could make it seem as if time had been turned back and to show the world as it had once been: fierce and primordial, much like the dragons that had once inhabited it, before the rise of mankind and their destructive ways.

Ianto used that Word of Power, wanting to disorientate those below.  He would rely on Merlin and Rory for the actual magical ‘heavy lifting’, but he could do this.

Avalon was eternal, but there had still been so many changes over the eons, and those changes presented themselves.  He could just make out shouts as those below were seeing the island subtly transform around them, and it was the distraction that they needed.

They had no idea what sort of weapons HYDRA had below.  They had to assume there was at least one magic user as well, which Ianto would leave for Merlin and Rory.  His was the distraction from using those weapons, time for his family to land and take certain action against those who would move against his loved ones.

The buildings looked to be constructed of sturdy enough materials, but several looked to have been damaged, likely due to Rhys using his magic in some form of self-defence.  The dragon decided to take a chance, and he set down on one that looked untouched; it creaked a little under his weight, but the roof held.

It was only a single storey structure, but it gave him enough height to glare down at those who were on ground level.  It would lend him an advantage over those who would have to look up at him; not only a strategic one, but one of strength and power as well.

He felt Jack scrambling down even as Ianto roared, “Morgause Gorlois!  I command that you show yourself to me!”

The HYDRA agents who weren’t completely distracted by the illusion of time reforming were aiming weapons at him, but Ianto didn’t care.  They were unlikely to do too much injury to him, plus Jack had his Webley out and pointed down in the direction of the nearly two dozen people below.  They were mostly male, and all human, which spoke volumes about those in charge and their thought processes.

His family were landing now, all around the camp area, and they would watch out for any sudden movements and for anyone trying to escape or for someone attempting to ambush them from the other side of the island, where the second building was.

Ianto called for Morgause once more.  He knew she was there; she had to be, if Rhys was there as well.  She’d been the one to lead the effort to get to Lisa, so it would make sense she’d be in the vicinity.  He didn’t know her beyond Lisa’s stories, but the dragon had the distinct impression that she would want to be close by, in order to keep better control of things.

Just as he was about to call her out a third time, she exited from one of the untouched buildings.

He recognised her instantly from the security footage from Hubworld.  Morgause had a haughty air as she made her way toward the building on which Ianto was perched, taking her time as she made her way through the gathered group of her followers, smirking for him alone.  She didn’t appear to be afraid, which was silly of her; any one of them could have taken their vengeance upon her with a single claw, at any time, and she wouldn’t have been able to stop them.

She stopped just below Ianto, her head tilted back so that she could regard him.  Her dark eyes were narrowed as they took in his presence there.  “So,” she drawled, “you are the infamous Torchwood Dragon.”

“And you are the mewling ephemeral calling herself Morgause Gorlois,” he said, returning sarcasm for sarcasm.

Morgause didn’t look at all pleased at how he’d described her, going pale in rage.  Quite honestly, Ianto couldn’t have given a shit for how she felt. 

“You have taken members of my family,” he went on.  “And that cannot stand.  Give them over, and you may yet live.”

Morgause didn’t get a chance to answer.  From one of the buildings stumbled Suzie and Rhys, accompanied by another woman Ianto recognised as Diane Holmes…or Rima Anaxi, as she was now known.  All three appeared uninjured, although Rhys did seem a little worse for wear. Not overly surprising, all told.

He didn’t see Lisa, though, and that scared him.

Rhys, however, was grinning up at him.  “I see you’ve called out the troops for this.”

“You are my father-by-mating,” Ianto returned, quite pleased that he was feeling well enough to snark at him and unable to keep from snarking back.  “Of course we were going to demand you back. Taking down this group of idiots is a bonus.”  And yes, he couldn’t help the barb tossed at the HYDRA troops who were still intent on pointing weapons at himself and his family.  As if that would do them any good at all.  “And, of course, you managed to find Suzie and Diane for us.  Well done.”

Rhys tipped an imaginary hat at the dragon in response.

Ianto then glared back down at Morgause, who was bristling under the insult he’d just given her and her followers.  “Where is my daughter?” he growled, baring his teeth at her.

“She was my sister before she was anything to you!” Morgause snarled in reply.

“She is mine.  My own.  And you have no claim on her any longer.”

“You don’t either, now that I’ve shown her how to be Morgana again!” Morgause smiled at him, triumphant.

Fear ran through him at that pronouncement.  Lisa had done so much hard work to completely divorce herself from her past, so for Morgause to claim that…no, he wasn’t going to even consider that his child had fallen back into her old ways, when Lisa had been terrified of doing just that. 

Ianto looked at Rhys.  “What has she done?  And how long do I need to keep her in agony because of it?”  Morgause deserved anything that the dragon could do to her, if she’d hurt Lisa.

Surprisingly, it was Suzie who answered.  “There’s this crystal.  It was enchanted to find certain reincarnated souls and to give them back their memories.  Morgause used it on Lisa in order to attempt to reawaken her magic against her will.”

“You’ve done what?” Jack snarled.  There was an audible click as the hammer of the Webley he was holding was cocked, the gun ready to fire, Jack’s hand rock-steady as he aimed at Morgause.  Ianto knew that bullet would be going right between the woman’s eyes if Jack pulled that trigger. 

Morgause still looked triumphant despite the overt threat to her life.  “I’ve brought my sister back, and now that she has what she lost, she’ll see the error of wanting to be your daughter and she’ll return to my side.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Morgause.”

Ianto’s head snapped around, toward the source of the words.  Lisa stood in the entrance to yet another structure, only this one showed signs of damage; there were chunks of wall missing, and the roof had partially collapsed.

Lisa looked even paler than usual, dark circles forming in the skin around her silver-green eyes.  Only, now there was a rim of gold around those irises, and Ianto wanted nothing more than to destroy Morgause for what she’d done to his beloved daughter. 

Morgause looked as if she’d been slapped.  “I’m not wrong!  You have your magic back!”

“I do, but it wasn’t something I ever wanted.  All I’ve ever wanted was to be Lisa Harkness-Jones, and you reawakening my power isn’t going to get me to change my mind.”

Her eyes glanced around at the gathered dragons, sobbing at seeing Clint, the purple and black dragon crouching down slightly so as to appear unthreatening to her.  “I’m sorry,” she moaned, moving toward him and throwing her arms around his neck.

“Oh, sweetheart,” Clint rumbled, “this is not your fault.  You have nothing to apologise for.”

Ianto’s heart broke for her as she clung to Clint, but what destroyed him was the glances she was giving Arthur and Merlin, red dragon and wizard standing off to one side, both of them also watching as she cried against her older brother’s scales. 

The golden light of transformative magic surrounded the red dragon that was Arthur’s true form.  It compressed until it was more of a man shape, finally dispersing to reveal Ianto’s grandson, with Excalibur sheathed at his hip, his eyes terrified as he took in the woman who’d once been his half-sister, but who was now his aunt.  “Are you alright?” he asked, voice breaking slightly.

Lisa stuffed a hand in her mouth as if to try to prevent the agonised sound from escaping her throat. Then she left Clint, pelting forward straight into Arthur’s arms.  He hugged her fiercely, and Merlin joined them, wrapping up his mate and his aunt-by-mating into his own tight embrace.

“No!” Morgause screamed.  “You belong with me!  Together, we can help tear down the Empire and replace it with something so much better!”

She made to move toward the three of them, but Nathan put himself in the way, his jet-black serpentine shape looming over the woman menacingly.  “You do not have the right to go anywhere near her,” he hissed, lowering his head so that his antlers were jabbing right at her, in defence of the three members of his family.  If she hadn’t dodged, he might have skewered her with those formidable, natural weapons.

Morgause raised a hand toward Nathan, but if she’d been hoping to conjure some sort of magic to strike him with, it failed utterly.  The very gesture caused Clint to growl, yet when Ianto glanced at his eldest son he could see Clint’s eyes on Arthur, Merlin, and Lisa, and there was such a tenderness and joy in them that Ianto could tell that he was pleased that the three of them had apparently put the last of their wariness of each other behind them in order to comfort one another.

“Morgause Gorlois,” Ianto intoned, his voice low with power, “you are guilty of kidnapping and assault upon members of my clan, are complicit in the attempted murder of two others, and in the death of another.  As such, you are subject to our vengeance. Nothing you say or do will mitigate this sentence. As Patriarch of the Star Dragons, it is my right to carry out the Rite of Vengeance against you, and those who would follow you.  Do you submit?”

Ianto could see the exact moment when Morgause realised there was no way out.  That she was surrounded, and the people under her command were helpless against the array of dragons hemming them into this spot. 

Still, she was defiant.  He had to give her credit for that, even if it was misplaced.  “I’ll come back,” she spat, “and I’ll remember. And there will be no place in this universe that you will be able to hide from my wrath.”

“No, you won’t.”  Merlin had left Arthur and Lisa, to step toward their defeated enemy.  “I can make certain of that.  You will die, but you will not have any memories of what happened in this life.  Morgause, this is a far more generous sentence than you would have given anyone else.  Accept it, and your death will be quick.”

Ianto could tell that Morgause had decided to go down fighting.

Even as she was calling for her followers to attack, Ianto was putting himself between the blasters wielded by their opponents and his mate.  Yes, Jack would come back, but the pain of dying was something the dragon would always want to spare him.  The energy weapons would sting, but they wouldn’t penetrate his scales.  He could hear Jack muttering imprecations in several different languages as he realised his shot was blocked, but the dragon wasn’t about to move and expose him to their gunfire.

Nathan, who was closest to her, had Morgause on the ground with a swing of his impressive antlers, which were now faintly glowing, and he then pinned her under one large claw.  He glared down at her, the white hair of his mane almost touching her face, and the snarl he gave her showed off his equally impressive teeth.

That didn’t deter the HYDRA troops who, as a group, began firing at the various dragons, although their weapons were mostly simply pissing each and every member of the Jones Clan off. 

Clint roared a challenge as he pounced on one of them, practically stamping the man into the ground and then standing on the remains as another claw raked across a second soldier, neatly separating head from body. 

Bronwyn, her feathered wings mantling, was also facing off against two of Morgause’s troops.  She opened her mouth wide, and then spat on them; unlike her kin, who breathed fire, Bronwyn’s short-range attack was a form of highly acidic venom, and various items – and bits of anatomy – began dissolving almost from the moment the greenish saliva hit.  The pair began screaming, adding to the sound of chaos that echoed around the small area.

To Ianto’s relief, Erik had gone to cover Rhys, Suzie, and Diane, taking out yet another in the process of making his way through the now-intense battle.  William joined him, and together the pair of younger dragons took on all comers, cutting their own swath through Morgause’s followers.

Anwyn had moved to hover over Arthur, Merlin, and Lisa, protecting her now-human son, his mate, and her sister from any blaster bolts that came near.  Merlin himself was speaking to Lisa, as if there wasn’t a battle raging around them, but Ianto could tell he was trying to keep her calm, to stop her from lashing out with her newly-awakened magic, protecting her in a different way than Anwyn was. 

Arthur had his sword out, but he also was staying close to Lisa.  If Clint couldn’t be the one standing guard, then Arthur was going to be taking the responsibility. 

The sound of chanting came to Ianto’s ears, and he could tell that Rory was bringing his magic to bear.  His great-grandson had always felt more comfortable with magic than with his flame, and he could use the pinpoint accuracy of his spells to make strikes that wouldn’t do as much damage as letting his inner fire loose.

Ianto’s attention was drawn from the battle to the group of four HYDRA goons shooting at him.  It really did sting, and he roared his own challenge, daring them to keep on hitting him.

Jack had crept around the dragon’s massive chest, and with his unerring aim began to pick off the shooters with his Webley.  They hadn’t been expecting an attack, so none of the troops were wearing anything more armoured than regular clothing, so the bullets made short work of their attackers.

The battle was over fairly quickly, with the majority of Morgause’s HYDRA people either dead, dying, or severely injured enough that they’d no longer be causing any trouble.

It was with an intense sense of satisfaction that Ianto dropped from the roof, Jack clutching onto one of his forelegs.  Once on the ground, he transformed back into human, and the rest of his family did as well with the exception of Nathan, who was still pinning a struggling Morgause to the earth.

The first thing Ianto did, however, was walk over to his daughter and pull Lisa into a fierce hug. 

Lisa sighed and relaxed into his grasp.  “I’m so glad to see you all,” she whispered around a very audible sob.  “Thank you for coming for us.”

“Nothing was going to keep us away,” he murmured into her hair. 

Then he pulled away to give Jack a chance, which his mate gladly took.  It gave Ianto a chance to check on Rhys, Suzie, and Diane, who were standing with Erik and William, both boys taking their bodyguarding duties seriously.  “Well done,” he told them both.

“There was no way we were gonna let anyone hurt Grandtad Rhys,” William said stoutly.  He’d come a long way from the scared dragon who’d clung to anyone who would allow it, but that didn’t mean he was about to let anyone take someone he loved away from him.

Rhys pulled William into a hug.  “Good to see you, boy.”  He then did the same with Erik. 

“Ianto,” Suzie greeted him a little warily.

Ianto immediately went to dispel any worries she might have had about her acceptance by giving her her own hug. “I’m so glad you’re alright,” he said sincerely.

He held her for a long minute, then moved away in order to give Diane a welcoming smile.  “And Diane…or do you prefer Rima?”

The other woman grabbed onto him, and Ianto let her hold onto him as tightly as she wanted.  “I do prefer Rima…but I get the feeling Diane’s ready to make a comeback.”

“Anything you want,” he assured her.  “Welcome home, both of you.”

Jack came over and gave his own hellos, but he was quick to add, “We’ll have time for this once we get things done here.  But, for now, we have a HYDRA head to cut off.”

Ianto agreed.  It was time to finally confront Morgause, and perhaps get the answers they needed to pursue their quest for vengeance further.

Then, maybe he’d feel like getting lunch.  He suddenly felt a little hungry.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

30 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Avalon

 

This time, the Doctor didn’t bother with stealth mode when he’d dropped the TARDIS in the middle of HYDRA’s lab.

Because, what was the point?

As far as he was concerned, he wanted HYDRA to know they were coming.  He’d had it up to there with them, and wanted to kick some arse along with hopefully scaring the you-know-what out of a few of them along the way.

He could tell the TARDIS felt the same way.  It was obvious in the bright fierceness of the thoughts he was sensing from her, more than should have been possible.

For maybe the first time in a very long time, he wasn’t objecting to the guns Phillip was passing out.  He normally would have been lecturing the immortal on the use of deadly force, but there was a part of him that was accepting it in this case.  He, himself, wasn’t the bloodthirsty type, and he could only think it was his own inner dragon coming to the fore.

It also didn’t hurt that his own wife was checking her personal blaster, making certain it was charged and ready to fire if and when needed. 

Gwaine had thought to bring his sword, in addition to his own gun.  Kaitlyn, being a diplomat, didn’t usually carry one, but the Doctor knew Jack and Ianto, and figured they’d given her at least basic safety training in various types of weapons from the way she was handling her own.  Nicole took one, but most likely would rely on her magic in case of any sort of altercation; Phillip would probably do the same, although he, too, had a gun as well.

It hadn’t escaped the Doctor that Phillip seemed more at peace with his magic.  He had to wonder if this was a good thing, or if it heralded something else.  Still, the Doctor was happy that his friend looked to have finally accepted that part of himself he’d wanted to keep at bay for so long.

Of them all, Aymara was the only one without any sort of weapons experience, but then she was a videographer, and not even in her first life as Emlyn’s mate had she felt a need to openly carry any sort of gun.  Phillip quite wisely gave her a stun gun, quietly going over its use as the TARDIS landed with her usual wheezing and groaning, making certain she wasn’t going to accidentally shoot anyone who didn’t deserve it.

He completely ignored River’s murmured comments about the parking brake.  It was always the parking brake with her.

It was a grim group who gathered by the TARDIS’ scanners, in order to get the lay of the land beyond the doors. 

