Remus’s palms had been sweating since they passed through the security checkpoint. It was too easy, he thought, for them to be able to just bloody walk into the Ministry. Then again, he told himself, for all they knew he was Nicholas Flamel, inventor of the Philosopher’s Stone and as old as the very earth beneath their feet. He sighed to himself, wishing he had paid more attention in History of Magic. He could only remember eleven of the twelve uses of dragon’s blood; he had a distinct feeling everything would go tits up were he quizzed on them.
On his right, Peter was nervously staring between the Unspeakables escorting them to a secure vault deep inside the bowels of the Department of Mysteries. Remus discretely laid a hand on his shoulder as they rounded a corner and gave it a reassuring squeeze. On his other side, Dumbledore was chatting about the Harpies latest match with one of their escorts.
“—in the running for the Cup, last I heard,” the guard said proudly, smiling at them. “My daughter couldn’t be happier. She’s a huge fan. Wants to play Chaser for them when she leaves school.”
“Ah, yes,” Dumbledore said, smiling fondly. “Abigail Hopkins is your daughter, isn’t she? She’s one of the finest Chasers Hufflepuff has seen in quite some time.”
“You’ve seen her play?” the guard asked, incredulity and awe in his voice. Remus ducked his head to hide his smirk.
“I never miss a match,” Dumbledore said, insulted. “Hogwarts isn’t about more than honing one's magical abilities, Mr Hopkins.”
The Unspeakable bowed his head slightly. “Of course, sir. It’s just I thought someone of your importance might not find the time for such frivolous things.”
“Quidditch is never frivolous,” Dumbledore said solemnly. He was pensive for a moment. “In fact, in some places one could be maimed for referring to it as such.”
“Aye,” the guard laughed. “I’m well aware of that. I remember one time at a Scotland and Wales match—“
“Are we nearing the vaults?” Remus interrupted, frowning between the guards then pointedly looking at his watch. “Mr Bonnar and myself are on a very tight schedule.”
“Of course, sir,” the guard said, standing to attention and glancing at his comrade. “It isn’t much further.”
“Thank you,” Remus said, nodding curtly.
The group fell into silence, each lost in his own thoughts as they proceeded deeper into the Department of Mysteries. They passed scores of closed doors, some labelled in Old English and looking as if they hadn’t been opened in Flamel’s lifetime. Remus shivered. This deep underground, the air was constantly chilly despite of the warming spells, and he pulled his robes closer about himself, wincing as the vial of polyjuice hidden inside poked his side. He mentally calculated how long they had until it was time for their next dose, sending up a prayer when he realised they didn’t have long before their plan would be ruined if they didn’t make haste.
“All right, sir?” the guard beside Peter asked Remus, his deep voice reverberating along the corridor.
“It’s just a bit too cold in here for my liking,” he lied, giving him a fake smile. “I'm afraid I’ve got too used to the Italian air.”
The guard nodded, dismissing him.
“It’s just a bit further,” Hopkins said, taking a ring of keys from his belt. He fumbled to find the appropriate one. “I must warn you, some members of our staff have found whatever that thing is disturbing.”
“How so?” Peter asked, glancing between the guard and Remus with his Muggle biro poised over a pad of parchment.
“The thing...I don’t know. The thing almost feels like it’s in pain,” he said, scratching at the back of his neck. “No one can tell us what it is or why people seem to have such a strong reaction towards it.”
They stopped outside a door set off from the others, its hinges rusted and the plethora of dust around a recently disturbed archaic lock.
“Hopefully we can be of some assistance,” Dumbledore said, a twinkle in his eye. He gave Remus and Peter a bright smile.
“Hopefully,” the guard echoed absently, placing the key in the lock and turning it. “A little help, Geoff?”
The other guard moved to his side and, together, they heaved the door open. It creaked loudly; Remus could feel it as the awful sound reverberate deep in his marrow.
The guards stepped away to let them peer inside. What Remus saw made his heart stop and his gasp was echoed by his companions. Inside, under the dim light of an old-fashioned gas lamp, sat a police public call box, a deep and angry gash marring its once pristine blue side. As he stared at it, Remus was overcome with a wave of agony and loss, as if the box was reaching out to him and grasping at the corner of his conscious. He stepped forward into the room and laid a hand on it. It was warm to the touch, like it was thrumming with life, and after a few short seconds the heat intensified. He pulled his hand away as if burned, and deep inside his mind he saw a woman with glowing yellow eyes and bathed in golden light. The howl of a wolf and knell of bell accompanied the flash, gone as soon as he blinked his leaking eyes open.
