How many different ways did Jack have to say, "We'll find our own people; don't give us yours"? He'd known coming to London for a meeting to "discuss the current state of Torchwood, Cardiff and the Rift" was a bad idea, but Ianto and Gwen had both insisted it needed doing.
Still, he'd finished everything they'd scheduled, and he'd stayed polite through it all. All he had to do now was get home and hope Ianto would be able to help him work off the anger. He was halfway down the corridor when one of the doors opened.
Jack knew the kind of man who'd stepped in front of him. Public school, upper class, and certain that he would know how to run Torchwood better than the man who'd been a part of it for over a hundred years. "Pardon me," he said as he brushed past the idiot.
"I wonder, Captain," the man said, "if you could spare me a few minutes of your time." His posture said it wasn't a question.
Jack sighed and turned around. About his own height, average build but with a bit of padding, the man had reddish hair and a perfectly-fitted bespoke suit. "I will find new people, but I will do it my way. Now, was there anything else you wanted to discuss, Mr . . .?"
"Holmes," the man said, holding out his hand. "Mycroft Holmes, and I am certain that you are more than capable of filling your organisation's vacancies. I have something of a favour to ask; would you be so kind as to step in here, please?"
Jack nodded and followed Holmes, intrigued. He'd believe it didn't have to do with personnel when he saw it, but it was at least a different approach.
"Have a seat, Captain," Holmes said, indicating an inviting leather armchair and taking the one next to it for himself. Jack gave him a point for not sitting behind a desk. "Would you like some tea?"
"Sure," Jack said, as he sat down. The chair was as comfortable as it looked. "I sometimes think the British government would stop cold if there wasn't tea."
Holmes's smile was thin and perfunctory as he poured two cups and handed one to Jack. He drank his own black while Jack put two sugars in his and tasted it. Perfectly brewed. "I am aware, of course, of the purpose of the meetings you've attended today," Holmes said, putting his cup down. "My favour is related." He picked up a folder from the desk behind him. "I understand you have a younger brother."
Jack could feel the adrenaline rush. "Yes," he answered, straightening in his chair.
"Most unfortunate," Holmes said, his expression still bland. "I, too, am an older brother." He picked what looked like a surveillance photograph from the folder and handed it to Jack.
Jack took the photograph and winced. Although there was some resemblance to Holmes, the man in the photograph looked like a junkie and appeared to be buying something from a dealer. "You have my sympathies," he said, relaxing a little. Whatever was coming, someone had used a little forethought.
"I'm fortunate," Holmes said, with that thin smile. "I wasn't able to help him, but someone else was. And did." He looked at the photograph and sighed. "I would have preferred, of course, for Sherlock to follow me into government work, but the career he has chosen is useful. It is more dangerous than I'd like but, at least if he dies, it won't be a waste."
"Glad to hear it," Jack said, amused. "So, what kind of a favour do you need? Whatever it is he's doing, what we do is probably even more dangerous."
"Yes," Holmes said, with a carefully calculated nod. "However, my brother seems to have acquired an enemy; someone who has set himself up as Sherlock's nemesis. There was an attack, and it is clear that he will continue to attack until one, or both, of them is dead."
"Still not seeing what you want from me," Jack said. "I'm not an assassin."
Holmes raised his eyebrows at that. "No? Well, I have people working on that as we speak; that wasn't the favour." He sighed. "If I were in complete control of the situation, I would have my brother and his colleague placed in a safe house until this man is taken care of. However, Sherlock refuses to see reason and won't stay there."
"You have my sympathies," Jack said, grinning. "I'm still not seeing the favour; I'm not a babysitter either."
Holmes's smile grew by a millimetre. "No, of course not." He picked up his tea cup again. "Sherlock is a genius. He may not have the technical skills of a Toshiko Sato, but he is brilliant and, shall we say, unconventional. In addition, his colleague, John Watson, is a doctor, former military and capable of handling unorthodox situations. I am not entirely convinced the Met is capable of keeping watch. They wouldn't hurt him themselves, but if seconds matter . . ."
"They might not react quickly enough," Jack finished. "We don't know them at all."
"No," Holmes said, "but you're extraordinarily loyal. If you agree to accept them--temporarily, of course--I know that they would be in the best hands possible."
"If they work for me, they'll be in danger,” Jack said. “If not, they're no good to me.”
"Those two will always be in danger. I'm trying to ensure that they are safe from their enemies. As I've said, if he dies protecting others, in whatever capacity, at least his death won't be a waste." The remark might have been blasé, enough to anger Jack for the lack of concern Holmes was showing for his brother, but the tone was resigned.
"I'm impressed," Jack said, honestly. "Who came up with this?"
For the first time, Holmes's smile looked real. "I am being permitted to ask only because you won't accept anyone else. The others don't quite approve, I'm afraid." When Jack looked at him, hoping not to have to ask the question, Holmes said, "I'm afraid none of them really want to see what would happen with you and Sherlock working together. The thought is quite . . . terrifying."
Jack held his hand out for what he knew would be the information on the two men he was agreeing to take on. "Temporary, right? Until you find this enemy?"