It was a lab, high-tech equipment peppered around the room on rickety tables and inside cabinets and shelves, as well as an industrial-sized fridge against the far wall.  At that moment, there was only one person visible, and he was staring at the TARDIS as if she was some sort of ghost.  Without the Doctor noticing until he was gone, Phillip was out of the door like a shot, subduing the gaping scientist easily and securing his hands to one of the built-ins with a set of cuffs that looked as if they were deadlock sealed.

“How many are there in the building?” Phillip was questioning the man as they rest left the TARDIS.  His voice was perfectly calm, as if he was simply asking about the weather.

The scientist managed to gather enough of his wits about himself to tell Phillip to do something that was anatomically impossible.

“Oh darling,” River purred, “as if you thought it was going to be that easy.”

Phillip shrugged a single shoulder, not reacting to her familiarity with him.  “Not really, but I had to give him the chance.” He didn’t turn, but the Doctor was positive the immortal knew exactly where each and every one of them was.  “Nicole, would you mind?”

“Why does she get all the fun?” Gwaine was pouting, his arms crossed over his chest.

“Because she won’t leave any visible marks.”

Phillip had a point, but as much as the Doctor knew they needed to know what they were dealing with, he didn’t want to physically coerce the man.  Besides, he was willing to bet that the simple threat of force would be enough to make the scientist spill his guts.

Which meant he felt perfectly fine in pulling his sonic from his coat pocket, giving it a rather saucy flip, causing the top to come open and the device to hum somewhat menacingly.

He’d guessed correctly at their prisoner’s fortitude; the scientist began babbling the moment Nicole stepped forward, magic glittering around her fingers.  With her twin-pupiled eyes she could be quite intimidating, but she’d also inherited that particular glare from her biological father; Clint had one of the scariest resting faces the Doctor had ever seen on an ally, and Phillip’s adopted daughter had apparently learned from the best in that regard.

“There are three scientists currently in the building,” the man stammered almost breathlessly.  “There are usually four or five, but the other two aren’t here at the moment.  There are six armed guards.”

“Why do they need armed guards in the labs?’ the Doctor asked, although he could guess the answer.

And his guess was confirmed when the man said, “Some of us don’t want to be here, and they’re here to make sure we do the work we’re required to.  That includes me.” He suddenly slumped, as if someone had cut his metaphorical strings.  “They have my wife and daughter under surveillance.  They’ve threatened them if I don’t do what they want.  I don’t have a choice.”

There was a flicker of sympathy on Phillip’s face, but then it smoothed back out again into that bland mask he pulled off so well.  “We’ll make sure they’re fine, I promise you.  Now, you’re going to stay right here, cuffed to this shelf, that way if anyone finds you they can’t force you to leave, or think you cooperated with us.”

“That’s fine!  I’m more than happy to stay right here,” the scientist exclaimed.  “And I’m sorry…about what I said.  It’s just that…well, I don’t know who you are.  And you did just intimidate me into giving up information.”

“Even a friendly dog will bite the hand that feeds it every once in a while, under the right circumstances,” Gwaine commented lightly.  He’d taken up a position by the door, ostensibly keeping a lookout through the small, high window that peered out into the corridor beyond. 

The man flinched.  “Not sure I like that analogy…”

“It’s true, nonetheless,” Phillip backed up his sister-by-mating’s other half.  He turned to look at the group, meeting each one’s eyes squarely, assessing them without the need to ask them any useless questions.  When he came to the Doctor, he nodded, and the Doctor returned it, acknowledging the immortal’s more tactical bent.   “As much as we all want vengeance, we really do need information on what HYDRA’s been up to.  This can’t be their only base, as there aren’t all that many here, plus…well, it’s a bit ramshackle, and I’m not saying that because Rhys let his earthquake power loose onto the place – “

“That was magic?” the scientist enthused.  “Fantastic!”

Phillip gave him a hard stare, which also entailed showing off his own magic, and their ‘prisoner’ subsided, slumping back against the shelf he was cuffed to and mumbling something about magic being amazing and for not being sorry for his fanboy tendencies, so please excuse him if he got overly excited, and was that actual ice?

“So,” Phillip went on, ignoring the scientist, “we only defend ourselves, and only use deadly force if absolutely necessary.  I’m not fool enough to think it’s going to be bloodless, but leave a couple physically fit enough for interrogation.  We can’t risk HYDRA crawling back into the woodwork and hiding for another couple of hundred years, and we can’t depend on the others managing to take prisoners, not knowing what they’re really up against.  I know Jack and Ianto will at least want to try to take Morgause, but we don’t know if she’ll allow herself to be taken.  So, let’s get us a few prisoners.  Agreed?”

That earned him a round of murmured agreement.  The Doctor was actually proud of Phillip for not going immediately for death and destruction, knowing that each and every member of HYDRA had earned it in the immortal’s eyes after what had been done.  It was gratifying that the ice mage wasn’t forgetting his own humanity in the need for vengeance.

Still, he would understand it if it came down to the choice of vengeance over keeping the bad guys alive.  He knew Phillip was carrying a load of guilt over Sabrina’s death, feeling he was at least responsible as he’d been the one to have sent her out to dig up what information she could.  It was a credit to the Director’s conscience, but at the same time it hadn’t really been his fault.  There was no way he could have known that HYDRA would have set such a trap, and that they would have had a way to kill a dragon. 

The Doctor knew he would never be able to convince Phillip of that, so he didn’t think he’d even try.  He’d leave that up to Clint, and to Jack and Ianto.  He wasn’t sure if Phillip would even listen to him, even though the Time Lord liked to think they’d become good friends, bonding over what they’d been through at the Library.  He wasn’t about to impose upon that friendship by stepping in where he wouldn’t be welcome.

No, the best person to speak to Phillip would be Clint.  And the Doctor would leave them to it, when this strike was over and they’d at least cut off this particular HYDRA head.

Phillip then turned back to their now willing prisoner.  “Is there anything else you can tell us to expect?”

“If you’re looking for a bigwig to question, Agravaine might still be in the building.”  The man shivered.  “I don’t like him at all.  He gives me the creeps.”

“Taking Agravaine would make Melinda very happy,” River mused.  “She might also want to question him herself.”

The Doctor could understand why Torchwood’s Second had such an interest in the man calling himself Agravaine.  He’d been the HYDRA mole within Torchwood, and his very presence had stoked the fire of outrage in Melinda May.  She’d trusted him, and he’d betrayed that trust.  And, if the history of Phillip’s first SHIELD team was true, they’d all been betrayed by someone in HYDRA before.  It didn’t help that Agravaine had gotten the drop on Melinda and had knocked her out.  That had probably hurt her pride more than it had her skull.

It also didn’t help that Agravaine’s accomplice had killed one of Melinda’s Archive workers, and might have killed her as well if not for the distraction that Torchwood’s alarms had made when they’d input the codes Phillip had given them into the mainframe.  The wrong codes.

The Doctor was still a bit irritated at Phillip for letting Lucy and Ward torture him as long as they did and giving him nightmares.  Not that the nightmares would have been less if the immortal had caved quicker.

“We need to find him,” Phillip agreed.  “He’s the prize.”

“There’s also the woman,” the scientist volunteered.

The Doctor found himself frowning.  “What woman?”

“The one they’ve got imprisoned on the upper floor.  She’s under some sort of magical restraint.  I don’t know who she is, but I know she’s important, and Morgause swore to kill anyone who let her out of her cage…”

The Doctor and Phillip stared at each other, and the Time Lord could tell that his friend had come to the same conclusion he had.

It had to be Freya.  The Lady of the Lake.

“We need to find her,” Phillip vowed.  “You can identify her as Freya, can’t you?  You’ve met her?”

The Doctor nodded in assurance.  “It’s been a long time, but I’ll know her.”

“We’re going to split up,” the immortal said.  “The Doctor, Aymara, and I will go and find Freya.  River, you and Gwaine take Nicole and Kaitlyn and clear out this level.  Find Agravaine and take him alive.  Gwaine, you’ll recognise him, correct?”

“That slimy bastard?” the former Knight of the Round Table grinned, drawing his sword from its sheath and resting it on his shoulder insouciantly.  “Oh yeah.  Let me at him.”

“Sounds like a plan.”  River stood on her toes and pecked the Doctor on the cheek. “Be careful, Sweetie, and don’t get distracted by any fancy looking technology.”

The Doctor glared at her, insulted.  “As if I would!”

“You totally would.” She looked at Phillip.  “Watch out for the silly man, won’t you?”

Phillip gave her a reassuring nod.  “You know I will.”

“I am standing right here, you know!”

His wife smiled at him beatifically.  “I know.” 

Nicole was trying hard not to laugh, but Gwaine apparently had no such compunctions to hide it.  Kaitlyn was just shaking her head fondly.  Aymara, though, had this sappy expression on her face that the Doctor was certain would have devolved into cooing if they’d been in less hostile circumstances. 

“Get going,” Phillip shooed them off.  “We’ll meet up with you all again outside.”

“You’d better.”  River gave the immortal a saucy wink, then turned her own fond smile on the Doctor, who wasn’t ashamed to admit to himself that he kind of basked in it.  “Be careful.”

With that, she and her team were out the door.  It was quiet, which meant no one had been out there, waiting in ambush.  A very good thing indeed, in the Doctor’s opinion, but he really felt sorry for anyone coming across their path. They wouldn’t stand a chance against those four.

“Where’s the closest set of stairs?” Phillip asked their ‘prisoner’.

The man still seemed perfectly willing to cooperate, and pointed them in the right direction.  He then wished them luck, which the Doctor thought was just a bit surreal.  It wasn’t very often that someone he’d had a hand in getting cuffed to an immovable object wished him anything but pain and death.

The three of them left the lab, heading in the opposite direction from River’s team.  The building was drab, with no windows in the old-time permacrete material, the walls painted a shade that was just on the wrong side of beige.  The Doctor could tell it had once been used for another purpose; it had been GenCorp’s generator complex, and even after a couple of thousand years still had industrial-sized cabling along the ceiling carrying what would have once been the power lines for the island camp. 

Judging from the faint hum he could hear above his head, they were once more being used in that way.  He wondered what they were using as a power source, since the original generator would have been removed a very long time ago by the Torchwood team who’d dismantled the GenCorp’s facility that this used to be.

The stairs were right where the scientist had claimed, behind a security door at the end of the corridor, one that opened easily under some gentle prodding by the sonic screwdriver at the keypad in the wall beside it. 

He let Phillip go first.  Then Aymara, since she didn’t have the sneaking experience that the immortal did, and the Doctor took the rear, keeping watch as they tried to quietly head up the stairs, not wanting to draw any attention to themselves until absolutely necessary.

The stairway was just as bland as the rest of the building…well, from what the Doctor had seen of the place.  There were only the two flights, ending in another security door, and this one was just as eager to let them through once the mechanism met the sonic. 

Phillip cracked the door open just enough to be able to see outside.  “There are two guards down the hall,” he murmured.  “I’m willing to bet they’re guarding where Freya’s being held.”

The Doctor was inclined to agree.  After all, one didn’t set a lookout on something innocent, and where there were guards there were often prisoners.

“I saw blasters,” he continued, “and they’re wearing bog-standard body armour.” He gently closed the door.  “Let me go first.  My shield generator will stop most sorts of energy weapons, so we’ll be protected.”

“Can you get both of them with your magic?” the Doctor asked, going for the non-lethal confrontation first.  He might have agreed with everyone getting a gun, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t about to suggest something that wouldn’t end up with copious amounts of blood on the walls.

“I have my stun gun,” Aymara volunteered. 

“But you’ve never used one before,” Phillip pointed out kindly.  “You’re more likely to hit me or the Doctor than them.”

Aymara huffed, obviously insulted.  “I do know how to point and shoot things, even if it’s using a camera and not a gun.” 

“She has a point,” the Doctor backed her up. 

“And you did give me the basic rundown on using this thing, Phillip.”

“Another point.”

The immortal was giving them both the stink-eye for ganging up on him, but the Doctor could see just a glimpse of the laughter that he was hiding so very well.  He couldn’t keep the grin from his face at the idea of Phillip being amused by them, and wasn’t sure why that was.

“Look, I know you brought me along with you so you could keep an eye on me,” Aymara said, “and so I wouldn’t get in the way of the others.  But I want to do my part.  I’m a member of this family, too, and I made my own vows just as you did, Phillip.  I might not be Torchwood, but I’m now a Jones, for as long as Emlyn wants me, and I intend on fighting for my family.”

Phillip gave up on the critical look he’d been favouring them with, his lips curving up into a proud smile at her words.  “I know you are.”  His capitulation was graceful, and the Doctor felt a little envious of it.   “Okay, but stay behind my shield.  I’m not going to be the one to tell Emlyn if I accidentally got you wounded or killed. And Doctor,” he turned toward the Time Lord, “you are not going to get me dead for good by getting yourself in the line of fire, because you know River will find a way to end me if you regenerate.  I understand she quite likes this version of you.”

He had a valid point about River.  But then, he also quite liked this regeneration and wasn’t ready to give it up yet.

“Then let’s do this.”  There was the faint snap-hiss of the shield activating, and Phillip was out the door, the element of surprise very much on their side.

Surprisingly, it all went according to plan.  Phillip’s shield generator kept them from getting shot, while a well-thrown ice spell took out one guard, and Aymara did, in fact, manage to hit what she aimed at…unless she hadn’t meant for her stunner to strike the second guard in the…well, the place a man didn’t want to get hit in with anything

The Doctor didn’t miss Phillip’s wince, because it matched the Doctor’s own.

Stepping over the unconscious guards, the Doctor set to work on the keypad with his sonic, the distinct sounds of dragging echoing over the screwdriver’s hum.  He trusted Phillip to take care of the HYDRA goons, getting them out of the way so they couldn’t raise the alarm and get in the way of the rescue.

Once again, the sonic screwdriver did its work, and the Doctor took a moment to kiss its barrel before slipping the device back into his pocket. 

“Did you just kiss the sonic screwdriver?” Aymara’s amused voice had his hand stopping just short of turning the doorknob.

“I don’t know what you mean,” he denied, pushing the door open.  He would have gone with a flourish, but her observation kind of brought his mood down a little.

The room beyond was empty, except for the cage in the direct centre.

It really was a cage, made of bars on all sides, top and bottom, about six feet square.  The metal of the bars was a strange, black colour, unnatural in ways the Time Lord couldn’t explain. 

There was a woman in the cage.

She had dark hair, and when he entered she looked up, staring at him in shock past the curtain of her hair, her eyes just as dark, thick bruise-like circles around them.  Her face was ashen with pain and fatigue, and the dress she was wearing was a diaphanous, white thing that resembled a form of gauze.  She was very carefully not touching the sides of the cage, knees spread just enough that her legs were resting between the rows of bars lining the bottom.  It didn’t look very comfortable, but then if cages were meant to be comfortable no one would ever want to leave one.

The Doctor recognised her instantly.

So, too, did she.

“Doctor!” she exclaimed, moving forward from the crouch she’d been in, a smile gracing her exhausted features, still very careful not to touch the cage with any part of her body. 

“Hello, Freya,” he greeted her warmly, grinning at her as he came toward the cage.  There was an extremely old-fashioned padlock on the cage’s door, and he aimed his screwdriver at it, hoping to get the tumblers to trip.

“Doctor!” Aymara shouted, fear in that single word having the Doctor spinning around and almost dropping the sonic in surprise.

Aymara was supporting Phillip, the immortal suddenly pale, his eyes a much darker blue than their usual, icy colour.  He was staring at the cage in horror. 

“You have to get her out of there,” he managed to gasp.  “That’s anti-magic metal.”

Of course.  That was why Freya, with all her power, couldn’t have simply magicked herself out or to get the alarm out.  If it was affecting Phillip just from being in the same room, there was no telling what it was doing to Freya, who was much more magical than the ice mage was.

“Get him out of here,” the Doctor ordered.  “I’ll take care of Freya.”

Aymara nodded sharply, then practically bustled Phillip back out of the room, doing as the Doctor bid.  He turned back to the cage, working once again with the screwdriver to get the Lady of the Lake free of her cage. 

“How long have they had you?” he asked as he fine-tuned the sonic, outraged that she’d been put through so much.

“I’ve lost track,” she answered tiredly. “It’s been a long time, though.”