“If you could give us a moment?” Dumbledore said to the guards over his shoulder. He waited until the guards had excused themselves and closed the door before taking in a deep, ragged breath. Remus watched as he took off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes.
“Is that it?” Peter asked, cautiously stepping forward and standing next to Remus. He stretched out his hand as if to touch it but decided better of it. He turned to look at Dumbledore with a ginger eyebrow creeping towards his receding hairline. “The TARDIS?”
Dumbledore absently stared past the two men to the police box. He moved forward, as if on his feet’s own accord, and traced the gash on the box’s side with his fingertips. Remus didn’t miss the tear that escaped the old man’s eye. To the box, he whispered, “What have they done to you, old girl?”
“My god,” Remus whispered when the box thrummed sadly, the light atop it feebly blinking to life.
“It’s sentient,” Peter said, awestruck. He stepped back and bumping into Remus, who hastily placed his hands on his shoulders to steady him. “What sort of magic is this?”
Dumbledore never looked away from the TARDIS as he spoke. “This is not magic, Mr Pettigrew. This wonderful creature came to be on a world far, far from Earth, long before Merlin himself was born.”
Peter let out a low whistle.
“How did it get here then?” Remus asked, stepping away from Peter and crossing to the doors of the TARDIS. When he grasped the handles and pulled, a spark of electricity flew from the police box, shocking him. The mood it was emitting changed--in place of deep mourning was a fierce wave of protection, like a mother wolf, pacing and snarling, protecting her cubs. He glared at it for a long moment before moving away.
“She,” Dumbledore quietly corrected. “Never an ‘it.’ As for how she came to be here, I can only guess. The Time Lords invented her kind. Some rather advantageous, shall we say, wizards primitively copied the technology to build timer turners in the Thirteenth Century.”
“But what is she doing here?” Remus asked again."Where's the Doctor?"
“Yes, Albus, just where is this 'doctor?'” Peter asked, frowning. As he approached the TARDIS, she rumbled, waves of anger washing over the trio.
“Easy, easy,” Dumbledore soothed as he rubbed her side. “We need to know what’s happening, my old friend. This world is in danger.” He stilled, his face falling as he stood motionless. After a while, his head fell, forehead resting against the side of the box, and another tear made its way down his aged face. “I’m so sorry, love. So, so sorry. I couldn’t have known.”
The TARDIS whirred apologetically, and the waves of agony upon agony radiating from her were excruciating.
“What’s going on?” Peter said aside to Remus even as he reached for his hand. “Has he finally gone barmy?”
Remus shook his head, clinging back to Peter as he tried through sheer force of will to keep his knees from giving out. “I think...they’ve met before. Something must have happened to the Doctor if this is his TARDIS. If she's in this much pain.”
Before Peter could retort, the room was filled with bright white light and a sound like thunder. Remus and Peter automatically went for their wands, letting go of each other to turn to face whatever threat awaited them. When the light faded and their eyes adjusted, they levelled them on the blonde woman, still dressed in jeans and purple jacket, standing in the middle of the room.
She glared at their wands with her hands on her hips. “Put those away,” she hissed, taking what Remus recognised as the dimension jump from her neck. “You could put someone's eye out.”
“Why should we?” Peter called, his wand hand trembling slightly. “Who are you?”
In spite of their raised wands, the woman turned and walked over to the TARDIS. She regarded it for a moment before bowing her head and laying a hand on her doors. “I’m sorry, old friend. Somewhere out there is a girl in a shop who’ll never know there's so much more to life,” she whispered reverently.
The police box whirred to life in a frenzy at her touch. Somewhere deep inside it, a cloister bell knelled ominously and the woman laughed. “Cheeky bitch,” she whispered, patting the box before turning back to Remus, Peter and Dumbledore. “Oi! I thought I told you to put those away!”
“You gave us no reason to,” Remus said, cringing as he felt the polyjuice starting to wear off. He fought down the nausea as he reverted to his own form, levelling his wand once again as it subsided.