"Or you find suitable replacements," Holmes said, handing over the folders.
"You expect them to be the suitable replacements, don't you?"
"Frightening as the thought is," Holmes said, "I think it may be a match made in heaven." He stood. "Thank you for your time, Captain Harkness, and your consideration. It won't be forgotten."
"You're welcome, Mr Holmes," Jack said, standing and shaking Holmes's hand again. "This could be the start of a beautiful friendship."
Holmes snorted. "Frightening."
"Meeting!" Jack called as soon as he walked through the door. "Boardroom, now!"
"We're right here, Jack," Gwen grumbled as she moved to the boardroom. Ianto followed several minutes later, carrying coffee and biscuits.
"Thanks, Ianto," Jack said, smiling as he grabbed a handful of biscuits. Ianto smiled and winced at the same time.
"So, did you find new people?" Gwen asked.
Jack was about to answer when he looked at her more carefully. She'd been insisting that he would find appropriate people on this trip, and not “whatever idiots they think they're going to foist off on us either. Proper people."
"What do you know?" he asked, looking at her carefully.
"Nothing," she said, looking surprised. Then she grinned. "You found somebody. See, I told you so."
Jack glared as Ianto sniggered. "Not one of your more attractive qualities, Ms Cooper."
"So, we should be prepared for onslaught of UNIT personnel," Ianto said, looking resigned.
"Or did you talk Martha into it?" Gwen said, looking hopeful.
"Neither," Jack said, leaning back in his chair. "However, I was given the opportunity to take on a couple of temps while we keep looking for the right people."
"Temps?" Gwen asked while Ianto said, "I didn't know there was a temp agency for alien fighters."
Jack grinned. "They're not alien fighters. Not yet, anyway; they're crime fighters."
"Cops," Gwen said, straightening and looking hopeful.
"Nope," Jack said. "The one bloke's a 'consulting detective' and the other's his colleague. The detective will act as our tech and the colleague is a doctor, so he'll be our medic." He waited for the reactions, sure that Gwen, especially, wouldn't disappoint him.
Sure enough, Gwen frowned. "I've never heard of a 'consulting detective'," she said. "Is that just another word for 'private detective', or is he some kind of amateur? Do the police even know about him?"
"What do we know about them?" Ianto asked, coming to the point.
Grateful that he'd read over the files on the train home, and had done his own research, Jack pulled out the files Holmes had given him. "'Consulting detective' is a title he made up himself," he told Gwen and Ianto. "You can read about him on his website, 'The Science of Deduction'. He helps out the police in an unofficial capacity-- they call him, apparently--and he has some private clients as well. Brilliant, difficult to get along with-"
"So of course they thought of us," Ianto said, rolling his eyes.
"We did manage with Owen," Gwen said, her smile not reaching her eyes.
Jack nodded at her. "Right. His colleague . . .” He smiled. "The only reason he's this Holmes's colleague is because I didn't know about him. If I'd seen this file when he was invalided out-"
Ianto gave him a frosty look. "That attractive, is he?"
"No," Jack said. "Well, he is," he admitted before either Gwen or Ianto could argue the point, "but that's not why. He's RAMC, but he didn't spend much time in the hospitals. Front line, or right behind them. Then, practically as soon as he gets home, he finds Holmes to chase after."
"Adrenaline junkie," Ianto said, "and a doctor. S'pose that'll come in handy. What's he like?"
Jack grinned, thinking of Watson's evaluations. "Nice guy. Bit of a ladies' man, bit of a gambler, but easy-going and well-liked. And he has a blog, where he tells everybody about this mad genius he lives with."
"Lovers?" Gwen asked.
Jack shrugged. "Not sure."
"Why them?" Ianto asked.
Jack refrained from sighing, but only just. Ianto would be fine once he was sure Jack wasn't bringing another lover in, but until he met them, he wouldn't be sure. "Holmes has an older brother in the government. We understand each other."
Ianto and Gwen exchanged looks. "All right, sir," Ianto said after a few minutes. "I'll set them up with workstations, clean up the medical bay, leave a bit of the tech we haven't analysed yet, get the intake paperwork set up, and anything else I can come up with."
"Can I help you?" Gwen asked.
Ianto smiled. "Sure. Come on. Unless there was something more?"
"Nope," Jack said happily. "I thought we'd bring 'em in kinda like Gwen the first time."
Ianto smiled while Gwen huffed. "Honestly, I don't know why I put up with you," she grumbled.
"C'mon," Ianto said with an impish smile. "You can help me set it up.”
"Do you think Mycroft's right?" John asked as he tried to work out where it was they were going.
Sherlock snorted. "Of course not. About what?"
"That Moriarty won't come after us if we leave London," John answered.
"It isn't leaving London that will keep Moriarty away from us," Sherlock answered, scowling at Cardiff's Millennium Centre. "It's not solving the crimes he's committed. From what Mycroft says, this organisation has nothing to do with fighting crime."
John sighed. Mycroft had also said that the work he'd arranged would satisfy both of their needs for adrenaline--and be useful besides--but neither John nor Sherlock had been able to deduce what type of work it was they'd be doing. Sherlock, especially, didn't trust Mycroft to be telling the truth. It was his opinion that they were offering themselves up to be placed under "house arrest".