“How did they get you?”

“It was Morgause.” She spat the name angrily.  “When she showed up at the lake, I was surprised.  I wasn’t expecting her to remember anything about her previous life, but she did.  She…had an accomplice, who was so much more powerful than she was, and they managed to get the drop on me.  I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t prepared for them.”

“The accomplice…was it a woman?  Blonde?  Fond of the colour red?”  He let out a pleased exclamation as the lock dropped off and he had the door open in a second, reaching in a hand to help her out.

“You know her?” Freya accepted the help gratefully, letting the Time Lord pull her from her confinement.

Lucy Cole, then.  “We do.  And she won’t be a problem any longer.  Merlin blocked her magic and she’s currently cooling her heels in prison.”

The Doctor wrapped an arm around her when Freya’s knees went out from under her.  He scooped her up in his arms, her body far too light and frail as he carried her back out into the hallway, where Phillip and Aymara were waiting.

The immortal looked almost back to normal.  “I take it this is the Lady of the Lake?” Phillip enquired.

“She is.  Freya, these are my friends, Phillip Coulson-Jones, Director of Torchwood and immortal, and Aymara Khan-Jones, mate to Emlyn Jones.  Phillip…Aymara…this is Freya, Merlin’s friend and the Lady of the Lake.”

“I’d say it was a pleasure,” Phillip said, “but we still have to get out of here.”

“Your magic is strange,” Freya commented as they made their way back to the stairs.  “I don’t recognise it.”

“That is a long story,” the immortal told her, holding the door open for the Doctor to carry her through, “and I’ll be glad to explain it at another time.  Right now, we’re still in a building with several hostiles, and we don’t have time for a lengthy conversation.”

Phillip led the way down the stairs, his arm up and ready to deploy his shield once more, in case they ran into anyone else who might want to kill them.  The Doctor held Freya closely, the woman’s arms around his neck, face resting against his shoulder.  She really was way too thin, and he knew enough about the magic that was keeping her tied to Avalon to come to the conclusion that she’d been cut off for so long from the source of her power that she’d started fading away. 

Well, she’d get better, now that she was out of that cage.  The low-banked anger at events was coming back to the fore, the Doctor being well aware that Freya would have eventually died.  It would have been like someone slowly starving to death, a particularly painful and horrific way to go.

He was glad they’d gotten her out.  No one deserved to be held prisoner like that.

At the bottom of the stairs, they found Gwaine waiting for them.  He grinned when he saw Freya cradled in the Doctor’s arms.  “Well, you’re a sight for sore eyes,” he said.  “Merlin’s gonna be really glad to know you’re alright.”

“Hello, Gwaine,” Freya greeted softly, reaching out a hand to grasp his.  “It’s good to see you again.”

“And you,” he said warmly, squeezing her fingers lightly.  Then he regarded both the Doctor and Phillip. “C’mon, everyone’s waiting.”

“What’s going on?” Phillip asked as they followed Gwaine along the ground floor.

“We got him,” Gwaine answered happily.  “He was holed up in an office, hiding under a desk.  Apparently, the rest of the family is making a lot of noise at the other end of Avalon, and he didn’t want to get caught.  Poor baby.”  He smirked at that last bit.  “We think he was trying to contact another faction somewhere else.  I think Clint might want to take a look at the comm console and see if he can find out who that was.”

The Doctor felt a little slighted at that; after all, he was perfectly capable of tracing communication signals to their destination.  However, Clint was also quite good at that sort of thing, and someone really needed to check into just what they were doing here, which meant the Time Lord himself would get the science-y bits. 

So, okay…splitting the chores seemed the most logical idea.  He didn’t feel slighted anymore. Not when he thought about it that way.

He was also in charge of carrying Freya around, so he really couldn’t get off task until she was out of the building and in safe hands once more.

Phillip was giving him a look, and the Doctor actually found himself blushing slightly. Okay, so maybe River had been right about him being distracted by pretty tech.  He was s scientist!  It made sense that he’d be interested!

And when did he get so easy to read, anyway?

“This area is all cleared out,” Gwaine continued.  “There were four armed guards, and we also found a sorcerer and the two other scientists.  One of them was fully behind what HYDRA was doing, but the other burst into tears when she saw us, along with the magic-user, who was just a kid, by the way. Kaitlyn is currently comforting the pair of them, and she’s already contacted ImpSec to see if they can send someone to look in on their families.  Oh, and the scientist we handcuffed is also asking about his family, and Kaitlyn said she’d take care of it, too.”

“Good,” Phillip said approvingly.  “Saves me from having to get Melinda to do it.”

“We’ve got the others handcuffed and in a storeroom, ready for pick up by whatever forces are going to be handling that.”

“There are two more upstairs.  Let’s not forget them.  Aymara and I locked them in a handy toilet.”

Gwaine laughed at that as he held the reinforced front door open so the Doctor could carry Freya through, and the moment she was out of the building the Lady of the Lake seemed to regain a bit of her strength, requesting to be set on her feet.  The Doctor wanted to argue against it, but did as she asked, keeping an arm around her just in case she wasn’t quite up to standing yet.

She didn’t argue, which spoke more to her physical condition than anything else.

The others were outside.  The old generator facility was on the far side of the island, with the ancient grove between them and the rest of HYDRA’s base.  The Doctor still couldn’t believe the utter hubris of setting up here, of all places.  Avalon was Harkness-Jones property, even though no one came there out of respect for the sanctity of the lake and the island. Morgause should never have gotten away with it for as long as it looked like they’d been there. 

But then, they’d been counting on Freya to warn them if anything occurred, and she’d been taken out immediately.  It wasn’t something anyone could have foreseen.

Kaitlyn was busily tutting over an older woman who looked as if she wasn’t about to quit crying anytime soon, and a boy who might have been about twelve.  The poor woman was obviously completely stressed out over what had happened to her, so the Doctor couldn’t blame her for letting it all out in the face of obvious rescue, and the boy was clinging to Kaitlyn as if he was never going to let her go ever again.  The Doctor was more than happy to let the ambassador handle it. Crying women and traumatised children were two somethings the Doctor just couldn’t deal with.

Nicole stood guard over the man who’d been Andrew Nathanson, before his previous life had been brought forward.  Agravaine was seated on the hard ground, hands cuffed behind him, and he was looking up at Nicole with an expression full of fearful anticipation.  The wizard was putting her genetically gifted bitch-face to good use, glaring at him as if daring him to try something, arms crossed and magic glowing in her eyes, completely and totally intimidating. 

He could tell that Phillip was infinitely proud of her, even though his own face was its usual, blank mask.  There was a faint crinkling around the eyes which gave the game away, though.

The fear in Agravaine converted into downright terror when he caught sight of Freya, and the Doctor wasn’t so sure that was misplaced.  After all, they’d imprisoned the Lady of the Lake, a powerful elemental spirit, in an anti-magic cage.  She was bound to be just a little bit miffed about it.

“I see you managed to get the lady once more,” River said, appearing at the Doctor’s elbow and causing him to jump.  She was grinning, an amused twinkle in her eye, so she wasn’t bothered by the fact that her husband was holding another woman.  But then, River Song was quite possibly one of the least jealous people he’d ever met, and that included a certain immortal who claimed not to have a jealous bone in his body and yet saw green when anyone flirted with his dragon mate.

But then, River was also used to him travelling through space and time with any number of young women.  Which sounded a lot worse when he said it in his head than in the actual execution.

And he wasn’t about to enquire as to just how many lovers she’d had.  Because he wasn’t jealous, either.

Nope, not at all.

There was a sudden, loud roar from beyond the trees.  Everyone turned toward it, and the Doctor shivered involuntarily at the sheer fury in the sound.  “Let’s go and see what’s happening,” he suggested.  “Sounds like we might be needed.”

Without anyone saying a thing, they were on their way, Gwaine practically dragging Agravaine along, the man definitely hesitant about meeting his inevitable fate.

Not that the Doctor blamed him.  It was bound to be a bit messy for all concerned, especially Agravaine.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

30 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Avalon

 

The battle was over fairly quickly, and Jack made a mental promise to himself to speak to his mate about putting himself between Jack and deadly danger.

Jack appreciated the thought, he really did.  Ianto was very much aware of how much it hurt for him to die and then come back, but the immortal was very much capable of handling it.  Sure, he hadn’t died in quite a long time, and he really hated doing it, but he would always be prepared to give his life for his family.

Still, it was over now, and it was time for answers.

Morgause was writhing under Nathan’s imprisoning claw, the curses she was uttering loud and extremely personal.  Nathan simply smiled down at her serenely, as if he was enjoying it all.  Maybe he was; it wasn’t every day he got to sit on someone.

“You’re not doing yourself any good, you know,” the younger dragon spoke as Jack and Ianto approached.  “I can do this all day.”

“Filthy snake,” Morgause practically screamed, twitching in a futile attempt to wriggle out from between Nathan’s talons.

There had been a time when such an insult would have bothered Nathan.  He’d been self-conscious of his dragon form for a very long time, it being very different from the other members of his family.  However, since his cousin, Carys, had been hatched, Nathan had truly accepted the differences in his natural shape.  It didn’t hurt that she was an Oriental dragon, and Nathan’s dragon form was extremely close to that sort of shape, with a few differences that didn’t bear even considering really.  Jack thought he was quite the handsome dragon, personally.  He knew that Ianto did too, as well as the rest of the family.

“I think she’s trying to piss me off,” he commented, amused.  “Not that it would work, of course.  She’s just not that creative.”

Jack was so very proud of him.

“Morgause,” Ianto said, squatting down beside the struggling woman, “you cannot escape.  You are our prisoner.  I and my family have sworn a Vow of Vengeance against HYDRA, and that includes you.  If you know anything at all about dragon society, then you realise that there is nowhere you would be able to run that we would not find you, even if you were able to leave Avalon, which you can’t.  Now, it would go significantly easier on you if you’d cooperate, and answer a few questions we have.”

“I have nothing to say,” she gritted.

Ianto rose.  “That’s fine.  I’m sure we’ll get what we need from other sources.  I do hope you enjoy spending the rest of your life in prison.  You might even see Lucy and Uther there, if you happen to be put into the same cellblock.”

Now, that pronouncement had Morgause turning the profanity on him.  At one suggestion, Jack leered and said, “We should try that.  It might be a little difficult position to get into, but we’re both fairly flexible…”

“Granddad!” Nathan cried.  “Ew!  That’s worse than knowing my parents have sex!”

“He sounds like me at that age,” Anwyn replied, joining them. 

“He’s still like you, then,” Jack teased.

“At least I never caught you both at it, not like Gareth did that one time!”

Ianto smiled as they bantered, and Jack was glad to see it.  His mate had been far too sombre of late; but then, they all had, and Jack hoped this might be the beginning of Ianto’s healing.  Maybe he’d be able to talk him into eating something later…

“How’s Lisa?” Jack was worried about Lisa, and furious by what Morgause had done.  His daughter had never wanted her magic back, and what Morgause had done was, in his opinion, tantamount to rape, and would have the same repercussions for Lisa as if she’d been sexually assaulted. 

“She’s terrified,” Anwyn answered honestly.  “Merlin’s helping her, but I think it would do her some good if you and Tad talked to her.  Clint’s with her now, and getting Phillip here will help, too.”

Jack nodded.  Questioning Morgause was important, but Lisa moreso. “You and Nathan keep an eye on her?” He jerked his head toward their prisoner, who was finally winding down, her struggles getting a bit weaker and her profanity not as loud. 

“It’ll be a pleasure.”  Anwyn’s grin was flatly terrifying, and she wasn’t even in her dragon form.

“Count on it.”  Nathan’s own expression was perhaps even worse, given that it was filled with very big, very sharp, teeth.  And those antlers were nothing to snort at, either.

Ianto touched Nathan’s side, and Anwyn’s shoulder, then moved toward the small knot of Arthur, Clint, and Merlin, where they were huddled about Lisa, who did look as scared as Anwyn had said.  Jack followed, after giving his daughter and grandson his own grateful touches.

“Can’t you get rid of it?” Lisa’s voice was small, and Jack knew she’d have been cowering if it weren’t for Clint’s supportive presence at her side. 

Merlin looked almost as upset as Lisa did. “I can’t.  The spell that I’d use would not only remove the magic Morgause forced on you, it would also take away the magic that lets you change into dragon form.”

“So, it’s either live as a human without magic, or live as a dragon with it.”  She sounded so very bitter, and Jack did the only thing he could: he wrapped his arms around her in the fiercest hug he had in him.

“We know you hate the magic,” Ianto soothed, “and we’ll accept whatever decision you make.  And you know Merlin is perfectly willing to help you learn to control it, as would Nicole and Rory.  Whatever you decide, sweetheart.”

“Yeah,” Rhys spoke up.  Jack hadn’t noticed him come near, so wrapped up was he in holding his traumatised daughter. “You have a wonderful family this time round, cariad.  You don’t have to worry about going power-mad and evil with us here.”

Of course she was worried about that.  Morgana had had all that magic, and she’d been driven to do a lot of bad things.  Lisa equated magic with that insanity, back in the life she remembered, and didn’t want to risk it happening again.

She was also scared that they’d all no longer love her if she had magic, which wasn’t true at all.  Jack knew he and Ianto would love her no matter what, and they’d done their best to convince her of that.  They’d succeeded, but only because Lisa hadn’t had any magic.  Now, all those insecurities were back, and they’d have to work twice as hard to make her understand that it didn’t matter to them.  She was their daughter, and nothing would change that.

“They’re right, you know,” Clint added.  He put his arm around her.  “You’re our Lisa, not whoever Morgause wanted to make you.  Besides, if you’re worried about it, it’s less likely going to happen.  That’s your conscience talking to you, and if you’re listening to it now, I highly doubt you’ll ever stop.”

“And if,” Arthur put his two credits’ in, “for some reason you start thinking about becoming Morgana again, all you have to do is come to any of us and talk.  We’ll help as best we can.”

Lisa seemed to be taking their words to heart, which made Jack unbelievably grateful.  It was true: none of them cared that she had magic now.  She was their Lisa, their own, and she always would be. 

“You’re our daughter,” he said aloud, “our own Lisa.  Nothing you do will ever change that.”  His lips crooked upward in a smile.  “Besides, have you met your sister Cadi lately?  Fifteen star systems. Your Tad is appalled.”

That earned him a weak chuckle, but it was heartfelt. “I love you, Dad,” she muttered into his chest.

“Oh, sweetheart,” he murmured, pressing a kiss into her hair, “you will never know how much I love you.”

Arms went around them both, and Jack looked up into his mate’s eyes before Ianto, too, was kissing Lisa.  “You will always be loved,” the dragon promised solemnly. 

“They’re wrong,” a harsh voice interrupted their moment. 

Jack pulled away to glare at the speaker.  Nathan had let Morgause up, but Anwyn was busily cuffing her hands behind her back, and she wasn’t being all that gentle.  Morgause was glaring at the three of them, and she looked sly and certain of her words as she spoke, her gaze on Lisa.

“One day, you’re going to do something that will make them condemn you and on that day, you’ll come crawling to me, begging me to forgive you – “

Lisa was out of their embrace in a heartbeat, anger swirling around her as strongly as the golden light that heralded the change into her dragon form.  Jack stepped back hurriedly, wanting to get out of her way, knowing that she needed to confront Morgause on her own terms and that this was something he and Ianto couldn’t do for her. 

Once changed, Lisa roared in sheer fury.  Her own claw knocked Morgause back to the ground, but she didn’t sit on her like Nathan did. Instead, she loomed over the prone body of the woman who’d assaulted her, her silver-green eyes now blazing with gold.  “I will never crawl to you,” she growled.  “You are nothing, Morgause.  I don’t want anything to do with you, ever again.  You don’t know anything about me now, and if you’d loved me, as you’d professed to, you would never have done this to me against my will.  I hope you rot in a cell for the rest of your life.”  Her head tilted downward.  “Anwyn, will you take her somewhere I can’t see her?”

“You got it, Sis.”  Anwyn dragged a visibly stunned and terrified Morgause to her feet and hauled her toward one of the still-standing buildings, looking very pleased to do so. 