“Hello again,” the woman said, wiggling her fingers at him with a smile. “That’s...impressive.”
“Nothing special,” Remus said, frowning at her. “Now, what the hell do you want?”
The woman closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She slowly let it out and met his eyes from across the room, something in him still wanting to recoil and look away from her. “I want to help you.”
“Why?” Peter asked, stepping closer when Remus’s wand started to dip. His hair was rapidly turning from red back to dark blond.
“Because our sensors picked up a disturbance in the Rift when Black disappeared. Our Cardiff office was looking into it and they discovered the Rift had taken something--or in this case, someone--and deposited it in a parallel Cardiff in a parallel universe.”
“If what you say is true, how could he have survived that?” Dumbledore asked, worry seeping into his voice. “He would have had to cross the Void, and nothing can survive that without a capsule.”
“There’s something coming from across the stars, as I’ve already explained, sir,” she said imploringly, looking between the three men. She met first Remus's and then Peter’s eyes. “The man I’m looking for--the only man in the whole of creation who can now stop it--is in that universe. My universe. I need to find him.”
“You love him,” Remus said, seeing the way her eyes softened as she talked of him.
“He saved me,” she said, smiling widely, “showed me life is more than just chips and a dead end job. He taught me there are things bigger and better than us in this universe.”
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Remus said, stepping closer to her despite his the uneasiness she made him feel. “But why try to help us get Sirius back?”
“Because he’s meant to be here,” she said, stepping forward and taking his hands in hers. “He’s very important to the time line. Without him in this universe, they’ll be a paradox, not that that matters if the Darkness can’t be stopped, but he’s needed here.” She smiled reassuringly, her dark eyes soft. “And you love him. I know more than anyone what it’s like to lose the person you love to a whole other world.”
“I’m going to ask you one last time, and I want an answer: why should I trust you?” he asked, trying to ignore the almost painful tingling of her skin against his. “What’s in it for you if we get Sirius back?”
“I’ve given you no reason to trust me,” she said, dropping his gaze and hands and cleared her throat. To Dumbledore, she said, “You knew the Doctor, sir?”
Dumbledore nodded solemnly. “I met him once. I believe it was his second regeneration. He was travelling with a young Scotsman called Jamie.”
The woman smiled bitterly. “But not the man I’m looking for. A different Doctor, from a different time and a different world.”
“But if he’s the same Doctor, he’s the same great man,” Dumbledore sighed, looking back at the TARDIS. “I’m afraid this old girl didn’t make it past the Time War. She’s dying.”
The woman stared at the deep gash along the TARDIS. “Only Dalek weaponry could do that to a TARDIS. He must have sacrificed himself when he destroyed the Daleks, Gallifrey and the Time Lords along with them. She needs to be moved now that she's become a mausoleum. Preferably some place where she can grow if the dimension dams fail and somewhere secure. The Doctor's grave is potentially the most dangerous place in the universe.”
“Please tell me he didn’t in your world...” Dumbledore trailed off, looking down at his boots forlornly. “If he did, then it’s the end of everything.”
“I met him just after the Time War. He was travelling alone with the knowledge he had killed two of the greatest races in the universe. He was in his tenth regeneration when we parted three years ago.”
“And this Doctor can just stop the universe from ending?” Peter scoffed, still not lowering his wand. “What exactly is he a doctor of, then?”
“Everything,” the woman said, with the hint of a smile. “He has many different names--to his enemies he’s the Oncoming Storm, Bringer of Darkness, Destroyer of Worlds--but ‘Doctor’ suits him best. It’s where we got the word from, actually.” She paused, crossing her arms over her chest and turning to inspect the TARDIS once more. “I’ve been pulled across the universes, trying to find the proper one. We needthe Doctor to stop this.”
“Stop what?” Peter said, stepping menacingly forward. “I’m tired of everyone talking in bloody riddles.”
“The Darkness,” she said, turning hollow eyes on him. “It’s coming from across the stars and only the Doctor can stop it.”
“You’re repeating yourself!” Peter said, voice laced with more venom than Remus had ever heard him use. “What does that mean?”