John disagreed. It wasn't that he didn't believe that Mycroft could be that ruthless--John was certain that he could and would be. No, John didn't think that was Mycroft's plan for the simple reason that, unless he was willing to physically restrain, or completely sedate, Sherlock while confined to a "house arrest", Sherlock would go through way too many "minders". And houses. John was still wincing every time he thought of the lovely flat they'd stayed in for the last month. And that had been with Sherlock actively working on tracking Moriarty down.
He finally spotted their destination. "There it is," he said, pointing out the door.
"Odd place for a Tourist Information Centre," Sherlock said.
It wasn't that John disagreed, but, "Have you ever tried to find one?" he asked. "They're always in weird places. The good places cost too much." Before Sherlock could get bored, John walked up to the door, opened it and went through. To John's relief, Sherlock was right behind him.
It looked like every other Tourist Information Centre John had ever seen. Stuck in some out-of-the-way place, a bunch of brochures and coupons for the attractions that paid the most money in a dingy, poorly-staffed room. This one was completely unstaffed.
As soon as the door closed behind Sherlock, it locked. John looked at Sherlock, startled. "I assume that's unusual," the detective said, his eyebrows raised.
"A bit, yeah," John said, looking around. Before he could say anything else, a hidden door on the other end of the room opened. "That, too." He straightened and touched the gun he'd stashed in his belt. "I'll give your brother this; it's different." He glanced over at Sherlock, whose expression was still neutral. John could see the glint in his eyes, though; Sherlock was having as much fun as he was. "I just hope we get a ride in a phone booth." From Sherlock's puzzled look, John decided that he'd have to introduce the detective to the Harry Potter books. Or Get Smart. Or both.
"What?" Sherlock asked, staring.
"Never mind," John said. Now was not the time to continue Sherlock's education of pop culture. Not waiting for Sherlock, he walked through the door.
The door opened onto a dimly-lit hallway, lined with concrete blocks. John glanced around and kept his ears open, but most of his attention was on moving forward.
Once Sherlock was in the hallway, they could hear the door behind them close. John wasn't surprised when Sherlock didn't follow immediately but, when he didn't hear footsteps after a couple of minutes, he paused and turned.
Sherlock had stopped, pulled out his magnifying glass, and was carefully examining the walls. John considered allowing this, but decided he didn't want to wait that long to find out what was happening. He walked over and, before Sherlock turned, nicked the magnifying glass and shoved it in his pocket.
"Hey! I was examining-"
"You can examine the walls later," John said. "If it turns out that letting you hold us up like this would have saved our lives, I'll let you say, 'I told you so' for eternity. Otherwise, it'll take too long."
Sherlock looked at John's face intently, but John kept his chin up and his gaze steady. After a minute, Sherlock huffed out a breath and waved John on. John turned and started walking again; this time, he heard Sherlock's footsteps behind him.
At the end of the hallway was a lift. Although there were buttons, before John or Sherlock could press any of them, it started up on its own, heading down. "They have cameras on us," John stated, trying to get rid of his own unease.
It worked, too. "Of course they have cameras," Sherlock said, in his usual 'you complete moron' voice. "Didn't you see them?"
"Wasn't looking for them," John said as the lift stopped. There was another dimly-lit hallway in front of them. "Can't say much for their decorator," he said.
"Looks like most of my old flats," Sherlock said, looking around.
John didn't say anything to that. What was there to say?
At the end of this hallway, which was short, was a large door that looked like a cog. To one side was a number pad and magnetic lock, but the door began opening as soon as they approached it.
Once the door was fully open, John quietly whistled through his teeth. The area was huge. The ceiling was several stories up-maybe as high as the ground above them. There was a large, cylindrical fountain before them, and the rest of the area that wasn't open space was very industrial-looking.
It was also almost devoid of life. Other than Sherlock and himself, John could see three other people, none of whom were paying attention to them. About a level up from them, a woman with long, dark hair was working at a desk; her desk was facing in their general direction, but she was concentrating on a monitor before her. Another level up, a dark-haired man in a suit was sitting at another desk, facing mostly away from them. Like the woman, he was concentrating on a monitor and not on them.
The third person, another man, was walking around an office enclosed with glass walls. He was pacing around but, unlike the other two, he was glancing down at John and Sherlock. He was careful not to make eye contact.
John turned to say something to Sherlock, like "Let's go," but found his flatmate engrossed in machinery that was behind them. He was muttering to himself and starting to follow the wires when John caught him. "Sherlock," he said softly, carefully not looking up at the man in the office, "this isn't the time."
Sherlock looked over at him, but before he could say anything, there was a loud screech and John heard something land behind him.
He whirled, ready to pull out his gun, when he saw a childhood dream standing before him. Walking toward what he thought was a pterodactyl, John started murmuring to the creature.
"John," Sherlock said behind him, but then he stopped. After a minute, he said, a little louder, "Never mind. The creature has obviously been trained not to attack unless told and it hasn't been told to attack."