“I am so very proud of you,” Ianto proclaimed.  “But Lisa…you should look at yourself…”

“What?” She curled her neck around, the better to see herself now, and she gasped at what she saw.

Jack was just as surprised. 

Lisa had changed.

Her scales had been black – not the inky blackness of Nathan’s, but more like fine onyx, that glittered in the light like precious stones.  Now, the return of her magic had changed them; they were still black, but each scale had a microfine line of gold around the edges, looking like filigree against that darkness.  The claws at the ends of her wings had also changed colour, as had the vanes themselves, breaking up the solid black of her wings, golden tones glittering in the sunlight that streamed down through the break in the mists that surrounded Avalon.

The difference was breath-taking.     

“That…makes sense,” Merlin said in wonder.  “Rory has magic, and his scales have gold in them.  When Nicole gets her dragon form, I shouldn’t be surprised if she doesn’t as well.  I think I might want to be testing Robyn again, just to make sure.”

Robyn’s scales were solidly gold, so Jack could see why Merlin would want to if what he was surmising was true. 

Ianto had stepped up to their transformed daughter, running a finger along one thin strand of gold.  “You have always been beautiful to me,” he declared.  “This just adds to that.”

“I…”  Lisa was gobsmacked.  “I don’t know what to say…”

“You don’t have to say a thing,” Jack told her. “We will still stand by whatever decision you make.  Your dragon form is a part of you, but only one part.”

“Damn Sis,” Clint declared, “that’s pretty awesome.  Just sayin’.”

“Dad’s right,” Nathan added.  “If there’s an upside to this, I’d have to say this was it.”  He stepped forward, letting his cheek rub against hers in the dragon form of a kiss, being careful not to poke her in the eye with a wayward antler.  “I know something about not liking your dragon body, and I’m saying now that you don’t have a thing to hate about this.  You’re still my Aunt Lisa, even with fancy new scales.”

“What’s happened?”

Jack turned away from Lisa to see Phillip, standing just outside the clearing, out of breath.  He looked none the worse for wear, so apparently everything had gone well; as Jack watched, the rest of their party appeared, dragging a clearly frightened Andrew Nathanson with them as well as several other strangers, one of them a teenage boy.  Phillip’s eyes widened as he took him Lisa’s new appearance, and he strode toward them determinedly, his worry apparent in the quickness of his walk. 

The wariness that had been in Lisa’s eyes returned as she noticed him, and she pulled away from Nathan, ducking her head away from Phillip as he approached.  Jack could understand it; Lisa had always been closer to Phillip, sometimes even closer than she was to her own parents, and his reaction would either confirm that she was going to be accepted…or break her completely.

He stepped right up to her without hesitation, trying to catch her eye as he asked, “Are you alright?”

Lisa shook her head, that an answer all in its own. 

“What happened?” he snapped, looking away from her to get answers from the surrounding family.

As Merlin explained, Jack watched Phillip’s face fall into that expressionless mask he wore where he was well and truly angry.  He didn’t want to be in Morgause’s shoes in that moment, because if anyone in their family was willing to go the distance and destroy Morgause, it was Phillip Coulson-Jones.

There was a very good reason he was considered quite possibly the most dangerous member of their clan, and that was not counting his magic in that equation.

“And where is Morgause now?” he asked, his voice deceptively calm.

“Anwyn stuck her in there.”  Jack motioned toward the building where Morgause had been tossed.  Erik and William were standing guard along with Anwyn, all three with eyes on the confrontation going on. 

“Gwaine,” he called back over his shoulder to his party, eyes not leaving Lisa, “would you mind sticking Agravaine in with her?”

“Not at all,” the knight answered jovially.  “Gives me a chance to check up on Anwyn.”  To suit actions to words, Gwaine dragged Agravaine toward the building, the prisoner complaining about the treatment and Gwaine not giving a damn.

In the time it had taken for Gwaine to answer, Lisa had changed back into her human form once more.  In that shape Phillip was much taller than she was, and it was easier for her to hide from him.

Not that Phillip was going to let her, and for that Jack would be forever grateful.

“Lisa,” his fellow immortal said, “it’s going to be alright.”

Telegraphing his movements, he pulled the terrified younger woman into his arms, and with a sob that broke Jack’s heart she was sinking into his embrace, holding for dear life much the way she’d done with Jack.

Clint had once joked about Phillip being Lisa’s co-parent, but his son had been more correct in that than Jack thought he realised.

Speaking of Clint, he was watching the pair of the fondly, waiting his turn with his mate with a patience he didn’t often show, especially after what had transpired at the Library.  Clint had confided in Jack that he’d known just how close he’d come to losing Phillip in the aftermath, and the immortal certainly didn’t judge his son for wanting to keep Phillip in sight as much as he could.  To be honest, he’d been a little surprised that Clint had let Phillip go off with the TARDIS team without him, but Jack felt that had more to do with trusting the Doctor to have Phillip’s back than anything else.

His dragon leaned against Jack, and he soaked up his mate’s warmth even through the black coat he was wearing.  “I think she’s going to be okay,” Ianto murmured, his own eyes watching as Phillip tutted over Lisa, making certain she was as fine as she could under the circumstances. 

Jack didn’t hesitate to put his arm around Ianto, drawing him even closer.  “I think so, too.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

30 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Gliese 581g

Hubworld

 

Suzie stepped off the transmat, breathing in the slightly dry air of Hubworld, a weight off her chest for the first time in a very long time.

It actually went beyond what had happened last year.  She’d never dreamed she’d be stepping foot on Hubworld for the first time, let alone the second now.  She’d been afraid of her reception, when she really should have listened to Rima and Peter – Diane and Owen – when they tried to convince her that her past wouldn’t be held against her, that she would be welcome.

She really wished she’d trusted them.

Now, though, there she was, and it was of her own free will, and not because of some plot she’d ended up involved in just because of who she’d been in a previous life.

And her wife was with her.

Diane glanced around as they stepped from the transmat terminal.  “Not a thing like Proxima Prime,” she commented, squinting slightly in the reddish glare of the planet’s primary. 

She was right, of course.  Proxima Prime had been an industrial world, a scientific hub for all sorts of research facilities.  It had originally been a desert planet, until it had been built up and terraformed just enough for life to be comfortable on it.

Hubworld had also been terraformed; from what Suzie had researched – and yes, she’d checked into Torchwood’s past even though she hadn’t considered coming back – it had been one of the first planets to be so, and it had taken centuries.  Now, it only took decades with the most up-to-date equipment, and new planets were being made habitable all over the Empire. 

But Hubworld was mountainous and oh-so very red.  It had been a gift to Torchwood back then, and while the Institute had grown up all over the Twelve Galaxies, Hubworld would always be its heart.  In a strange way, it felt as if she was coming home.

“If you ladies would follow us?” Rhys Williams invited.  He was a little worse for wear after his incarceration, but he was kind, and Suzie loved him already.

Diane had known him already and loved him fiercely, but then she remembered him from the team they’d been on and had lost him before his time.  Suzie had wished she could have been a part of that team; however, darkness and insanity had corroded her soul until there had only been death left.

Her wife had confided in her that she felt it weird that Rhys was actually married to Jack’s mother, who had also accompanied them, along with the baby dragon that belonged to Clint and Phillip, as well as Nicole and Nathan, who’d been introduced as Clint’s twins.  Nicole had taken custody of the Master’s ring and of the crystal that Morgause had been using to find reincarnated souls, and her brother had decided to act as bodyguard for her…not that she couldn’t take care of herself, but it was obvious that Nicole appreciated Nathan’s presence.

Diane had also told her that it felt strange even thinking that the Clint Barton she’d known had reincarnated into a dragon, of all things, and was Jack and Ianto’s son now.  Suzie knew her wife was amazed at the changes in the people she’d known way back when.  But then, so was Suzie.

Everyone else had either gone on to Ddraig Llyn or had been involved with cleaning up after HYDRA’s infestation of Avalon.  Jack and Ianto had gone on to Throneworld, in order to meet with the Empress and the Grand Master of Shieldsmen, while Phillip and Clint, accompanied by Arthur and Merlin, had gotten a ride with the Doctor, who had been more than happy to transport the prisoners to Stormcage, where they would await trial.  There would also be some questioning involved, and she knew they were hoping to get a lead on the elusive John Garrett.

Garrett had left Avalon about an hour before the Jones clan had attacked.  Phillip was almost desperate to find him, which Suzie could understand; apparently, Phillip and Garrett had been friends back in the 21st century, before HYDRA had come out of the woodwork in the immortal’s SHIELD days.  Garrett had betrayed Phillip and his team back then, which was more than enough motivation to locate the bastard.

She and Diane followed him and Samara across the Harkness Plass – and Suzie really needed to ask Jack how he felt about that – toward the gleaming building that was Torchwood Tower.  Suzie was seeing it for the second time, but she could now appreciate it, and not view it with well-concealed dread.  It was very different from the Old Cardiff Hub, but that wasn’t a bad thing at all, as Torchwood was just as changed.

Now, she was practically skipping, knowing who was awaiting them in that tower.

They were greeted by a handsome man in a Torchwood tunic, with a sword at his waist.  He had curly hair and a well-trimmed beard, and friendly eyes that lit up when he saw them enter the building.  He greeted Rhys and Samara gladly, but respectfully, and then completely broke whatever professionalism he might have had by tickling baby Daisy’s foot, making the little dragon squeal and laugh. 

Just with that little gesture, Suzie found herself trusting him. 

“This is Leon DeGrance,” Rhys introduced, “he’s the Commander of the Knights of Torchwood.  Bloody crazy, if you ask me.  Knights in Torchwood.  Honestly.”

Sir Leon smirked, not seeming to take any sort of offense at Rhys’ comments.  “We’ve both seen a lot crazier.”

“You’re not wrong there!” the Welshman snorted.

Suzie had run across the Torchwood Knights during her research.  They were the reincarnations of the original Knights of the Round Table, and had followed Arthur when they regained their own memories of their past lives in Camelot, swearing their fealty to Arthur and Torchwood.  Some of them had chosen to stay with the Institute after Arthur had retired, to work with Phillip, and she had to wonder how many there were now and if they supplemented their number with new recruits.  Apparently, Anwyn’s mate, Gwaine, had once been one of their number, but had left to travel with Anwyn when they’d committed to each other.

“Come on,” Leon ushered them along.  “Medical is awaiting you, Rhys…”

“Bloody hell,” he grumbled.  “I hate Medical…”

“I know, dear,” Samara said sweetly, “but you were just kidnapped and subjected to a strange magical crystal.  It won’t hurt to get checked out.”

“Oh, alright…for you, love.”  Rhys leaned over and gave her a peck on the cheek, his smile just a little bit sappy.

It was sweet to see, and Suzie could tell her wife wanted to make some sort of cooing noises.  It made her wish she’d known Rhys the way Diane had, but at least she could get to know him now. 

“Nathan and Nicole,” Leon turned to the twins – who, while different, still managed to look alike, “Jemma and Fitz are waiting for you in the lab.  I understand you have two artefacts they’re looking forward to getting their hands on.”

Nicole laughed at that.  “And I’m looking forward to them taking them out of my hands.  There’s just something about walking around with two potentially dangerous objects that makes me antsy.  I have no idea why.”  Her voice was laden with sarcasm, and the knight shook his head at her, amused.

He then glanced at Suzie and Diane.  “Doctor Costello…Doctor Anaxi – “

“Actually,” Diane interrupted, “it’s Holmes.”

Suzie wasn’t surprised that her wife was going back to her old name.  After all, they were taking up the reins of that old life, leaving behind the one they’d lived on Proxima. 

It was way past time.

Leon nodded graciously.  “Then I stand corrected.  Doctor Costello…Doctor Holmes…Doctor Harper is also in the lab.”  He grinned impishly.  “No one told him you were on your way here.  We thought a surprise would be nice.”

Suzie hated to say that Owen really hated surprises, but in this case she was touched by the gesture.  Her heart began to race as she thought about Owen, of seeing him again and knowing that he’d been worried about them, and was waiting for them now.

They had the lift to themselves.  It stopped once, at what was obviously the Medical level, and Rhys and Samara got off, Rhys giving Diane a hug goodbye…and then hugged Suzie as well, and she decided then and there that Rhys Williams gave the best hugs ever.

Then the doors slid shut, and the lift moved upward a few more storeys to the labs.

Suzie vividly recalled the last time she’d been up there, when she’d been carrying a secret and Ianto had trusted her to help out, and instead she’d stolen the Master’s ring because she’d been HYDRA’s back-up plan in case Agravaine and Garrett had failed in their task.  She wondered what they would have demanded of her if they’d succeeded.  It would have left Suzie as a mole within Torchwood, and there was no telling what they would have forced her to do.

She couldn’t even communicate how relieved she was that they’d understood, that Jack and Ianto had realised that she hadn’t been acting of her own free will, and that they’d forgiven her for what she’d had to do to keep her wife alive.

Doctor Simmons noticed them the moment they stepped into the lab.  Her face split into a welcoming grin, and she elbowed Dr Fitz in the side, gesturing with her antennae in their direction.  He glanced up, and then his eyes darted to the third person in the lab, and even though he was standing with his back to the door, Suzie would have recognised that red hair anywhere.

To say that she’d been shocked that Owen Harper, or all people, had been reborn as a Polarian would have been an understatement.  The inhabitants of Polaris Four were known to be peace-loving and quiet, and Owen was anything but.  Owen had often bitched about karma, until it had become a joke between the three of them.

Owen must have noticed something was up, because he spun on his heel, his mouth opening to say something that Suzie would have bet good credits was going to be snarky.

Nothing came out.

Owen Harper had been struck speechless.  A part of her wanted to make a comment about marking the calendar, but the larger part was so very happy to see him again, when Suzie had begun to despair of it.

Instead, his brilliant green eyes widened, and before Suzie could even react he was across the room and scooping them both up into a hug at the same time.  Suzie clung onto him and Diane, not ashamed of the tears she was shedding, so very grateful that they were all back together again. 

Time lost meaning as the three of them stood there, holding each other.  Suzie never wanted to leave, but knew they’d have to eventually.  HYDRA was still out there, and the three of them really needed to talk about what they were going to do next.

Suzie knew what she wanted, and she thought they’d want the same thing, but they really did need to discuss things before making any sort of long-term decision.

Eventually, the three of them parted.  Even Owen was wiping the tears away…not that he would ever admit to crying, of course.  “You two just had to get into trouble without me, didn’t you?” he complained, without any of his usual fire.

“Well,” Diane said, equally sniffling, “you know how it goes…the women get to have all the fun.”

“Goddess, I was so scared for you both,” he admitted breathlessly.  “I wanted to hunt down the ones who’d taken you, but I didn’t know how…”

“Our team found us,” Diane murmured.  “We’re safe now.”

“I’m sorry,” the deferential voice of Jemma Simmons broke into their tiny bubble of peace, “but if you wanted to go somewhere more private, we can arrange something for you…”

As much as Suzie wanted to say yes, there were things that needed to be done first.  “Not yet,” she answered.  “Diane and I have information, I’m sure there’s going to be a debrief – “

She ignored the start Owen gave at her using the name ‘Diane’.  It was a subject they could address later.

“That can certainly wait,” the young woman asserted.  “You’ve both been through a terrible ordeal, and we know that Owen’s been terribly worried about you.  I’m quite certain Sir Leon can get you lodgings at the Torchwood housing facility close by.”

“It’s already taken care of, Dr Simmons,” the Knight said warmly. 

“Thank you.”  She made shooing motions with her hands.  “Go on. You don’t need to stay here, and you should go and reassure each other.  We all know what that’s like.”  She smiled indulgently, and suddenly Suzie felt like she was being sent off by a parent, even though it was obvious that the Lorelan was younger than she was.  “We can get to all that tomorrow.  In the meantime, I’m quite sure Nicole and Nathan can share what they know with us.”

“Absolutely,” Nathan answered.

“And you can have the presents I’ve brought you,” Nicole added. 

That had both Fitz and Simmons looked extremely excited.