“It means that every single universe is in danger,” she said curtly, looking to Dumbledore, who nodded. “This world, mine, the one your friend—“ she turned to Remus “—your lover—is trapped in. We need to act now and you need to trust me. The Darkness is simply that--darkness. Darkness unending as the very walls of the universes crack and collapse until the everything is sucked into the nothingness of the Void. It's the death of all the worlds and everything in them..”
“The stars are disappearing,” Dumbledore said, crossing to Peter and, placing his hand on his arm, lowered his wand for him. “It’s already started. This is our only chance to get Sirius back before it’s too late. Once the Doctor takes care of this, the walls will be sealed once more, just as they should have always been. Sirius will become trapped there forever.”
“And we can’t let Voldemort get hold of this technology or learn about the Rift,” Remus said, his voice cracking. “But that won’t matter if this world--if every world--no longer exists. This daft war will have been for nothing. There’s no point, no sense fighting if what we’re fighting for will be gone. And without Sirius, there's no point in my going on at all.”
“Moony,” Peter sighed, running a hand through his hair. “I know what he means to you, but this could be some sort of trick. We don’t even know her name!”
“She’s the big, bad wolf. That's all I need to go on,” Remus glanced slowly between his friend and the woman. He met her eyes and, after a moment, said, “Let’s do this.”
“Remus, no!” Peter cried, starting towards him.
Dumbledore grabbed him by the elbow, holding him back. “Peter, this is what we have to do. We don’t have a choice.”
“But what about us?” he said, looking up at Dumbledore, then Remus. “What are James and I going to do if we lose you too?”
“There’s no chance I’ll make it to tomorrow with a war on,” Remus said, not meeting his friend’s eyes. “We’d do the same for you.”
Peter laughed, the sound hollow. “No, you wouldn’t. Not if it wasn’t him. Not even for James.”
Remus took the vial of polyjuice from his belt and tossed it to Dumbledore before turning his back on his friends. He took the dimension jump from the woman and placed it around his neck. “How does this thing work?”
“You just push the button,” she said, smiling.
Remus rolled his eyes, lamenting asking a question with such an obvious answer. “How will you get back?”
“My time’s almost up here. I’ll be heading back soon.”
Remus placed his hand over the button and, turning his head, said to Dumbledore and Peter, “If I don’t make it back--“
“Moony, please. Don’t.”
“Just tell my mam I love her, yeah?”
“Of course,” Dumbledore said with a small smile. “Good luck, Remus.”
Remus nodded his thanks and turned to the woman. “Before we go, may I ask you something?”
“Depends on what it is,” she said, her full lips tugging downward in a frown.
“What’s your name?”
She met his eyes. “My name is Rose. Rose Tyler.”
“Thank you, Rose,” Remus said and pressed the large yellow button on the dimension jump. He disappeared in a flash of light.
“Miss Tyler?” Dumbledore called, a frown darkening his eyes.
“Bring them home,” he said, regarding her seriously.
“Yes, sir,” she said and slowly faded from sight.
The pair fell into silence, staring at the places where Remus and Rose had vanished.
“Now what do we do?” Peter said quietly but bitterly, not meeting Dumbledore’s eyes.
“For now, we call James,” the headmaster replied, drawing his wand and conjuring his patronus. “And then we wait.”
“Where are we going?” Sirius asked, following Harkness and Jones across Mermaid Quay, lagging behind them.
“Work,” Harkness called back, glancing at him over his shoulder. “Do try to keep up.”
“We can’t all be as bloody tall as you lot,” Sirius shouted back, surprising himself by smiling when Jones chuckled.
“Remind you of anyone, Jack?” he asked as they started down a flight of stairs leading to a rickety shop front. Sirius trailed along behind him, carefully watching Harkness as his steps slowed.
Harkness sighed, stopping at the door. “Yep,” he said, smiling tightly at Jones and pressing a few buttons on the wrist strap Sirius had never seen him without. He suddenly smiled roguishly. “Let’s just hope he doesn’t have as good a right hook as Owen.”
Sirius raised an eyebrow as the pair laughed. “Should I be insulted?”
“Nope,” Jones said, pushing the door open.
Neither of them said anymore about their former teammate. Sirius followed Harkness through the door, entering a small, dingy shop filled with travel brochures and maps. He sneezed, covering his nose with his sleeve as the stuffy air assaulted his nostrils.