"That's Sherlock," John said to the dinosaur. "You're safe with us. I wouldn't hurt you and Sherlock only experiments on himself, me and whatever he can talk Molly out of from the morgue." From somewhere above him, he could hear someone choking. "Shall we ask Sherlock how he knows you've been trained?"
"Obvious, John," Sherlock said, his voice filled with amusement. "There are three other people in sight. Once the creature was released, all three have been watching carefully; however, none of them are moving, nor are they alarmed. You and I have been brought in here; if they know Mycroft, as is probable, they will know that he is a dangerous man to annoy. Killing me would annoy him. However, they are all keeping careful watch, so the creature is trained, but dangerous. How am I doing?" The last question was louder than the rest; John suspected he'd aimed it at the man in the office.
"Not bad," a male voice with an American accent said. John thought he was the leader, but he'd confirm it later. He was still in awe of the pterodactyl. "If you're curious, her name is Myfanwy."
Another male voice, this one with a Welsh accent and from slightly closer said, "She likes chocolate, preferably dark. Catch."
John looked up in time to catch the chocolate bar, which was tossed by the suited man in the middle. "Thanks." He unwrapped the bar, broke off a piece and offered it to Myfanway, who eagerly snapped at it. "There you go," John said, grinning delightedly.
"Okay," the American said. "You've met Myfanwy, so, Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, Gwen Cooper, Ianto Jones and I'm Captain Jack Harkness. Come on up and we'll start your intake paperwork."
John scratched at Myfanwy's beak, which she seemed to like, and gave her the rest of the chocolate. "If we're doing titles, it should be Dr Watson," he said as he started for the stairs.
"Or we could make it Captain," Harkness said, "but then there might be fights over who goes first."
"I'll bring the tape measure with the paperwork," Jones said, his voice dry and expressionless.
John looked up at the other man and grinned. His voice might be expressionless, but he was unsuccessfully trying to hide a smirk.
"What good would a tape measure do?" Sherlock asked behind him. "Anyone can see he's the taller."
The other three looked nonplussed at Sherlock's remark, which made John laugh. "I've nothing to prove; no complaints and enough compliments to keep me happy," he said, which had Cooper giggling.
"Oh," Sherlock said, sounding disgusted, "I see I should expect juvenile antics here."
"Nothing juvenile about my antics," Harkness said, laughing. He started down the stairs towards them.
Cooper stood and walked over. "Is it John and Sherlock?" she asked, holding out her hand to shake.
"Yes," John said, looking over his shoulder at Sherlock. To his relief, Sherlock was busy looking around them; John thought he'd behave himself for the moment. He looked at Gwen and then his face fell. "Happily married?" he asked. She was a lovely woman; just his luck she was wearing a wedding ring.
"Oi!" Harkness yelled, laughing. "Hands off! We have enough trouble with Rhys!"
"Very happily," Gwen said, grinning.
"Married less than a year, happy now, at least one affair before the wedding, but she's decided to make a serious go of it. She'd probably leave it if Harkness asked, but he's involved with Jones and they're all content that way." Sherlock, of course, couldn't leave a question like that be.
"I-, what-, how-, what do you mean by that?" Gwen asked, the smile gone and a look of fierce anger now on her face.
John moved from between them. "Your wedding ring-" Sherlock started to say.
"What's wrong with my wedding ring?" Gwen asked, walking up into Sherlock's personal space.
She'd moved quickly enough, and with enough emotion, that she'd startled Sherlock into taking a step back. As soon as he did, though, he stepped forward, his chin up. "I observe," he said, his tone frosty.
Before he could say anything else, Harkness said, "Okay, kids, let's play nice. Sherlock, this isn't a crime scene and we'd prefer you to wait to be asked to deduce personal stuff. Gwen, I told you Sherlock was a genius and a detective; this is what he does. Now, are you going to play nice or should we have a contest? I like naked mud wrestling myself."
"Sir, shall we hire them before we start with the harassment?" Jones asked. He walked down to John. "Pleasure," he said as he shook both their hands.
"Your-" Sherlock started to say.
Sensing trouble, John brought his elbow back sharply into Sherlock's stomach, which stopped the other man. "Nice to meet you, Ianto," he said, being careful with the unfamiliar name. "I don't think I've ever heard your name pronounced before."
"It's Welsh," Sherlock said, a little choked.
John rolled his eyes and was turning to Sherlock when he caught Ianto do the same, which cracked them both up.
"Oh, are we in trouble!" Harkness laughed. "C'mon, let's have some coffee and get to know each other."
"Y'know," Gwen said, "I remember someone saying that's what we should do. Don't you, Ianto?"
"You liked the idea of seeing how you looked," Ianto said, grinning.
"But they didn't bring pizza. Hey, maybe that should be one of my employment criteria. 'Must bring pizza to infiltrate our super-secret lair.' What do you think?"
John gave Harkness a proper look. He was dressed in a long-sleeved blue button-down shirt, with dark trousers, braces and a belt. Although John was pretty sure all of it could be bought pretty much anywhere, the look screamed 'old-fashioned military' to him; the leader of one of the units he'd worked with, a man in his sixties, had dressed much the same. Harkness didn't look that much older than John, but there was something about him . . . Old-fashioned, military, but he clearly liked to tease and preferred a relaxed atmosphere. He was probably also the type that would push until pushed back. So, John shrugged. "I s'pose we could go back out, but it's a little early for pizza." He turned to Sherlock.