Suzie wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth, as it were, and she really wanted to cuddle with the two people who were more important to her than anyone else. 

Taking them both by the hand, Suzie pulled them from the lab, following a smiling Sir Leon back to the lift, and out of the tower.

 

**********

 

The living quarters that Torchwood had for employees and visitors was just down the Plass from the tower, and the rooms they were given was more like a small flat than an impersonal space.  It consisted of a lounge, kitchen, and a single bedroom with an en-suite, and it was perfect for their current needs.

Someone had stocked the kitchen with plenty to eat, changed the sheets on the rather large bed, and put clean towels in the bath.  There was also a supply of clothes that Suzie was certain would fit each of them.  Plus, a thoughtfully full drawer of various sexual aids and supplies was in the bedside table, and although Jack wasn’t there Suzie had to believe that was something he’d ordered, because that would have been just like him.

The shower was also huge, and it offered both water and sonic cleansing. After the months she’d had, Suzie wanted a water shower almost more than anything.

But Owen wasn’t about to let her do that at the moment.

No, instead he had them both on the expansive sofa, curled around them like a Polarian octopus, as if he was afraid to let them go.

And, maybe he was.

“Don’t ever do that to me again,” he scowled. “I just about had a heart attack when I realised you were both missing.”  He kissed them both, the tenderness of it belying the tartness of his words.

Suzie was more than happy to snuggle down with the two people she loved, even though she was feeling a bit grimy.  It had been far too long since they’d been able to do this, and she’d missed it like anything.

“And don’t think I didn’t notice you calling me Owen, back there at the Tower.”  His words were aimed right at her.

Suzie sighed.  “I do know you hate the name Peter, and was only keeping it because of me.”

“Well, yeah…but I was willing to.”

“You were right, you know.”

“Now that’s something I don’t get to hear enough!”

Suzie smacked him on the arm.  “Shut it.”  She sighed again.  “You were right about Jack and Ianto.  They did nothing but welcome me with open arms, and then I had to betray them again.”

“But they understand why,” Diane reassured her.  “It’s not like something like this hasn’t happened before, and they will always forgive if it’s a good enough reason…like for love.”

“I know that…now.  But…I’ve been rethinking things, and I think it’s time for us to come back.  Ianto pointed out to me that we’re family…that I’m family.”  She could remember standing in the kitchen at Jack and Ianto’s home, and talking to Ianto.  That was something he’d told her, and she’d wanted to believe him…but, at the same time, she’d known if Garrett and Agravaine didn’t succeed in what they were planning then it would be up to her to get the ring. 

She hadn’t wanted to betray them, but had been forced into it.  That apparently counted for a lot with Jack and Ianto, and she should have known that from what had happened before, with Toshiko and her mother.

“And it only took this to convince you.”  Owen had tried to go for joking, but it fell horribly flat.

Still, she didn’t tell him that.  Or did she admit that he was right, again.  Once was enough.

“I’m only sorry I didn’t figure it out sooner,” she did admit.

“So…we’re coming back to Torchwood then?” Diane asked. “Even though Jack and Ianto aren’t running it any longer?”

“I’ve been talking to Simmons and Fitz,” Owen admitted, “and they tell me that Torchwood’s changed, but that we’d still be welcomed.  She told me that Coulson is still a good bloke.  And it’s not like we wouldn’t see either Harkness or Dragon Boy hanging around, either.  I think we can do some good here, and honestly…I wanna see how this all turns out.  HYDRA killed one of their kids.  That can’t stand, and I didn’t even swear vengeance against ‘em.  Besides…HYDRA took the two of you away from me.  I can’t let that go.”

They were all valid points, and things that Suzie had considered.  Her own family had tried to do their best, but it would be nice to belong to one that truly understood what it meant to be a reincarnated soul with memories of a previous life that, in a lot of ways, seemed far more real than this existence did.

“My vote is,” Diane said, “is that we do it.  We come back to Torchwood, even though it is different and we’d never be field agents anymore.  All three of us are trained scientists, and I liked the look of the labs they have here…from what I saw walking through.  They’re certainly a lot more high-tech than what we were working with back on Proxima.”

She was right.  Torchwood did seem to have better resources, but then Torchwood was a galactic superpower in its own right.

“And don’t forget the people,” Owen added.  “Yeah, I act like an opinionated arse a lot of the time, but these people know that about me.  They accept it.  In the last several months I’ve been hanging out with FitzSimmons and the other techies, I’ve come to realise I’ve missed being understood.  Maybe that makes me a shallow person…”

“No, it doesn’t,” Suzie said.  One of the reasons the three of them got along so well was because they were familiar with each other’s foibles and were willing to accept them.  The people they’d worked with back on Proxima didn’t, and probably still hadn’t even noticed that they’d gone missing.

“But we all do this together,” Diane said.  “It’s all, or none.  And Chas…Suzie…I know it’s putting all the pressure on you, but it really is up to you.  Owen and I have been ready to come back for a while, now.  And we’re both going to go along with you on this.  If you want to leave, we will.”

Owen nodded in agreement.

Suzie couldn’t have loved them more in that moment if she’d tried.

She couldn’t, however, help but notice they’d all fallen back onto calling each other by their old names so easily.   Which meant it wasn’t so much pressure as they both believed.

“Alright,” Suzie Costello said, for the first time in a very long time comfortable in her own skin, “let’s do this.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

30 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Stormcage Prison

 

“You should know,” Phillip stated easily, “that we raided your base on Avalon.”

He stood just beyond the bars of Lucy Cole’s cell, flanked by his mate.  Merlin and Arthur were positioned just out of sight of the woman in the cell, keeping an eye out on Phillip’s interview, hoping to glean a little information from Lucy’s reactions to Phillip’s probing.  They’d all agreed to let him lead the questioning; it was recognised that Phillip did have the most experience with that sort of thing, and Arthur would be talking to Uther and Agravaine himself.  Merlin had stated his interest in speaking with Morgause, but the immortal wasn’t certain he was the best choice for that.  After all, to Morgause he was the Emrys, who’d been behind stopping the majority of the plots against Arthur and Camelot back in the day.

Personally, he wanted to ask Lisa, but he knew better than to do that.  She was still recovering from the reawakening of her magic, and Rory was sitting with her while Nicole hand-delivered the magical crystal they’d discovered to Torchwood for study.  He would have preferred Merlin to do that, but he also understood why his nephew wanted to be in on the interrogations.

Lucy herself was upright and glaring at Phillip, as if her gaze could burn him where he stood.  Her arms were crossed, and she looked as if she didn’t believe him.

“As a matter of fact,” he continued, “Uther Pendragon, Agravaine du Bois, and Morgause Gorlois are currently in cells not far from here.  However, we know they aren’t the only ones involved.”

“You’re lying,” she ground out, her hands clenched at her sides.

“We know about the crystal you enchanted,” Phillip went on inexorably.  A part of him was enjoying this immensely, but he kept it from showing.  “From what we understand, it was taken from the Crystal Caves and you changed its properties in order to find reincarnated souls that would be amenable to HYDRA’s rhetoric.  We’ve also freed Freya, the Lady of the Lake, from her cage.  This anti-magic metal you’ve discovered is quite fascinating, and our scientists are having quite a bit of fun going over the notes we’ve found on its source.  Sol’s Asteroid Belt, of all places.  If we’d known about that centuries ago, it would have been a great help to us.”

The realisation that he knew exactly what he was talking about crossed Lucy’s face, and for a split second Phillip thought she was going to come through the bars of the cell and attack him.

It was just the sort of reaction he’d been hoping for: to get her furious at him, which would improve the chances of her either wanting to gloat, or letting something slip.

To be honest, he was a bit surprised she was as coherent as she was.  When Merlin had described the consequences of binding her magic, Phillip had thought she’d be completely wrecked without it.  And, maybe she had been but, after all, it had been months since Merlin had performed whatever ritual he’d needed to in order to render Lucy magically helpless. Perhaps she’d managed to cope?

Well, maybe not cope…but to be a little bit less unhinged by the loss of her magic.

If that were possible.

“HYDRA is done,” he told her.  “Done and dusted.  We know about John Garrett; you told us about him yourself, and we have intel on where he might be.”  That was a lie, but he wasn’t about to admit that they’d just missed him on Avalon.  “We know about the criminals known as H and G.”  It was a fair bet they were involved, in some way or another, and if they did find them on Trafusis, so much the better.  “But, what we don’t know about is this so-called Dragon Slayer.  We’re hoping you can provide us with information on him.  It might go easier on you if you did.”

Lucy lunged forward, grabbing the bars in her hands and shaking the door, as if she could actually get it to budge.  “You think you’ve won, but there are far more of us out there than you think!  I might not have been able to get my Harry back, but that doesn’t mean HYDRA’s gone.  And we’ll come at you, over and over, and you won’t be able to stop us!  We’ll tear this Empire down around your ears and let it rot!”

So, there was still a viable threat to the Empire.  Phillip had thought as much; HYDRA had worked best in individual cells, and the camp on Avalon had to have been one of many. 

“She really has drunk the HYDRA Kool-Aid,” Clint commented, sounding almost awed.

Phillip didn’t know what that meant, understanding that it had to be some sort of Old Earth idiom, but he assumed it meant she’d bought into the rhetoric someone must have shared with her. 

That was what concerned Phillip the most.  They knew about three others involved, but there had to be more.  How many had they managed to find and resurrect the memories of?  How had they even known?  Who would benefit from HYDRA’s rising once more?

Because there had to be a single head out there controlling the rest.  Phillip would have bet his immortality on it. 

“Ms Cole,” he cajoled, “your plans are in ruins.  Why not tell us what we want to know?  You magic is gone, and you won’t remember this when you die and your soul moves on.  You’re in this cell for the rest of your natural life.  HYDRA isn’t going to come for you, not when you’ve failed them.  They’ve already turned on Uther Pendragon.  They’ve abandoned you.  You owe them nothing.”

Her teeth were bared in an animalistic snarl as she snapped, “He gave me my life back!  He promised me that I could get my Harry back if only I did what he said!  I might have failed but I won’t betray him!”

And there it was.

They were dealing with a man.  Someone in a position to find Lucy Cole and to somehow convince her to enchant an already magical crystal in order to awaken her memories of Lucy Saxon, even before she knew what that entailed. 

Phillip doubted it was this Dragon Slayer.  He was only interested in killing dragons, not making a grab for power.  And it certainly wasn’t John Garrett, because Garrett had never really bought into HYDRA, back in the day; he’d been more into self-interest, going with the side he’d thought would win and who could help him the most.  If he was honest with himself, Phillip believed that Garrett would most likely go to ground somewhere, licking his wounds and hoping not to get caught.  He would be, the immortal would make sure of that, but it would take some time.

Lucy didn’t need to know that.

And so, Phillip gave her a bland smile and said, “Thank you for your cooperation.”

Then, he turned on his heel and headed away, Lucy’s shouted denials in his ears. 

“So,” Arthur mused, “there’s someone out there in charge of the entire organisation.”

“Wait,” Merlin exclaimed, “you got that out of what Lucy said?”

“He’s right,” Phillip agreed.  “She gave it away.  ‘He gave me my life back.  He promised me that I could get my Harry back if only I did what he said.  I won’t betray him.’  It’s obvious, really.”

“But we don’t know who he is,” Clint countered as they waited at the security station to be let out of the cell block.  The guard scanned them, and then operated the door control.

“No,” Phillip conceded as they stepped through.  “But we can make a couple of assumptions, like I’m pretty certain it’s not John Garrett she’s talking about.  He’s not the leadership type, and I seriously doubt he could come up with a plan like this.”

“He’d have to be someone able to recognise Lucy Cole as Lucy Saxon,” Arthur added.  “I think I’d be right in assuming that he would have had to convince her to make that crystal before she remembered who she was.”

“That makes the most sense.  I don’t believe any of the current crop of villains we’re dealing with would have remembered without help.”

There were two cellblocks, and the one they were headed into now housed Agravaine du Bois.  Of the four reincarnated souls they now had prisoner, Phillip believed he would be the one most likely swayed to talk.  Him, or Uther, but if what he’d read from Uther was correct then the immortal considered that he might actually remain loyal to whoever was in charge of this new HYDRA longer than Agravaine would.  Morgause wouldn’t talk at all, of that he was certain.  She was too sure that she’d eventually get what she wanted, despite the show Lisa had put on back on Avalon.

“You think you can get something out of Agravaine?” he asked Arthur as they waited for the security check into the second block.

“I still think you should have let Melinda do this part,” Arthur said. 

“No, we want Agravaine alive,” Phillip said dryly.  “Melinda is far too pissed off at him for that.”  After betraying her and trying to kill her, and betraying Torchwood, there was no way he was going to let her get within light-years of the man.  He was quite familiar with what Melinda was capable of. 

“I don’t know, Uncle Phillip,” Merlin chuckled, “an angry Melinda May can be an awesome resource to gain information from someone not willing to share.”

“No, Phillip has a point,” Clint said. “I seem to recall the last time someone betrayed her, the guy ended up with a broken larynx and his foot nailed to a floor.”

Phillip frowned slightly, but it didn’t take long at all for those memories to resurface.  At Arthur’s questioning glance, he gave the name, “Grant Ward.”

“Ah,” his nephew said, understanding immediately.

Agravaine’s cell was just down from the entrance to the cell block.  Phillip let Arthur take the lead, settling back a few feet in order to give him room to work.  He wanted to be able to watch Agravaine’s reactions knowing that, in these instances, sometimes what he didn’t say could have been more important than what he did.

Arthur stood in front of the cell door, legs spread, hands behind his back as he let his former uncle react to his presence.  He didn’t speak as Agravaine stood, making his way to the cell door, a smile on his face as if he’d just received a very nice gift. 

“Arthur,” he greeted, resting his hands on the bars lightly.  “What brings you here?”

“I think you know,” Arthur answered.

“You want to know our plans.”

“Oh, I think we already know that.”

That wiped the pleasant smile from Agravaine’s face. 

“We know about the failed plan with the nanotech,” Arthur continued. “We know that, when it was evident that the plan wasn’t going to work, that you or Morgause had your assassin plant evidence at a murder scene that led back to Uther and Persephone Corporation.  Of course, we haven’t let him know yet that you’re here in the same cell block with him.  I’m sure Uther would be interested in knowing that.”

Agravaine apparently didn’t care for that at all.  “That was all Morgause.  And she was certain it would work if we had a powerful enough sorcerer that would get the magic to bond with the tech.”

Phillip wasn’t surprised to hear that he was so willing to throw his accomplice under the proverbial bus, although he felt fairly certain that Morgause truly wasn’t the one who’d come up with the idea of framing Uther.  Not that he wouldn’t have put it past her, but knowing that there was someone else out there pulling the strings…no, Morgause was more of a follower than a leader, even if she would have hated Uther Pendragon enough to make sure he paid for anything she could come up with to blame him for.

“Which is why she decided to kidnap my Aunt Lisa, and to use my great-grandfather as leverage.  I’m sure Morgause was quite disappointed when she found out that my aunt only had Morgana’s memories and not her power.”

Now Agravaine looked as if he’d sucked on something sour.  “We needed her, and she wasn’t what Morgause claimed.”

“So Morgause assaulted her.”

“It should have worked,” Agravaine argued.  “But she’s not Morgana…at least, not the Morgana I remember.”

“No, she isn’t.  I’m really surprised you hadn’t run into that already in your search for reincarnations to convert to your cause.”

There was a flicker of emotion across Agravaine’s face, and Phillip realised that yes, they had run into that before.  He wondered who that had been, and made a mental note to see if they could somehow find that out.  Maybe they could figure out just how that crystal works, and trace back who it was used on…

“Morgause doesn’t have any magic, either, and the crystal had already worked on her,” Agravaine went on.  “So we needed someone powerful to enchant…” He pursed his lips, eyes narrowing. 

Oh, that made sense.

The Dragon Slayer’s weapon needed to be recharged every time he used it.  The magic in it was inherently unstable.  The sorcerer that Morgause had kidnapped simply hadn’t had the power to make any sort of spell on it permanent.  Phillip did step up then, not knowing if Arthur had come to the same conclusion he had.