“Sorry about that,” Jones said, an embarrassed smile on his face as he let the door bang shut behind him. Sirius didn’t fail to notice the multiple locking mechanisms sliding into place. “No one’s really been up here in a while.”
“No problem,” Sirius said, looking around the dimly lit room. To one side was a wall of bricks, the detritus of the shop kept clear of it, and behind the counter was a doorway, replete with beaded curtains, leading to what he assumed was a back room. “It’s...charming.”
Harkness snorted, sharing a look with a smirking Jones. “That’s one word for it,” the American drawled, clapping him on the shoulder.
Sirius took a step towards the desk. He picked up whatever was on top--a newspaper dated 5 April. He skimmed the headline before throwing it back onto down. “Is this a part of Torchwood?” he asked, turning back towards his companions.
“This is the tourist office,” Jack said, pushing back his greatcoat and stuffing his hands into his trouser pockets. “It’s a cover for the Hub.”
“And you’re showing me this why?” Sirius said, shaking his head. “I don’t need the PR tour. Again.”
Harkness smiled. “This is going to be your job until we can get you settled in.”
Sirius glanced around the room, frowning. “And I’m supposed to do what, exactly?”
“Make sure no one gets in who isn’t supposed to, do a bit of paperwork when you get a chance,” Jones said, shrugging. “Maybe dust a bit and keep the brochures current."
“So...I’m supposed to be a sort of guard dog?” Sirius asked, quickly transforming into Padfoot.
Jones rolled his eyes, but Harkness laughed loudly. He reached out a hand, stroking the big black dog’s head, and said, “Maybe not quite so literal.”
Padfoot pressed his head back into Harkness’s hand, his canine senses taking over as the man scratched right there behind his ear. He turned back as soon as his leg started to pound the floor of its own accord, shaking his head and rubbing at his ear.
“The fleas I can deal with, but I’ll never get used to that,” he confessed, smiling sheepishly. “Look, I appreciate the gesture, but I don’t know the first thing about being a secretary.”
“That makes three of you, then,” Jones sighed. “And the politically correct term nowadays is 'administrative assistant.' I’ll show you where everything goes when I get the chance.”
“I’m not taking your job, am I?” Sirius asked, worried. “I mean, I don’t want to take your place.”
“Relax. You never could,” Harkness said, crossing his arms and settling beside Jones. “We need more people in the field. Until you’re through with training, we could use you up here.”
“Really? You’re not just making up something for me to do?” Sirius asked, looking between the two.
Jones shook his head. “I’ll show you where everything goes and get you into the mainframe, but I’ll be working more in the field alongside Jack and Gwen.”
Sirius didn’t miss the pained expression on Harkness’s face, making him look almost childlike in his despair. He also noticed the way Jones was resolutely not looking at him.
“So, I start off here and then what?” he asked with a smile he didn’t feel. Secretly, his heart was beating ferociously, his own fear of the unknown feeding off Harkness and Jones’s combined sombreness.
“We’ll see how well you work in the field,” Harkness said, emulating his smile with one that was more of a grimace. “For now, this is the safest arrangement for all of us.”
Sirius felt heat fill his cheeks. “I’m a perfectly qualified Auror and field operative! I’ve seen things you couldn’t imagine.”
“And I’ve seen things that could make you great-grandchildren’s hair curl. More than any one person should ever see,” Harkness spat bitterly, his blue eyes burning like ice. “It isn’t the same as it was, Sirius Black. This isn’t the Cardiff you left behind.”
“Don’t I know it,” Sirius bit back, crossing his arms over his chest. “I can handle myself.”
“I’m sure you can, Sirius,” Jones said, giving him a small smile of confidence before turning towards Harkness. He placed a hand on his chest and the pleading look of love he gave him was enough to break Sirius’s heart. He had no one to look at him like that anymore. “Jack, let it go. Everything’s going to be fine.”
“Now you’ve done it,” Harkness said, sheepishly trying to make a joke. His eyes never left Jones’s face. “That’s about as bad as ‘what could possibly go wrong.’”
Jones just smiled, playfully cuffing Jack around the head as he pulled away from him. Harkness chuckled lightly, catching his arm and pulling him close for a kiss.