Sherlock had either made the same decision or was following John's lead. He'd pulled out his phone and was scowling at it. "If we were in London, I could name half a dozen places to get pizza at this hour, but not in Cardiff, and I don't have a signal. How am I supposed to get anything done where I can't get a signal?"
Ianto sighed, but Harkness held his hand up. "Are you emotionally attached to your phone?" he asked.
"It's a tool," Sherlock said, while John said, "Actually, yes. It was a gift from my sister." He hadn't meant to catch Sherlock's eye, but he did, and they both started giggling.
"Sorry," John said as soon as he caught his breath. "Has to do with the first day we met."
"Great!" Harkness said. "Ianto brought in some food, we'll have breakfast and you can tell us about you and we'll tell you about us. I have a good feeling about this; what about you?"
"Oh, God, we're in so much trouble," Gwen moaned.
Hoping to get everyone off on the right foot, Gwen brought pastries in the next morning. To her dismay, even though she was early, she was still the last one in. “Who wants pastries?” she shouted.
Jack was already out of his office and on his way to her. Gwen grinned at him as she dodged out of his way. “Conference room,” she said. “These are for everyone.”
“Right,” Jack said, grinning back. “Meeting!” he called. “That means you, Sherlock!”
Gwen looked over to the medical area, where John was already at the top of the stairs with two mugs in his hands. Ianto was already making coffee. Sherlock was the only one who wasn't on his way to pastries. She'd have to find out what he liked if pastries didn't work.
Five minutes later, all five of them were together in the conference room. All of them but Sherlock had half-eaten pastries in front of them; Sherlock was drinking his tea and glaring at the pastries as if they were poisoned.
“All right,” Jack said, quickly swallowing when Ianto glared at him. “We're generally pretty informal, but you need a good reason not to join in for meals.”
“Why?” Sherlock asked.
Gwen looked over at Ianto, whose face was unreadable. “Because bad things happen when we don't act as a team,” she said.
Sherlock scowled, which had John sighing. “You're really going to make this difficult, aren't you?” he asked his friend. “Is this 'everyone needs to be together' or 'everyone needs to eat together'?”
Jack's look at Gwen and Ianto was confused. Gwen shrugged, as did Ianto. “It's a team thing,” he said slowly. “What's the problem here?”
“I don't eat when I'm on a case,” Sherlock said, looking irritated. “Digestion slows the brain down. I'm also not sociable. I was in the middle of an autopsy of that Weevil that you killed this morning and I don't like having to stop in the middle of things.”
Jack looked unimpressed. “Tough. You'll be stopping in the middle of things all the time; that's the job. We won't force-feed you.” He looked at Sherlock for a minute. “Unless Dr Watson thinks it's warranted.”
Sherlock glared at John, who raised his hands. “I promise I'll only use my powers for good.” Everyone sniggered at that, except Sherlock who only smirked.
“So, we've survived our first day together,” Jack said, clapping his hands together, “we've promised Sherlock that he can ignore food as long as he's not damaging himself. What else needs addressing?”
“There is a refrigerator in the medical area,” Ianto said, looking at Sherlock sternly. “Anything that is not food for human beings belongs there. I found . . . body parts in the regular fridge last night.” His face was white; Gwen shuddered in sympathy.
Sherlock glanced toward the medical bay. “The one in the medical area is actually less convenient than the one in the kitchen when I'm working at my station,” he said. “Can we move my station?”
Ianto's brow furrowed as he thought of the Hub's layout. When he didn't respond immediately, Jack groaned. “Oh, for-- Ianto, get him his own fridge. I don't want to be pulling you and Gwen out of the toilets when Sherlock gets lazy.”
Sherlock nodded, looking confused. Ianto looked down and said, “My first field mission was a missing persons' thing. It wasn't aliens. It was,” he gulped, “cannibals. They kept--”
“Christ,” John said, his eyes wide.
Sherlock straightened and nodded, this time looking like he'd follow the rules. “My apologies; I have no desire to trigger a flashback.”
“I'd prefer you not either,” Ianto said, and frowned. “I mean--”
“We all get what you mean,” Jack said. “Sherlock, there will be consequences if body parts are where they don't belong.”
“Quite,” Sherlock said. “You haven't said anything about my doing that autopsy. What types of experiments may I do?”
Gwen caught John's eye. He looked like he was waiting for everything to fall apart.
Jack thought for a minute. “You'll need to warn me if you want to work with anything explosive or contagious.” He thought for another minute. “Erm, Ianto, what am I forgetting?”
Sherlock had an expression of unholy glee while John was thumping his head on the table. “With those rules, no experiments in the flat,” he moaned.
“I'll dig out the safety manuals,” Ianto said, his tone dry, “and highlight the types of experiments that John, Gwen and I should be evacuated for.”
“What were you thinking of?” Jack asked. “Other than cutting apart Weevils?”