“So Morgana could enchant that knife the Dragon Slayer uses?” Phillip pressed.

And that hit the target, even though Agravaine didn’t confirm it out loud.  His expression was enough. 

“What made you think a dragon would even want to magic up something that would kill her own kind?”  Merlin demanded.  “Was Morgause even thinking past the fact that Lisa was Morgana?”

“Morgause was certain that Morgana would want revenge on the family that was stifling her,” Agravaine spat in disgust.  “She didn’t take into consideration that Morgana would want to be stifled.”

Arthur laughed in Agravaine’s face.

The prisoner turned an ugly shade of red at the mocking sound in that laughter.  His hands tightened on the bars, knuckles going white at the strain. “How dare you!” he snarled. 

“Oh, I dare,” Arthur snorted.  “Your grand plan was flawed from the moment you and Morgause decided to use Morgana in your scheme without knowing the circumstances of her life now.  You thought all you needed to do was approach her, and she’d gladly join your crusade based on what you knew from her before.  And you were wrong.”

Phillip had to admit, he found it amusing as well.  Lisa had long ago decided to divorce herself from Morgana Le Fay, and nothing anyone could say would have convinced her to change her mind.  He was so very proud of her for her decision not to let her past define her, and to become her own person without any of the baggage that Morgana had been carrying around with her for so long before her death at the battle of Camlann. 

But Morgause had unilaterally decided that she knew better, and now Lisa was struggling with a choice she shouldn’t have had to ever make.  But she had her family now, and they would all support her, no matter what.

Personally, Phillip thought she’d be brilliant, but at the same time he knew what she was going through.  His own magic had been forced on his as well, so he was in a unique position to advise her if she asked him to.

If this had been several hundred years ago, he would have told her how he’d felt about it: that he’d have done anything to get rid of the power that Loki had inadvertently transferred to him.  But now, he had perspective, and that perspective had come just last year: that the magic was now a part of him, and he would accept it as such and learn the finer art of control that he should have done a long time ago, instead of trying to stifle such an integral part of himself.

Now, if she asked, he could honestly say that he’d accepted who he was, and that he’d help her do the same thing, no matter what she chose to do.  He loved her as much as if she was one of his own children, and not just a sister he’d gained when he’d mated with Clint.  He wanted to be there for her in whatever way she needed him to.

“We want to know who the assassin is,” Arthur demanded.  “The Dragon Slayer.  We want to know who he is, and if you tell us we might be able to swing some comforts for you.  It won’t get you out of that cell, but it could make it easier for you to exist here.”

He moved a single step closer.  “Agravaine…Uncle…you once betrayed me.  You and Morgana.  I’ve forgiven her, now give me a reason to forgive you as well before your soul moves on and you forget this life.  This is your opportunity.  Don’t waste it.”

For a second, Phillip thought Arthur had him.  The expression on Agravaine’s face was almost a yearning, as if he really wanted to be forgiven for what he’d done in the life he now remembered.  Agravaine may have betrayed Arthur, but everything that had happened had been at Uther’s unwitting instigation.  Agravaine’s sister had died because Uther had so badly wanted an heir, and Arthur hadn’t been to blame.  He’d been an innocent, collateral damage in the quest for power and revenge.

Lisa had come to realise that. 

But then, Arthur’s plea was disregarded.

Agravaine stepped back.  “I don’t need your forgiveness.  What I’ve done, I did for the best of reasons and I stand by my actions.”

“Then you stand alone.”  Arthur’s voice went flat, which was a sure sign he was hurt by the rejection.  “Your HYDRA accomplices won’t come to your rescue.  You have no one.  You’ll die alone.” 

Phillip didn’t miss the slight flinch from Agravaine, but the man remained silent.

It looked as if he’d never learn the lesson that Lisa had.  It was a shame, really, but perhaps if given time to himself he might yet see what he’d done wrong.

“Let’s get out of here,” Merlin urged, putting a hand on Arthur’s shoulder. 

“Yeah,” his mate murmured.  “We’re done here.”  Then he once again addressed Agravaine.  “We won’t see each other again outside of an Imperial Court.  Goodbye, Agravaine.”

He turned on his heel and walked away.

Phillip felt pride and sorrow in equal measures as he and the others followed.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

1 February 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

New Wales

 

Skylar Coulson-Jones rubbed his eyes tiredly, then went back to carefully packing his costumes into their various trunks.

He hadn’t really been sleeping properly, not since his aunt had been killed.  It had seriously impacted his work, but the other members of his theatre group certainly understood his distraction.  Each and every one of his friends had come to him, letting him know that they were fine with him taking time off, while appreciating his willingness to stay through the run of their current production.  He’d stayed because he hadn’t wanted to leave them in the lurch, because they were already one person down – Jonas, who’d been killed on Euros during the Festival of the Masks, when HYDRA had planted their bombs in order to kill as many innocents as they could.  Being there was a tribute to Jonas, but at the same time Skylar understood that his friend would have been fine with him taking the time off to mourn, and to be with his family.

His friends knew about Aunt Sabrina being killed; however, he hadn’t explained about HYDRA to the rest of his troupe.  He hadn’t been given permission to, and if Skylar could do one thing it was keep a secret.  He was the son of Phillip Coulson-Jones, after all, and had been taught that particular skill from a very early age.  He would always do his best to make both of his fathers proud and this time that meant not sharing the existence of a terrorist organisation out there that also been behind the bombings on Euros.  The news had been filled with all sorts of theories, none of them remotely true, except for the ones that tied the bombing to the attempted abduction of Crown Prince Joshua.  That hadn’t actually been confirmed, but Skylar knew the truth.

He was also still there because he’d been raised to always honour his commitments, and Skylar had taken that particular lesson to heart.

Still, as much as he loved performing, he was glad the run was over and he could go home.  Skylar felt left out of the loop, when his family were all out there trying to track down the ones responsible for killing Aunt Sabrina, and for nearly killing Aunt Rowena and Uncle Henry.  At least he wasn’t alone; his Aunts Robyn and Alyce were with him, and while he knew he could trust his friends, it was his family he had to answer to.  And he knew the three of them would protect each other as best they could.

Sighing, Skylar finished his packing.  He and his aunts would be taking the shuttle up to the orbital station above New Wales in the morning and, from there, transmat to Hubworld.  He’d gotten a call from his Dad last night, requesting that they come there first before heading to Ddraig Llyn, and Skylar was more than happy to do so.  He knew it was just so his Dads could see for themselves that he was alright, and that was fine.  Honestly, Hubworld was more home than Ddraig Llyn, simply because he’d been raised there and despite the magic that tied him to Earth.

There was a knock at his dressing room door, and he called out for whoever it was to come in.  The door was flung open, and his rather exuberant and flamboyantly dressed Aunt Alyce trooped in, followed a bit more quietly by a sombrely dressed Aunt Robyn.  They were as different as they could be: one all blonde and tan, the other dark-haired and pale, but they’d been inseparable since they were children, and where one was, the other wasn’t far away.

They were also different in that Aunt Alyce couldn’t wait to gain her dragon form and fly, while Aunt Robyn didn’t like hers at all, and hated to fly.  Skylar didn’t understand it; he, himself, loved to fly, but he certainly wasn’t one to judge.  He could remember asking about it when he was younger, and his Grandtad telling him it had to do when Robyn had been put in her egg, but she wasn’t able to explain the crippling fear she experienced at the very idea of flying.  As far as Skylar was concerned, he’d love her no matter what, but was secretly glad he had no memories at all of his time before being released from his own egg.

“Are you about all done?” Aunt Alyce asked.  She reminded him of his Granddad Jack more than Grandtad Ianto, with her outgoing personality and taste in retro fashions. She even had a fancy coat, only in a lovely pink colour that she’d apparently nicked from one of the Doctor’s many wardrobes.  The Doctor hadn’t seemed to mind, saying that it looked as fetching on her as it had on his former companion, Romana. 

“Yep,” he answered, closing his last trunk and locking it.  The majority of his belongings would be shipped on when the group left, since he wouldn’t need them.  His personal effects were back in his room at the hostel the group had been staying at, although he didn’t use it and slept on the roof in his dragon form.

He was like his Grandtad in that regard.

Robyn would join him, bedtime the only time he ever got to see her true shape.  She was a gorgeous gold colour, and next to her Skylar felt almost frumpy in comparison, his indigo scales nothing special.

He didn’t understand why she disliked her true form so much, but he never said anything to her about it, knowing it was a touchy subject with her.

Skylar followed his aunts out of the room, shutting the door behind them.  He’d trust his things to get where they needed to, his group having fine-tuned the loading of their chosen transport down to a fine science in the time they’d been touring together. 

The theatre they’d been playing in wasn’t the largest on New Wales, nor was it the most prestigious.  Skylar’s troupe was really just starting out, and took whatever venues they could get.  He wasn’t about to trade on his family name in order to get them better auditoriums; they’d discussed it, and had decided they wanted to earn what they got, and they were beginning to get some good word-of-mouth now that they’d been at it a couple of years.

It was how his Aunt Morgan had started out.  She was so very proud of him for taking the performance route, and had been more than happy to give them advice on various business practices they’d need to be able to navigate if they wanted to get anywhere.

She hadn’t offered anything else but advice, and Skylar was glad of that.  He didn’t want to turn her down, because when he and his friends had decided to form their group it had been a consensus that they do this on their own. 

Even his Dads were proud of his and his group’s choices, although Skylar often wondered if his one Dad was just a little disappointed that he hadn’t chosen Torchwood as his profession.  His other Dad, though, was fond of telling him stories of performing in a circus during his first remembered life, before he’d gotten recruited into SHIELD.  Skylar often hung on those stories, sometimes poking his Dad for more even though he had to have heard them all several times already.

“I thought you might be hungry,” Robyn said, as they left the theatre from the rear door, “so I thought we could go to that place up the road.”

Skylar perked up.  “The one with the really good burgers?”

She laughed. “Yes, that’s the one.”

“It’s a good thing they’re familiar with dragon appetites,” Alyce joked.  “We’re obviously good for business.”

She slipped her arm through Skylar’s, and then reached out to grab Robyn’s hand.  The sidewalk was empty; it was pretty late, past midnight local time, the production having started after dark, and then of course Skylar had wanted to get everything packed up and ready for them to leave in the morning.  They were lucky the restaurant that Robyn had suggested was open all hours, or else Skylar might have had to go hungry.

Well, there were other places, but those burgers were his favourite.

The street was quiet, and it settled into Skylar’s bones like his internal flame.  As much as he enjoyed being on stage, there were times when he craved the peace of being by himself.  Sure, he was with his two aunts, but that was different.  They were content to let him be silent, and just soak in the quiet of an empty street and a clear night, stars glittering even through the ambient lights of the city around them.

Perhaps he’d go on a flight later on.  One last flight on an alien world before heading back to the familiar.  Yes, that sounded ideal.

Suddenly, someone left one of the buildings ahead, stepping onto the sidewalk and heading toward them.  It was a man, fairly non-descript, and Skylar was inclined to let him pass with a simple nod in greeting.

Skylar, who was on the side where the stranger would pass, untangled his arm from Alyce’s and then sped up a bit in order to get ahead and to give the man room to walk by.  The man seemed to tense slightly at his movement, and the young dragon frowned at it.  There wasn’t anything about him that would have caused it, that he could see.  He certainly hadn’t inherited his Dad’s resting murder face, and he hadn’t even attempted to develop his other Dad’s impressive blandness.

He shrugged it off.  Sometimes people were weird, and they’d pass each other in a few more steps anyway.

It was Alyce’s shout that warned him something was very wrong.

He turned around to glance at her, and that saved his life.

A sharp, horrible pain sliced across his side and along his back.

Skylar gasped as he jerked away from the source of the agony.  As he did so, he caught sight of the stranger, and the knife he was holding.  It was a long thing, gleaming in the light from the nearest lamppost, stained with blood.

His blood.

Skylar wanted to be sick, but he didn’t have the time.  He needed to get out of range, and make sure his aunts weren’t hurt. 

But that was taken out of his hands when his Aunt Alyce attacked.

She was fluid and grace, long pink coat swirling around her as she moved, striking out at their assailant using a variety of impressive manoeuvres that had her keeping well ahead of the slashing blade.   The man was having a bit of a hard time meeting her attacks, his own bulky and heavy-handed against the martial art expertise of Alyce Harkness-Jones.

Skylar had known that his aunt had learned how to fight.  As a member of the clan not yet with a dragon form, Alyce had decided that she’d need to know how to protect herself without the flame that the rest of the family could call upon.  So, she’d asked for lessons, and Skylar’s Dad had been more than happy to teach her.  Clint Jones was good at that sort of thing, not having had his own dragon form for almost 1,700 years, and Aunt Alyce had been a very eager student. 

As he slumped against the wall Skylar watched, amazed, as Aunt Alyce took a running leap up the lamppost, feet sure against the metal, and then aimed herself back downward, converting her momentum into a punch that had the man dropping the knife and going down on his arse.

However, he flipped himself back onto his feet and squared off again, this time managing to keep up with Alyce’s fists and feet.

A lucky blow had Aunt Alyce slamming into the post, and that was when Aunt Robyn got into the game.

A sudden roar echoed down the deserted street as she took on her dragon form.

Golden scales glittered brightly as Aunt Robyn darted forward in an almost serpent-like fashion, her jaws nearly catching their attacker as she snapped at him, hissing in sheer fury.  She was smaller than any of the others in the family, with the exception of baby Daisy, but that didn’t mean she was any less intimidating.

Faced with overwhelming odds, the assailant teleported away.

“Coward!” Robyn roared in challenge.  Then she turned her attention to Alyce.  “Are you alright?”

“Yes,” Alyce answered, a little breathless.  “But he got a hit on Skylar.”

To be honest, Skylar had been so amazed by his aunt’s kicking arse that he’d forgotten that he’d been stabbed.  As soon as he remembered, the pain came crashing back, and he made his own hiss as he slid one shoulder down the wall, until he was seated on the ground.

Alyce knelt beside him, leaning him forward to get a better look at the damage.  Skylar sucked in a breath at the movement, pain lancing down his side.  “Damn, this looks bad.”

“It feels bad.”  He’d never felt anything like it before.  He couldn’t quite help the tears that squeezed out from under his eyelids.

Skylar wanted to be stoic about being wounded by the man he was certain had killed his Aunt Sabrina and had hurt Aunt Rowena and Uncle Henry.  He wanted to be as brave and amazing as his namesake, especially after having met her on Euros and had seen her do her best to help people using her powers.  He wanted to think she’d be proud of him, even though she was long ago dead.

But he couldn’t help crying as he sat there, cursing himself internally for being weak.

“Guys,” Robyn’s voice broke through his pathetic blubbering.

She was looking at something on the ground. 

The knife was a little duller than it had been, and Skylar barely resisted the impulse to hiss at it.  Instead, he gasped, “Make sure that gets back to Hubworld.  Dads will want to have a look at it.”

Hopefully, this meant they’d managed to de-weapon the Dragon Slayer.  Maybe, they wouldn’t have to worry about him coming after one of their own again. 

Robyn’s roar had drawn attention, and it wasn’t too long before Skylar was being hauled away in an emergency vehicle, Alyce explaining about his dragon form and how he was going to need to be taken somewhere he could shift.  He could hear Robyn rumbling in the background as they got him settled, ordering someone to get a containment case for the knife, and that she would personally take control of it and make certain it got back to Torchwood.

Then, it struck Skylar that his Aunt Robyn had changed into a dragon…for him.  She’d done the one thing she didn’t like to do, because he and Alyce needed protecting.

He was going to give her the biggest hug ever.

As soon as he was able to, of course.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

1 February 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Ddraig Llyn

 

“…and Aunt Alyce kicked arse,” Skylar enthused as Clint bustled around him, getting him settled into the nest that had been made for the young dragon in one of the guest rooms at the former Green Dragon Inn.  “But Aunt Robyn actually changed into her dragon form, which was a really big deal, but she’s really beautiful and I wish she didn’t hate it so much…”

Ianto smiled warmly, despite his own internal fury, at his grandson’s carrying on as he explained what had happened on New Wales in what sounded like one huge run-on sentence.  He knew Skylar was on some fairly strong painkillers; the young dragon had insisted on staying in his human form until they’d been able to transmat to Ddraig Llyn, and that had strained him enough that he hadn’t objected one bit to being medicated so heavily. 