“You’re right,” Harkness whispered, Sirius straining to hear him. “We’re here, the world isn’t ending for once and almost everything is as it should be.”
One of Jones’s eyebrows shot up, regarding Harkness with long-suffering humour. “Whatever, Jack,” he said, rolling his eyes and walking towards the desk. Harkness’s eyes never left him.
Jones reached behind the desk and pushed a big red button. Sirius jumped when the empty wall swung open to reveal a dark corridor.
“And that leads...?” he said, walking to it and peering around the door to an industrial lift and a flight of stairs.
“Down to the Hub,” Harkness said, passing him with a grin. He looked at Jones back in the small office, his grin softening. “Dinner at Giovanni’s tonight?”
“Only if my boss lets me out on time for once,” Jones deadpanned, but Sirius could hear a tease in his voice. “He’s a bit of a slave driver when he wants to be.”
Harkness smiled, expression soft and voice gentle when he said, “I’ll have a word with him.”
Sirius’s mind wandered as Harkness gave them a mock salute, his thoughts drifting to Remus and what they might have been doing that night. Maybe they would have gone out to dinner too, nothing too posh but still nice enough. He would have ordered wine and told Remus how he felt all over again. Or maybe he would have grabbed something from that little Chinese take away on their street. Remus could have broken out that bottle of wine they’d been saving for a special occasion and then they would have made love, words of devotion and promises neither could keep reverently whispered against lips and familiar skin.
He started when he heard Jones clear his throat. “You all right?”
Sirius hastily wiped at his misty eyes, mentally cursing himself, and turned around, leaning back against the door frame. “Sorry,” he said quietly, “I was just off with the faeries.”
Jones winced slightly and picked an imaginary piece of lint from his waistcoat. “It’s okay to remember him, you know,” he almost whispered.
“But it's not like he's dead or anything, Merlin willing. I'm just gone, and who knows if he'll even think of me in fifteen years time,” Sirius said, voice trembling. He looked up, studying Jones’s face. “I’m never going to see him again, am I?”
“Maybe. Maybe not. Nothing is impossible. Not really. But....”
“But what? ‘I’ll always have my memories?’” Sirius scoffed, eyes narrowing when Jones refused to look at him. “What if it was Harkness that was gone? Would memories be enough?”
Jones’s eyes were steely when he looked back up. “I’ve lost more people I loved than you’ll ever know. He’s the only one who’s ever came back. More than once, he came back and he always will. Memories are all I have left of my friends from London and the woman I was going to marry. And here's the really great part: One day, two thousand or two billion years from now I don't know if Jack will even remember my name, let alone what I looked like or how my voice sounded or if I took my coffee with milk or sugar.”
Jones's stride was clipped as he walked away and Sirius’s anger left him in a rush. “I’m sorry,” he said defeatedly. “This is all so strange. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”
“You learn to survive,” Jones said, voice gruff, “because they wouldn’t want you to give up because they’re gone.”
Sirius pushed away from the wall, the door closing of its own accord behind him, and kicked at the carpet with the toe of his trainer. “What was her name?”
“I’m sorry,” Sirius said, walking over to the man and standing beside him. “I didn’t know.”
“Don’t be. You couldn’t have,” Jones said, the soft look Sirius had noted he reserved for Harkness washing over his face. “In a way, she brought me to Jack, even if it meant my world falling apart in the process.”
Sirius sighed. “I miss him.”
“I know,” Jones said, meeting his eyes, and Sirius got the feeling that, for once, someone in this world understood what he was going through.
“Right. Now that’s enough of that,” he said, changing the subject, “what do I need to know about this place?”
Jones chuckled and moved towards the computer. He pressed a button and it flared to life. “Let’s get you into the system first. I’ll walk you through mainframe. It’s really quite simple once you get the hang to it.”
“Is that one of those compudder things they’re always going on about in science fiction films?” Sirius asked, eyebrows knitting.
“It’s a com-pu-ter,” Jones enunciated. “They didn’t have them when you left, did they? If I remember correctly they only went on the civilian market in the eighties.”
“And you said that decade was bad,” Sirius joked, looking up as the main door opened and Cooper walked in. In her hands was a tray of cups with a green, stylised mermaid logo; Sirius’s mouth began to water as the scent of coffee wafted over to him.