“Wait a minute,” John said, his head coming off the table. “If Sherlock gets to do autopsies, does that mean I don't have to?” When Jack scowled at him, John spread his hands. “Look, Sherlock knows what he's doing and he'll pull me in if he needs me, but I prefer working on the living. If I have to put up with his experiments, I'd like to get something out of it.”
“You've just declared two refrigerators off-limits,” Sherlock pointed out.
“And the tub?” John asked. “And the rest of the flat?”
Sherlock shrugged. Gwen noticed he wasn't promising anything.
“If you trust Sherlock to do an autopsy, I have no problem with it,” Jack said. Gwen wasn't surprised at that; she'd done a couple when Owen was still living, and John seemed to believe that Sherlock knew what he was doing.
Before they could discuss anything else, the Rift alarm went off and the five of them were scrambling to be ready.
Ianto realised he was almost reluctant to go back to the Hub. He thought for a minute. The Rift Predictor was claiming that there wouldn't be anything coming through for the next couple of days and everything was otherwise quiet. It was such a beautiful day and it seemed a shame to spend it cooped up. He stopped outside of the Chinese restaurant and called Jack.
“Picnic or scavenger hunt?” Ianto asked, feeling playful.
“Y'know, I think Sherlock's been a bad influence on you,” Jack said, laughing. “Hmm, it's early; it's quiet. If I say scavenger hunt, do you think you can beat Sherlock?”
Ianto grinned. A worthy challenge; Sherlock was a tough man to fool. But he wouldn't see Ianto until the end which would make it more difficult. “I'd like to try.”
There was silence on the other end, and then Jack said, “I've turned off your tracker. You know how to turn it back on at your end, right?”
Ianto nodded to himself, already planning on where he'd get their lunch and where he'd set it up. “Yep. Better pick up snacks or everyone'll be too cranky to enjoy it.”
“Oooh,” Jack said. “I'll give you a twenty minute head start before I tell the others. Where shall we start?”
Ianto thought about it. Then he grinned. “You'll know,” he said, and started running for the deli, setting his watch to remind him in nineteen minutes.
“You have to keep us going for two hours,” Jack said. Ianto smiled at the delight in his lover's voice. No matter who won, this would be fun.
When Jack bellowed, “My office,” John held back a sigh. He'd been looking forward to a quiet lunch. When he got to Jack's office, he looked around. “Where's Ianto?”
“Clearly, that's why we've been called together,” Sherlock said, looking bored. John knew better; he could see the delight that Sherlock was trying to suppress. “Ianto is unexpectedly missing and Jack is practically bouncing. I suspect this is some form of simulation.”
“Couldn't it wait till after lunch?” Gwen asked.
Jack threw meal bars at the three of them. John picked his up and made a face. “Lunch is the prize. The game is a scavenger hunt. Ianto has a twenty minute head-start. We have two hours to find him until,” he shrugged. “Until the bad guys do something.” His phone signalled a text. “And that's our first clue,” he said, pulling his mobile out with a flourish. Then he scowled. “We may have to discuss valid clues,” he said.
“Oh, give me that,” Sherlock said, grabbing for the phone. He looked at it with a huge grin. “I think Mr Jones has been reading your blog, John,” he said, heading for his laptop.
John and Gwen looked at the phone over Sherlock's shoulder. “That's not what the Black Lotus used,” he said.
“No,” Sherlock said, “but it's a code.” He looked up at Jack. “Probably a waste of time,” he muttered, “but it should be checked.” He pulled up the Torchwood tracker program. “Jack turned off Ianto's tracker,” he said, but left the window open.
Gwen looked at Jack, frowning. “What if something happens?” she asked.
“Ianto knows how to turn it back on,” Jack said, looking over Sherlock's shoulder. “Of course, if you can turn it back on, that's not cheating.”
Sherlock shook his head and pointed to a symbol next to Ianto's name. “He's turned off the phone, even taken out the batteries. It'd take me--” He paused and thought for a few moments. “Almost an hour to send out a powerful enough signal through this software. Let's see how difficult his clues really are. John, get me the patches.”
It took Sherlock five minutes to break into Ianto's account. “I'm impressed; he understands security,” Sherlock said, while the other three shook their heads.
“How long would it take you to break into mine?” Gwen asked.
“Already done,” Sherlock said. “At least you didn't use it in clear, but it's a simple reversal of Rhys's initials and your wedding date. I had it worked out my first day.”
Gwen blinked at Sherlock and then glared at John.
“Don't look at me,” John said. “I've given up keeping him out of my accounts. It's hopeless.”
“Maybe we should have you give us the passwords,” Jack said, looking unhappy.
“Won't work,” Sherlock said, as he pulled up the code Ianto had used. “They'll forget them and all anyone needs to know is that I created them. Ah, picnic food. Where can premade picnic food be purchased?” He looked up at Jack and Gwen, who looked at each other and shrugged.
“There's a deli next to the bank,” John said, grinning. “Ianto was talking about giving them a try and I'll bet he didn't think anyone was paying attention.”
“When was this?” Gwen asked as she grabbed her purse.