The aforementioned aunts were standing together, Alyce shaking her head fondly while Robyn blushed at Skylar’s rambling, yet effusive, praise.  Ianto knew his daughters, and understood just what his words were doing to them.

For Alyce, they were a reminder that she’d done the right thing when she’d asked Clint to teach her self-defence and what his eldest referred to his ‘Circus Parkour’.  Alyce hadn’t wanted to feel helpless surrounded by family with full dragon forms, and she’d taken to the lessons with a passion that was only surpassed by her natural fluidity and grace.  Ianto could tell that Clint was pleased by what his son was saying about Alyce’s skills, even if he was hiding the fact that he was very much bothered by the fact that his son had been hurt at all.

But for Robyn, the words held a completely different meaning.  Being told that her natural form was ‘beautiful’ was embarrassing to her, especially because Skylar was right: Robyn didn’t care at all to wear her dragon body.  The fact that she’d changed in defence of her nephew was a sign of how much Skylar meant to her, that she was willing to set aside her distaste in order to fend off the attacker who’d been determined to strike against them when they hadn’t been expecting it. 

And Skylar was right: Robyn’s dragon form was quite beautiful, and Ianto hoped that, one day, she’d accept that part of herself. 

He and Jack had no idea why Robyn felt the way she did, and she couldn’t explain it.  Perhaps it was something that occurred when she’d been too young to remember, only leaving a mental scar that had yet to heal.  He could only wish that she’d come to realise just how special she was, and until that day they would continue to support her as best they could.

“Skylar, I don’t think I’ve heard you say this much when not on stage,” Nathan teased lightly.  His eyes didn’t hide his worry, or the low-banked anger that he was feeling.

It matched exactly how Ianto felt in that moment.  That, whoever this Dragon Slayer was, would strike against a child.  The only reasons Skylar escaped with only the slash he’d received was a combination of dumb luck and the fact that they’d determined that no one was going to walk around unaccompanied until this assassin was stopped.  If Skylar had been by himself…no, Ianto didn’t want to consider that.

“But Nathan,” Skylar whined, “it was amazing!  My male pride doesn’t even hurt, because our aunts are so wonderful and bad arse and they saved me!  I’m not at all embarrassed that I got taken out almost immediately!”

“You better not have any of that sort of male pride,” his Dad chided lightly, fluffing up a couple of pillows.  Ianto knew it was simply busy work, and a need to stay by his son’s side.  “Me and your Dad have taught you better than that.”

Skylar stuck his tongue out at Clint, which was something he wouldn’t have ordinarily done, as he’d been taught to respect his parents.  “That’s not what I meant, Dad!”

“I’m not sure you know what you mean right now,” Clint chuckled.  Ianto thought he was doing a pretty good job at hiding just how much sheer anger he was feeling at the sight of his son, hurt.

“Nope,” Skylar confided, resting his head on his outstretched arm.  The bandage around his side and back gleamed against the dusky blue-purple of his scales.  The knife would have struck true if Skylar hadn’t unconsciously moved out of the way the split second before the attack.  “I should probably sleep now, but I wanna wait til Dad gets here…”

“Your Dad’s going to be awhile,” Clint said.  “Maybe you should sleep so you’ll be able to stay awake for when he gets here.”

Phillip was on Hubworld.  Even though he was officially on leave, that didn’t mean he wasn’t afraid to use Torchwood resources for certain things, and one of those was the knife that the killer had dropped in the fight with Alyce and Robyn.

That knife being left behind had been a stroke of luck.  It was the first clue they had on the identity of the Dragon Slayer, and Phillip was determined to get as much information from it as he could.  To that end, he was shamelessly co-opting Torchwood scientists to glean everything they could from the weapon.  It didn’t hurt that Melinda completely agreed with the co-opting.

Merlin had been called in to do the magical forensics on the blade, while the formidable team of FitzSimmons had volunteered to follow up with the science aspect.  They’d been joined by Owen, Suzie, and Diane, and together the six of them had formed their own, unofficial, thinktank on the subject of magical blades.  Arthur had been bemused when he’d been dragged in as well, because he simply didn’t have the background any of the others had, but Jemma had pointed out that he’d been carrying around the most famous magical blade of all for centuries, and that gave him a perspective that might actually help them figure things out faster.

Nicole was feeling a bit left out, but she and Rory had been tasked with helping Lisa with her new magic, and Nathan was there as emotional support.  Lisa was having a particularly hard time of it; however, this was also something that Phillip could help with, as he was the expert on suddenly getting unwanted magical abilities and how not to handle it.

“Maybe you’re right,” Skylar conceded.  He let out one large yawn, grunting a little when the deep breath made pain flash through the haze of drugs, and he was immediately asleep.

“Now that doesn’t surprise me,” Ianto said.

“What surprises me is that he lasted this long,” Clint replied.  He reached out and stroked along his child’s snout gently.  “We have to catch this bastard, Tad.”

“We will.”  Ianto tried to put as much conviction into his voice as possible, which wasn’t all that hard, really.  They were one step closer, and were just waiting for the lead that would send them onto the next stage of their investigation.  “Let’s leave Skylar to sleep.”

He chivvied them all out of the room, Clint moving very reluctantly, and into the hallway.  It was a lucky thing that Skylar had been so insistent on staying in human form until he got home, or else they would have had to send a ship for him, and he wouldn’t be home now.

Ianto had considered putting him in the house they’d gotten ready for Rowena, but changed his mind as soon as he saw his grandson appear on the family transmat.  He’d hustled the youngster, along with his ‘bodyguards’, into the first room available and then ordered Skylar to change shape immediately.

Gareth had been ready and waiting to check on the work done by the doctors on New Wales, pronouncing it half-arsed and slapdash and then making his own changes once Skylar was settled into the nest and in his true shape.  Gareth was confident it would be about another three weeks before the young dragon could take on his human form once more with any sort of comfort, so until that time he was going to be housebound.

For such a young dragon, that in itself was going to be torture.

Then Gareth had left them, to go and check on Rowena.  She, Henry, and their family had arrived yesterday late, after Anwyn had gone to pick them up once they were all back from Avalon.  It had taken quite a bit of work to get her transferred home, and into the house that had been prepared for them, but it had finally been done and Rowena was as comfortable as she could be. 

Now, all Ianto needed was for Morgan and James to be there as well, but then they were most likely the safest of everyone, being surrounded by security and their bandmates.  Still, they’d thought Skylar would be fine with his theatre group, and yet he’d been caught out with only Robyn and Alyce for protection.  Of course, they’d turned out to be enough, so perhaps Ianto needed to settle his nerves down.

Maybe he needed to get his mind onto another subject. 

He stopped at the top of the stairs, chewing his lip thoughtfully.  What he really wanted to talk about had been playing at the back of his mind ever since he and Jack had visited the Empress, and perhaps in their downtime he should get some feedback?

“What is it, Tad?” Alyce asked worriedly. 

All three of his children were waiting on him to say something, but Ianto didn’t want to talk about it, standing there in the hallway.  “Let’s go down to the kitchen and I’ll put the coffee on,” he suggested.  “Because I’d like to get your opinions on something, and this might not be the perfect time for it, but I might as well and it will get our minds off Skylar for a bit.”

That evasion had Clint and Robyn glancing at each other, and Alyce had her eyes on him, as if she could look into his very brain and pull out his thoughts. 

“Coffee sounds good to me,” Clint agreed.  “And maybe biscuits?”

Ianto laughed at his pleading expression.  His eldest son had always had a bit of a sweet tooth.  He took after Jack that way. “I’m quite certain something along those lines were stocked as well.”

Heading down the stairs, the dragon wondered if he should have talked to Jack first about this; however, his mate was currently with Rowena, Henry, and their children, and Ianto didn’t want to bother him just yet.  To be honest, what he was thinking would affect him and their adopted children more than the rest of the family, and at least Robyn needed to have some sort of say.

Clint’s thoughts were as steady as his aim, and his insight would be invaluable.  Alyce was more like her Dad, but that would only give him yet another perspective on things.

He would have preferred to have someone on the magical side of the family there, as well, but they were all on Hubworld at the moment.  He certainly would have to speak to either Merlin, Nicole, or Rory at some point, to see if his ideas were even feasible.

However, these three children would do very well at the moment.  At least he could get some more opinions on what had been humming along at the back of his mind for the last couple of days.

 

**********

 

Ianto had the coffee perking along in no time, while Clint rummaged through the cabinets for snacks.  It turned out there were several types of biscuits available, which wasn’t a surprise considering how much his family – especially Jack – adored sweets, and as Ianto poured mugs his eldest son arranged some on a plate to share.

“So,” Alyce said as he served the coffee, “what’s up?”

They all stood around the large kitchen island and Ianto met the eyes of each of his children.  “It’s something that the Empress asked when I and your Dad were on Throneworld the last time, and it was actually reiterated when we’d gone back to report about Avalon.”  He and Jack hadn’t been there long, and they’d primarily talked to Steve, as Danielle was busy, but the Grand Master had enquired if they’d given it any thought.  While he didn’t know about Jack, Ianto had, but as far as he could tell the hurdles were near-insurmountable.

Which was why he was going to ask his children’s opinions.

“Her Imperial Majesty asked if we’d ever considered having our own homeworld, since we’re recognised as our own, sovereign race.”

That pronouncement earned him three considering looks.

“Well,” Clint was the first one to speak, after taking several sips of his coffee and two biscuits from the plate, “you have to admit, she has a point.”

“I think it’s telling that we all think of Ddraig Llyn as home, but not Earth,” Alyce added.

Robyn was chewing her lip.  “But we can’t be gone from Earth that long,” she protested.  “Well, me and the others that aren’t Star Dragons.” 

“Now wait a second,” Clint exclaimed.  “You’re every bit as much a Star Dragon as I am – “

“But I’m not,” Robyn denied.  “Neither are James and William and Oswyn and Lisa and Skylar and Erik and Abraham and Jocelyn and Bronwyn and Carys.  Neither are the others that haven’t been brought out of their eggs yet.  We’re all tied to this planet, just as much as Tad is.  If we do decide on a new planet, just for our family, those of us who are Earth-bound will still have to come back here after six hundred years.”

Ianto nodded, understanding what she was saying.  It was true; he’d learned that for himself, back when he and Jack had lived on Hubworld full-time and had given up Ddraig Llyn for Torchwood. 

“Plus, Dad can’t change into a dragon form outside of here,” Alyce added.  “I can’t see him wanting to give that up.”

“The rest of us have non-dragon mates,” Clint said to her.  “Do you think a dragon form matters that much to Dad, if it means he can spend eternity with Tad?”

“But Tad owns Ddraig Llyn outright,” Robyn put in.  “He has for millennia.  And it was his home for even longer.”

“I was born here,” Ianto said. 

“Yes, you were, but you still moved to Hubworld when Torchwood called you to,” Clint pointed out.

“Well, our circumstances were a bit different.  Your Dad and I were very much Torchwood at the time, and we needed a more central location in which to build things up.  And, to be honest, we really weren’t given much of a choice at the time.  The nascent Human Empire needed Torchwood to be more than what we’d been, and that meant taking Torchwood to the stars.  But, once we fully retired, we came back here.”

“But you had to, Tad, because you’re tied to the Earth.”  His eldest son shrugged.  “Those of us born to you and Dad don’t have that compulsion to return.  Hells, me and Cadi were the ones to prove that.”

That had been when Clint – who’d been Franklin back then – had felt the need to stay away from the family in order to hide the fact that he was actually the reincarnation of Clint Barton, ex-Avenger and Torchwood operative from their original London team.  There’d been the risk that they’d discover his secret before it was time, which had led their eldest son to become a vagabond until he could finally come home for good.

As for Cadi…well, she much preferred living on her spaceship.  She had a worst case of wanderlust than even the Doctor could lay claim to, in Ianto’s opinion.

Alyce took a sip of her own coffee.  “I think it’s a good idea, personally, to have our own world.  But we’d have to consider our siblings and the ones who haven’t been brought into the family yet.  There are also the Great Dragons, because we can’t leave them here.  You might have done it once before, Tad, but I know you’d never do it again.”

Ianto nodded.  “Also, back when we left for Hubworld the first time there were still people here.  So the Great Dragons weren’t alone until much later, and magic was so low at that point it was hard for them to manifest.  Still, you’re right, Alyce…there would be no way I’d abandon the Great Dragons again.”

“Maybe you should speak to them about this,” Clint suggested. 

“Or maybe one of the magical members of our family,” Robyn added.  “There could be a way to transplant them somewhere else.”

“And what about medicines or something to combat the withdrawal symptoms?” Alyce asked.  “It’s all about imbalance in the hormones, right Tad?”

“That’s a little simplistic, but close enough.” He could still recall how ill he’d felt when it had begun to set in. 

Clint nibbled on another biscuit, and Ianto would have chided him about ruining his dinner except he very well knew what a dragon’s appetite was like.  “There are a lot of logistical issues with packing up everyone and moving to an entirely new planet.” He gestured with the half-eaten biscuit.  “It would most likely take years to plan, let alone accomplish, even if we could figure out ways around the obvious blocks against such a move.  That doesn’t even include any sort of terraforming that might need to be done.”

Ianto listened as the three of them brainstormed things, mentally filing away what his children were saying.  Each one of them had valid points, and Clint was correct: it would most likely take years to get things settled, and that was even if they could somehow figure out a way to disconnect not only the Great Dragons but himself and the egg-borne children who didn’t have the advantage of being Star Dragons from the planet of their birth. 

“I do plan on bringing this up at a family meeting in the near future,” the dragon said, “but I do want things to calm down a little before I actually do it.  To be honest, I haven’t even really brought up the subject with your Dad…”

Alyce choked on her biscuit.  “He’s not going to appreciate that, Tad,” she was finally able to say past the coughing.

Ianto didn’t think that really needed to be said.

“But I do want to start at least considering the notion, and what would actually have to go into it.  That also includes us actually finding a planet that would suit our needs.”

“This is gonna need a lot of magic,” Robyn sighed.  “An awful lot of magic.  It would be best if this hypothetical world already had an abundance of it.”

“And that’s what this is…hypothetical.  However, as we break more of the eggs and our family expands, eventually Ddraig Llyn might not be large enough for the entire clan.”

“That’s true, Tad,” Alyce agreed.  Then she smiled.  “Can you imagine it?  All of us, with a new world to explore and a new sky to fly in?” She looked wistful.  “I’m really looking forward to getting my dragon form.”

“You can have mine,” Robyn volunteered.

“Nope, you’re gonna need yours someday, when you finally realise there’s nothing wrong with it and want to fly.”  Her sister sounded absolutely positive that it would happen one day, and Ianto reached out to hug her for saying it.

“Skylar’s right, you know,” her older brother said, “your dragon form is gorgeous. I understand you don’t care for it, but maybe if we tell you enough you might actually start to believe it.”

Robyn shrugged, patently embarrassed by the attention she was getting.  “I just couldn’t let anyone hurt him.”

“And I love you for it.”  Clint wrapped both his arms around her, hugging her fiercely. 

She was blushing.  “And how did us discussing a possible dragon homeworld become the subject of my dislike for my dragon form?”

Ianto gave her a fond smile.  He couldn’t really understand it himself, but he had to respect the fear she obviously felt for her true nature.   Nathan hadn’t felt comfortable with his other shape, either, and it had taken Carys becoming a part of the family for him to accept that yes, there were all different sorts of dragons.  Nathan, though, hadn’t been like Robyn, and he could only hope that, one day, she’d have the same sort of epiphany that his grandson had had.

“In the meantime,” he said, getting them back to the subject at hand, “be thinking about it.  And this isn’t a secret, so sharing isn’t out of the question.”  He waggled his finger at the three of them, and Clint gave him an unabashed smile.  There was no way he was going to keep such a thing from Phillip, and Ianto wouldn’t have wanted him to anyway.  “I’ll talk to your Dad as well, and get his opinion.  And, who knows?  We might decide to stay where we are, even if we could leap the physical, magical, and logistic hurdles such a move would cause.” 