She smiled and handed one of the cups to Jones, who took it appreciatively. “What are we talking about?” she asked, turning her smile on Sirius.
“The Eighties,” Ianto deadpanned, “and the relative horribleness of them.”
Cooper laughter. “I think I still have all my cabbage patch dolls' birth certificates tucked away in a box somewhere.” She took another of the cups from the tray and held it out to Sirius. “I didn’t know how you take it so I got black, if you don’t mind.”
Sirius smiled and took it, taking a long draught. “It’s perfect,” he said and frowned at the logo on the cup. “What is ‘Starbucks?’”
“A coffee chain that could learn a lot from Ianto,” Cooper said, smiling. She sat the tray down on the desk and took her own cup. “So, what’s up for today?”
“Jack wants to check out that Weeping Angel sighting in Llandaff,” Jones said, typing something into the computer before writing it down on a post-it. “There’s been a rash of disappearances.”
Cooper groaned. “Great. I hope he’s coming with me.”
“Do you think he’d let any of us go alone when there’s temporal mechanics involved?” Ianto asked, handing the post-it to Sirius. “That’s your user name and temporary password. You just type it into the log-in screen when you turn the computer on.”
Cooper sighed and sipped at her coffee. “We need more people.”
“Tell that to Jack,” Ianto said, sparing a glance at her. “He’s had the paperwork on his desk for weeks. I guess it’s still a bit too soon to find someone to fill the void.”
Sirius half-listened to them and moved around to the computer when Jones moved back. He stared at the keyboard for a moment before pecking at the proper keys and entered his information. He tried to push the “log in” button on the monitor, frowning when nothing happened. He tried again, growling in frustrated until Jones reached around him and pressed a button labelled “return” on the keyboard. Sirius smiled awkwardly and stared at the swirling blue screen that appeared after a moment. It was mesmerizing and somewhat relaxing, and he found himself zoning out as Cooper and Jones talked.
“Well, I guess I’d better head downstairs before Jack’s coffee gets cold,” Cooper said, smiling at Sirius and Jones in turn. She reached across the desk and pressed the red button. “Oh, by the way,” she said, turning back as she started to leave, “did you find that file Tosh was working on?”
Jones shook his head. “She buried it pretty deep in the system. I haven’t found anything yet, but I’ll let you know if I do.”
Cooper smiled, crossing the room to press a kiss to Jones’s cheek. “I’ll see what I can find. But then I’m rubbish at stuff like that compared to you.”
Jones blushed. “I could say the same about her.”
Cooper straightened his tie, patting his chest before disappearing through the door. Sirius watched her go, wondering what they were talking about, and Jones stepped into the back room as soon as she turned to leave. Neither of them noticed the computer screen flicker, a video feed of a sandy haired man and a ghost from Torchwood’s past appearing on screen. By the time Sirius had turned back to the computer and Jones had reappeared holding a piece of paper and a stun gun, the familiar blue swirls were back in place.
Ianto sighed as the sirens wailed and the cog door rolled back. Beside him, Black started, one hand clinging to the desk as the other automatically went to his right back pocket.
“Here,” he said, pointing to an icon on the screen. He smiled as Black moved the mouse to it and clicked. “This is the requisition spreadsheet. You enter the price and quantity stated on the physical forms so we can--”
“Have a digital record of expenses come tax time,” Black said, glancing at the paperwork on the desk in front of him. “Got it.”
“Good,” Ianto said, a certain feeling of pride overcoming him. He glanced up at the cog door. Jack and Gwen were arguing quietly as they shrugged out of their wet coats. “You work on that for a while. Come find me when you’re finished.”
Black nodded and he stood, checking his watch. He took a breath to steel himself and walked down the stairs to the lower levels of the Hub. Gwen turned to him as soon as he joined them.
“Tell him he’s an idiot,” she said, glaring at Jack.
Ianto glanced at Jack and turned back to Gwen with a slight smile and raised brow. “Nothing he doesn’t know already.”
“Et tu, Ianto?” Jack said, rolling his eyes. “Someone here thinks it’s not a bright idea to see how good Black is with his magic.”
“And a bloody gun!” Gwen hissed quietly, eyes darting between them and the upper levels. “He could kill us!”