“The other day, when we were chasing that sensor ghost,” John said, grabbing his and Sherlock's coats. “Are you coming with us or directing?” he asked Sherlock.
“With you,” Sherlock said. “None of you are observant enough.”
As they walked out the door, Sherlock paused. “Is it a requirement,” he asked Jack, “that we follow Ianto's clues, or can we go directly to him?”
Jack shrugged. “The challenge is to find lunch within two hours,” he said.
“Excellent,” Sherlock said. He swiped one of the brochures from the stand and held it up. “And the best thing, I doubt he remembers this. It's sitting in his subconscious for us to exploit.”
“Poor Ianto,” Gwen laughed.
They drove directly to Cardiff Castle and found the picnic area. There was an orange blanket that had a sign stuck through the centre. “Good try,” it read. “Try a little harder.”
Sherlock laughed and pulled out his laptop.
“What are you looking up now?” Gwen asked.
“What is the nearest park to the Cromwell Estates?” Sherlock asked.
“I don't know,” Gwen asked, clearly trying to think of the area.
“Oh, never mind,” Sherlock said. He pulled up the GPS, “for the map, John. Activating the tracker will take too long; he might move.” Then he looked over at Jack; who was grinning. “Get his phone.” As he pulled Jack's mobile out of his pocket, he glared. “No. Get that wrist computer.”
“Hey!” Jack said. “Wait a minute!”
It took all three of them, and some dirty moves, but five minutes and several bruises later, Jack's hands were secured and Sherlock was holding the wrist computer. “Hm, I can't tell if he sent Ianto a message.”
“He didn't,” Gwen said. “I was watching and he had his hands in his pockets. Now, which park is closest?”
Sherlock determined which park was the likeliest but Gwen decided on their route so they could sneak up on Ianto.
When they arrived, they walked behind Ianto, who was texting rapidly. “Good thing we turned off the sound on Jack's mobile,” Gwen whispered in John's ear.
He nodded. The sound of multiple received text messages would have been a dead giveaway.
Sherlock dashed up and tackled Ianto from behind. He touched the basket and checked his watch. “Fifty-nine minutes!” he crowed.
Ianto held up his hands. “You got me,” he said. “It's a shame, because I had a trail to introduce you to the wonders of the city. Now, where's Jack?”
“We left him tied up in the SUV for you,” Gwen said, grinning. “He was cheating.”
“All's fair in love and war, Gwen,” Ianto said. “Go get him while I get this set up. I didn't want to do it until you lot got here; I didn't know what would happen to the food.”
To John's delight, Sherlock decided that his victory meant he was hungry and he ate a full lunch.
“Meeting, everyone,” Gwen said as she walked into the Hub. “Come on, boys, get moving.”
“I thought Jack was in charge,” Sherlock murmured as they walked up to the conference room.
“So did he,” John muttered back, trying to hide his grin. Judging from Jack’s glare, he was unsuccessful.
Once everyone was seated with Ianto’s coffee in front of them, Jack turned to Gwen. “So, why did you call us here today?”
“Andy called me last night,” Gwen said. “Now, if you tell me to drop it, I will, Jack, but something sounds strange.” She pulled out a couple of file folders. “There’s been a rash of strange deaths lately in Penylan.”
“Strange doesn’t always mean Torchwood,” Jack said, his arms crossed and his back stiff.
Gwen pulled a photograph from one of the folders and held it up. It was a forensics shot of a dead woman. Ordinary enough, if bright blue skin and red hair could be considered ordinary.
Jack uncrossed his arms and leaned forward, picking up the photograph. “Huh. Cintolphian. Are all the victims of the same species?”
“I don’t think so,” Gwen said and pulled out three other photographs. Two were of women, one was a man, and none of them appeared to be of the same species. She tapped the photograph of the one woman. “From what the autopsy reports say, she’s human, but the others. . .”
“Quite a clean-up job,” Ianto murmured.
“I think the fact that people are dying is a little more important than the mess they’ve caused!” Gwen snapped, glaring at Ianto.
Sherlock was shuffling through the photographs. “Are these the best ones you have?” he asked, scowling.
“It’s all Andy could give me,” Gwen said, still glaring at Ianto who was holding his hands up. “I thought we could break into the--”
“What are the file numbers?” Sherlock asked.
Gwen just handed him the folders. “It’s nice to see someone caring about the people.”
“Gwen, I’m sorry,” Ianto said. “It’s just that I’m the one who’ll be handling the clean-up. I don’t get the most important job.”
That had both Gwen and Jack arguing.
John let it go on for a minute before he decided that enough was enough. He stood up, put his fingers to his mouth and whistled. The shrill sound stopped everyone. “All right,” he said. “Gwen, stop yelling at people for thinking about aspects of their jobs you don’t have to deal with. Ianto, if you’re feeling put upon, say something; don’t go all passive-aggressive on us. Sherlock, get back over here until we have a plan started. Jack, the floor’s yours.” John sat down and took a sip of his coffee. The other four stared at him, but John just looked at Jack.
Jack took a deep breath. “Right. Actually, unless Ianto can get you in faster, Sherlock, you keep doing what you’re doing.”