“Tad,” Alyce said, almost innocently, “how many biscuits have you had?”

Ianto glanced down at his hand, where a half-eaten chocolate biscuit was on its way back to his mouth.  He shrugged; he hadn’t even noticed he’d been munching on them.

All three of his children were grinning at him happily.  “It’s about time you ate something,” Clint exclaimed.  “Dad’s been really worried.”

Ianto could feel himself blushing.  He hadn’t realised that his lack of appetite had been that obvious.  Certainly, Jack had noticed, but it appeared that everyone else had, as well.  “I ate yesterday,” he said, “when we got back from Avalon.”

“Did Dad see it?” Alyce demanded.

He let her have a single eyebrow raise for thinking he was lying about it.

His daughter raised her hands in surrender, laughing.  “Alright!  I’m sorry!  Please put the eyebrow away.”

Ianto shook his head, chuckling.  He might have not felt much like eating lately, but he was getting better, now that they’d made some headway against HYDRA.  The Dragon Slayer was still out there, but they’d find him, as well, and take him out of the equation.  They’d already gotten a hold of his primary weapon, and unless HYDRA had more magic users in their midst chances were he wouldn’t be able to replace it.

They’d taken the battle against HYDRA.  Now, they had to win the war.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

1 February 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Gliese 581g

Hubworld

Epilogue One – River Song

 

“I thought I might find you here.”

River stepped into the TARDIS, watching as her husband did something at the console that had the time machine’s lights dimming slightly, then coming back up to regular strength.  He’d been in and out of her since they’d come back from Avalon, but this was the first time she’d actually caught him at a time when they were alone.

The Doctor didn’t say anything…well, not to her.  He was muttering something that had to have been aimed at the TARDIS, and she caught individual words, “Wrong”, and “Strange”, and a couple of curse words that River wasn’t aware of him even knowing. 

She frowned.  Something was up, something that he wasn’t sharing.

Well, the Doctor could be a secretive bastard. She’d known that from the moment she’d met him.  He had secrets within secrets, and no one would ever understand even a third of what he did.  River would never hope to know everything about him, and his ability to be inscrutable and mysterious was both sexy and irritating, and she wouldn’t have him any other way.

River closed the door behind her, making certain it was locked against anyone coming inside.  She needed to speak to him, and she couldn’t take a chance that someone would interrupt them. 

If she could manage to pin him down, of course.  When he was this distracted that could prove to be impossible.

Striding up to him, River rested her hip against the console, crossing her arms over her chest and keeping her gaze on him.  The Doctor was doing his best to ignore her, but she could tell she had at least a part of his attention.

“He asked,” she opened with. 

The Doctor’s hands stopped their seemingly random movements along the TARDIS controls, but he didn’t look away from them.  “Who asked what?” he murmured absently. 

Then his fingers began to twitch as they rested, splayed, over the bank of switches and levers he’d been working at, which was the largest sign of distress River had seen in a long time.  He knew exactly what she was talking about, and was giving her a chance to deny what he’d guessed.

Still, she couldn’t indulge him.  “Merlin asked me what it was like being dead.”

That ceased even the smallest of twitches.  The Doctor was unnaturally still, and it bothered her.  Her husband was all frenetic movement and bright sound, and this wasn’t right.

But there wasn’t a thing she could do about it.  He had to know.

“What did you tell him?” The question was whispered, as if the Doctor was afraid she’d hear it.

“I told him that I didn’t see anything.  That it was like I’d been asleep, and then woke up.”

The Doctor’s shoulders, which had been stiff, suddenly slumped, and he seemed so much smaller than he usually did.  “That…that’s for the best, don’t you think?”

River actually rolled her eyes at him.  “If I didn’t think it was for the best, I wouldn’t have said it.” 

“I know it was hard to lie to him – “

“Not as hard as telling him the truth would be.”

Because River remembered.

She’d died, and her soul had moved on.

There had been a life after this one, where she didn’t recall that she’d been River Song, archaeologist and wife to the Last Time Lord, and mother to the greatest Wizard of the age.  She’d had a family, and children, and a house and job and had been exquisitely happy. 

She also remembered the call of the magic, pulling her back to her dead body, to awaken in the Library where she’d died to save thousands. 

It had killed that reincarnation of her.

Out there, somewhere, was a family that was mourning her as much as the Doctor and Merlin had mourned her after the Library.

And River remembered that life.

A part of her wanted to find them.  To let them know she was alright.  But she couldn’t.  It would be far too painful for them, to see her as she was now, changed beyond recognition to them.  They wouldn’t understand how their husband and father had been killed by a young man who’d been put into a near-impossible situation and had used dark magic to call his mother’s soul back to her long-dead body and robbing them of their own loved one.  Reincarnation would make no sense to them.

Still, she couldn’t hate Merlin for it.  River loved her son fiercely, and her husband.  She wanted to be there. 

And she was willing to lie to him in order to protect him. 

She’d confided in the Doctor.  She’d had to.  But he’d already suspected that there would be consequences to what Merlin had done, and together they’d sworn to protect their son from any repercussions caused from what he’d had to do.

“What about Phillip?” she asked. 

It hadn’t escaped her attention that the Doctor was doing an awful lot of hovering around Torchwood’s Director.  Phillip had gotten quite the infusion of dark magic, and had nearly died from it affecting his own.  He’d recovered, and while everyone else seemed to think that would be the end of it the Doctor wasn’t so certain. 

Neither was River.  But she didn’t know Phillip well enough to recognise any changes in him that might have been contributable to that magical overload.

The Doctor sighed.  “He seems…fine.  Although I’ve noticed that his control has become a lot better than it was before the…contamination.  There’s acceptance as well, which isn’t quite in character since he’s always hated that part of himself, but I haven’t seen anything yet that makes me worried for him.”

His eyes then met hers, and she could see just who he was worried about.

River gave him a small, sincere, smile.  “I told Merlin, and I’ll tell you: I’ve always been aware of my own internal darkness.  I think that puts me well ahead of the game in recognising my personal foibles where that’s concerned.”

She really wasn’t worried about it.  If losing the family she’d gained when she’d reincarnated hadn’t tipped her over the edge into supervillainy, then she very much doubted it would happen at all.

She might be wrong, but she didn’t think so.

Then her eyes narrowed as something occurred to her.  “There’s something else up, isn’t there?  Not just me and Phillip and Merlin…something else is going on, and you’re hiding it.”

“I’m not hiding it,” he muttered, his gaze leaving hers in order to look down at his still hands once more.  His fingers fluttered once, as if caressing the console, and it suddenly came to River just what else he was worried about.

“You don’t think…”  She couldn’t finish it.

“I don’t know what to think,” he admitted quietly.  “All I know is the TARDIS’ presence is suddenly that much stronger.  Sometimes, I think I can actually hear her speaking, instead of just getting impressions of what she wants to communicate to me.  At first, I wasn’t too worried about it.  In fact, I was enjoying it because I’ve always wished to be able to talk with her again.”

River nodded in response to that.  She knew the story about the TARDIS becoming a physical woman, and how the Doctor had reacted.  She’d long ago come to realise that he would love the TARDIS more than he ever would River herself, and she was fine with that.  After all, River was really only a blip in time for him, while the TARDIS would be with him until his last breath. 

“You think she absorbed some of the magic as well.”

It made sense.  The TARDIS had been there on the scene of Merlin’s attempt to stop Lucy Cole from using all that death magic.  Merlin hadn’t been able to contain it all, sending some into Phillip, and River had thought the rest of it had gone into her own resurrection.

Perhaps it hadn’t, after all.

“I do.”

“What would that do to her?”

He shrugged fatalistically.  “I have no idea.  The Time Lords were, on the whole, an unmagical lot; at least, after the Dark Time we were.  We were all into science first, and magic didn’t have a place anymore.  Yes, we were aware of it, but we couldn’t do anything with it no matter how hard we tried…and believe me, some did.” River got the feeling that hadn’t turned out all that well for the Time Lords involved.  “So, I really don’t know what that sort of magical infusion would do to the TARDIS.  It might not cause any sort of issues.  Or it might end up doing more than even I can guess.”

River let her own mind drift free, hoping to catch a hint of what the Doctor had been sensing from the time machine.  She ordinarily didn’t do that sort of thing; she wasn’t empathic in that way, and communicating with the TARDIS tended to give her a headache. 

But it was there. 

The ever-present sense of life and light was stronger.  She could hear the tinkling chime of female laughter in her head, and a caress that was of pure joy and acceptance.  The TARDIS recognised her as her Time Lord’s mate, and loved her in an equal measure, if in a different way.

It made River want to cry.

She wondered if Jack had felt it yet, since he’d always had such a close connection with the TARDIS. Certainly, he would have said something if he had?  Jack’s love for the TARDIS was on par with how he felt about his family.  If he’d felt this increase in the TARDIS’ presence he would have commented on it.

But then, Jack hadn’t been on board the TARDIS since the Library.  Perhaps he just hadn’t been close enough to feel it?

Maybe that was for the best, if the Doctor was that concerned about it.

She knew what losing the TARDIS would do to him.  If her death had been like ripping out one of his hearts, then the death of the TARDIS would mean his death as well.  It might not have been a physical death, but he most certainly wouldn’t have been the Doctor anymore.

He’d come close several times to doing just that.  River didn’t want to imagine her husband if it had happened permanently.

In her head, she could actually hear the TARDIS swearing that she would never leave him purposely.  But there was a note of sadness in that reassurance, as if the time machine knew she couldn’t promise it would ever happen.  Things beyond her control could very easily steal her away, and she knew it.

Still, River accepted it, even as she was making the same vow.

The Doctor was theirs.  To love and to support for as long as they had with him.  However, they couldn’t protect him.  They could help him protect others, but when it came to the man they both cared for they would never stand in his way of helping innocents.  And, if that meant his final death, then they would have to accept it.

In the TARDIS’ case, that would mean dying with him.

“Are you both plotting something?” he asked playfully, breaking River’s mind away from the TARDIS’. “Because you’d better include me in any plots the pair of you get up to.”

“We just came to an understanding,” River answered, returning his playfulness with flirting.  She reached out, tugging on his bow tie – a really nice black and white checked pattern today – to loosen it from around his neck.  “Like how she’s going to make sure we aren’t disturbed for a bit.”

She understood that she couldn’t distract him for long, but she needed to get him out of his own head for a bit.  And out of that awful black coat.  She’d be glad when he went back to that nice purple one, it suited him so much better.

One side of the Doctor’s mouth curved upward in a smirk.  “Oh, Professor Song…are you trying to seduce me?”

“It’s not trying if it actually works.”

It wasn’t what she’d come in to talk to him about, but it would do.  She would be a distraction from his heavy thoughts, and he would remind her what it was like to be with this family, instead of the one she’d left behind, through no fault of her own.

The Doctor would be her anchor, just as she would be his escape.

And River Song wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

1 February 5193 (Earth Standard Date)

Unknown Location

Epilogue Two – Hail HYDRA

 

“Sir Guy.”

Sir Guy de Marigny, the man who’d given himself the title Dragon Slayer, bowed slightly before remembering he didn’t have to do that sort of thing anymore.  He did it anyway, out of a sense of respect.

He wasn’t the sort of person to know true fear, but he certainly felt it now, standing there in front of the man he’d sworn his allegiance to right after he’d regained the memories of his earlier life.  It had seemed like a second chance, to do his duty and to get revenge on the dragon who had been responsible for the deaths of his shield mates, back in an open field in what would someday become Wales.

They thought they’d killed the dragon family in a perfectly timed ambush, but they’d been too cocky.  And they’d all paid the ultimate price with their lives.

He was convinced that failure had been the reason he hadn’t gone onto Heaven when he’d died.  That God had looked down upon him and his companions-in-arms and had deemed them unworthy of the Lord’s Eternal Kingdom.  This had been his chance to show God himself that he was, indeed, worthy of a place near the Throne of Heaven, at the right hand of God when Armageddon came to the mortal realms.

But his second chance wasn’t going well at all. 

Yes, he’d managed to slay one dragon, but the other two he’d targeted had managed to survive.  And the boy’s companions had gotten his only weapon, the holy knife.  But he hadn’t realised that one of the girls had also been a dragon, a large golden beast, and it had startled him enough that he’d had to flee.  His information hadn’t seemed to have included that little detail or else he would have been more prepared.

Now, he had to explain his failure and beg another chance.

“I am sorry, My Lord,” he began.

“Save it.  I don’t want excuses.  You had one task: to take out the dragons.  And while you managed to get one, the others that you struck against are still living.  HYDRA doesn’t tolerate failure, Sir Guy.  Don’t think you’re immune to my displeasure.”

“I would never think that, My Lord,” he scrambled to reassure the man

“No of course you wouldn’t.” 

The words were slightly mocking, but Sir Guy didn’t dare gainsay him.

The man turned to regard him.  Sir Guy had known, from the moment he’d come back to himself and met the one who’d set him on his path, that his lord wasn’t one to cross. 

He wasn’t a handsome man, but he had a confidence in his own abilities that went beyond the normal, and a silence in him that was almost terrifying.  Sir Guy thought he must have been some sort of important dignitary, although he hadn’t asked out of respect…and not a little fear.  It galled him to admit that he was afraid; however, this new time he’d found himself in lent itself to inducing that within him, a battle-tested Knight of Christ who had never shirked from his duty.

In this new century, his duty was all he truly had left.

His Lord’s eyes were dark, and promised retribution for any sort of disappointment.  He might not have worn royal robes, but there was something in his bearing that communicated that he could, if he so chose, and it not be such a ridiculous idea.  This man had been born to rule, and he wore that knowledge in every single thing he did or said, righteousness in his actions and words. 

Sir Guy was proud to follow him.  Had been proud to swear himself to his Lord’s service, and to be given what he needed to perform the tasks that had been set out for him.

“You swore to me you could do this,” his lord said, voice as calm as if he was discussing the weather, and not reminding Sir Guy of his failures.  “And you began in a very promising way.  You even completed the assignment given to implicate Uther Pendragon to Torchwood as a cost for his own failure to HYDRA.”

Sir Guy flinched slightly at that, pulling a little at the burn along his side that he’d received from yet another dragon who had kept him from his goal.  He would have succeeded in slaying the female if he hadn’t been interrupted.  He’d managed to kill the damned one who’d taken such a creature as his mate, but he hadn’t been told that the man had been immortal until he’d already struck and the demon-cursed one had vanished on the very point of his blade.

He hadn’t known that Derek Anthony had been the reincarnation of Uther Pendragon.  He’d heard the legends of Camelot as a child, and Uther had done the world a great service by attempting to wipe magic away from his lands, and so felt a little guilty about making certain the former King would be taken into Torchwood’s custody.  But that was the price one had to pay when one failed HYDRA. 

He’d been shocked to learn that the Once and Future King had, himself, reincarnated as one of the foul creatures he’d sworn to defeat.  And he was mated to a man, as well.

This future was full of abominations.   And this man had promised that HYDRA would wipe those abominations away in the fire of the new Crusade.

“But you failed on the Moon.  And you failed on New Wales, losing your only weapon in the process, a weapon we cannot now replace, thanks to Torchwood.  That cannot be allowed to pass without punishment.”

Sir Guy understood.  He stood at attention, awaiting his Lord’s judgment, knowing that any sort of defence of his actions would fall on deaf ears.  He hadn’t known the holy knife had been the only one of its kind, but that made sense, as it was a divine thing. 

“However, I will give you one more chance,” his Lord pronounced.  “You’ll need to make do with a normal weapon this time…”

That was fine.  After all, Sir Guy had slain dragons before with just the sword in his hand, a sword that had been tempered in war.  He knew where to strike, and he would do as his Lord bid.

“What is my next target?” he asked eagerly, needing to get back into his Lord’s good graces once more.

“You will kill the beast that killed you, in your first life.  You will destroy Ianto Jones…the Torchwood Dragon.  And HYDRA will bring him to you.”

 

 

fin