“We need to see what he can do,” Jack said, folding his greatcoat over his arm.
“No buts. I’ll be the only one on the range with him. Both of you will be wearing vests and armed just in case,” Jack said, looking between Gwen and Ianto. “Understood?”
“I still don’t like this, Jack,” Gwen sighed and Ianto could see the moment she acquiesced, her shoulders slumping slightly as she ran a hand through her hair.
“Neither do I,” Jack said, placing his hand on Ianto’s back between his shoulder blades. “But it’s either we work with him or we send him to Flat Holm. Frankly, he’s less of a danger here where one of us can monitor him. Besides, I don’t like the idea of setting him loose with magical powers until we know what he can do with them.”
“He seems like he’s adjusting well given the circumstances,” Ianto said, glancing back up to the desk Owen once occupied. “He’s a fast learner.”
“You spent yesterday with him,” Jack said to Gwen, leaning into Ianto as he spoke. “What did you think?”
Gwen shrugged. “Well, the culture shock is to be expected. But I think it’s still too early. We should get to know him a little more, give him a little time to adjust before we welcome him to Torchwood. If that’s what we’re really going to be doing.”
Jack stared down at his boots for a while, his hand slowly sliding down Ianto’s back and Ianto shifted to take his hand. Jack’s grip was almost painful.
“You’re right,” he said quietly, not meeting Gwen’s eyes, “and under any other circumstances we’d give him that time. But time is a luxury we don’t have right now. We’re short staffed as it is and we need all the help we can get.”
“What about Martha?” Gwen added quickly. “She could help. Or your Doctor.”
Ianto felt more than saw Jack wince.
“Martha’s been recalled indefinitely,” Jack said in a lifeless monotone. “And there’s nothing the Doctor can do for him. He’s just another person lost in time.”
“Well, there’s got to be someone, Jack,” Gwen sighed, defeated.
“There was,” Ianto said, looking back at Tosh’s empty desk. Gwen and Jack followed his line of sight, each quiet, lost in thought and memory.
Jack sighed after a while, scrubbing at his cheek with his free hand. “First we’ll get Black settled in, then we’ll start recruiting. Until then, no one does anything stupid and we liaise with Cardiff PD and UNIT when needed. It takes time to build a team.”
Gwen nodded, no argument left in her. “I miss them,” she whispered, hugging Jack and Ianto in turn.
“We all do,” Ianto whispered, pressing a kiss to her cheek before she pulled away from him. He cleared his throat and, stepping away, let go of Jack’s hand. “How did it go?”
“False alarm,” Jack said, sharing a pained look with Gwen. “Just some teenagers playing silly buggers. We put the fear of Torchwood into them.”
“I’d rather the Weeping Angels,” Ianto said, rolling his eyes. He smiled as Gwen giggled.
“Anything but teenagers,” she said, feigning a shudder. “Tell me, Jack, is there anything more terrifying in the universe than teenagers?”
Jack pretended to think for a moment. “You when you haven’t had your coffee yet?”
Gwen placed a hand over her heart and gasped theatrically. “You wound me.”
Jack placed his hands on his hips when Ianto and Gwen laughed, trying not to break into a grin himself. He failed. “All right you two,” he said after a moment. “I want the firing range ready in—“ he checked his watch “—half an hour.”
“Fine,” Gwen said through stifled giggles. “I’ll get the guns.”
“And I’ll get the targets,” Ianto said, offering Gwen his arm.
“Don’t forget,” Jack said, sobering. “Vests and armed. And I don’t mean stun guns, Ianto.”
Ianto nodded and Gwen solemnly met his eyes.
“We won’t take any chances,” she said, looking up at Ianto and nodding her affirmation.
“Good,” Jack said, inclining his head. “If all goes well, we’ll head out after we see what our guest can do.”
“Then what are we waiting for, Ianto?” Gwen said, turning towards the stairs to the lower levels. “Let’s get a move on.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Ianto said, letting Gwen pull him away.
Jack watched until they were well out of sight, his stomach filled with butterflies. He took a deep breath and hurried to his office, pausing only to hang up his coat. Crossing to the secure archives, he entered the security codes and, one hand falling to the gun at his belt, opened the vault. With a look back out at the Hub where Black was busy pecking at one of the computers, he took out the man’s wand.