“Tosh had some programs--” Ianto started to say.
“Found them,” Sherlock said. “She was brilliant.” He frowned. “Mycroft would have been trying to get me to marry her.”
An image of Mycroft holding an umbrella-shotgun on Sherlock and the petite woman John had seen in photographs was too absurd and he started laughing. “Sorry, sorry,” he said, waving his hand. “It was just the thought of Mycroft’s umbrella doing double duty as a shotgun.”
Sherlock snorted, and Jack closed his eyes and thumped his head down on the desk. Gwen and Ianto exchanged looks and that was it. All five of them were giggling.
Fifteen minutes later, Sherlock was grumbling. "Gwen or Jack, I need to autopsy the victims?"
"Shouldn't be too hard," Jack said. "If they've been buried, we just exhume them; otherwise, we take them." When Sherlock looked up, Jack shrugged. "Hey, above the government, beyond the police, yadda, yadda, yadda. Unless they've been cremated--"
"Wait a minute," Ianto said, typing on his computer. "According to this, one's been cremated, two have been buried and the fourth is in the morgue. That one's no problem--I'll get her this afternoon--but how important is it that you redo the other two autopsies?"
Sherlock and Jack looked at Ianto in surprise. "It's just, exhumations are a pain," he said. "Most of the trace stuff you're interested in is gone; I just wondered if it was really necessary."
Sherlock turned back to the computer screen. After a minute, Sherlock sighed. "They weren’t done right and they're from species we don't know. The increase of knowledge is always necessary."
Jack glared. "Do you need them to solve the case? This is not a research facility, and we don't have the time to play games."
Sherlock sighed. "I can start with the one they have, but I may need to send you out after them later."
To John's relief, Ianto's shoulders relaxed. "If it's necessary, I'll get it done," he said. "Will you need anything else while I'm out?"
"Yeah," John said. "D'you mind if I come with?"
"Sure," Ianto said. "Any particular reason?"
"Just getting to know people," John said, going for his jacket. "Never know when I'll need to soothe feathers, and that's always easier when you know the people."
"Ah," Ianto said with a real smile. "Might make a couple more stops, then. C'mon."
As Ianto started the SUV, he gave John a quick look. "You wouldn't happen to follow rugby, would you?" he asked.
John grinned. "Love it," he said. "Who do you like?"
Ianto grinned back and tuned to a game. They spent the drive to the morgue debating their teams; by the time they arrived, Ianto was acting much younger than he usually did.
"John," Ianto said as they walked into the morgue, "this is Denise."
Denise was an older woman, about Gwen's height and plump, with greying dark hair. "Hi, sweetheart," she said, her face lighting up. "What can I do for you? Nice to meet you, John."
"Nice to meet you," John said, shaking her hand.
"Torchwood is claiming the body from file number—" Ianto started to say.
"We thought you'd be coming for her," Denise said, handing him a clipboard with the paperwork already filled out. "Sign and she's all yours, poor thing. So, they finally gave you an assistant?" Her blue eyes were lively with interest.
"John's here as a temp," Ianto said, signing after he'd confirmed everything was in order. "He's to be our doctor until Jack hires a permanent one."
"Oh, and he does his own pickups, does he?" Denise turned to John. "Most doctors around here would view this as beneath them."
"No such thing," John said, smiling at her. "I asked to come along so I could meet the people I'll be working with.."
"John's retired RAMC," Ianto said as he handed the clipboard back. "He was in Afghanistan. I think he just wants to be sure that Cardiff is friendlier."
Denise swatted at Ianto while John shook his head. "I'll pass the word around," she said. Then she leaned forward. "So, are you seeing anyone?"
"Not right now," John said, leaning towards her. "Why, are you asking?" He'd already seen her wedding ring, but a little harmless flirting would make dealing with the woman, and anyone she told about him, that much easier.
"Happily married almost thirty years," she said, holding up her left hand and trying to look severe. "You'd best behave yourself or I'll sic Evan on you."
"She's back here?" Ianto asked, walking toward a door to the right. When Denise nodded, Ianto said, "Come with me. And listen to her; Evan's huge."
"The harder they are," John said, winking at Denise.
"Still seems strange to me, how easy you are around not just dead bodies, but dead alien bodies" Ianto said, checking inside the body bag that they were taking the right corpse. "Is it being a doctor that makes it easier, or having been in the army?"
"Neither, really," John said. "It's running around with Sherlock. Once you've lived with eyeballs in the microwave and a head in the refrigerator, it takes a lot to seem strange."
Ianto paused for a moment, thinking. "I'm not sure which of us has the stranger life," he said.
John stared down at the woman with blue skin and red hair that he'd been informed was from another planet. "Definitely you," he said. "Until now, anyway."
When they hauled the body into the Hub, Jack came to meet them. "Any problems?"
Ianto shrugged. "Just that Denise will be trying to fix John up with all her single friends," he said, his face deadpan.
"Oi!" Gwen shouted, coming up stairs from somewhere else. "I have first dibs."
John blinked. "I thought you were married," he said, starting to worry.
Gwen rolled her eyes while Jack and Ianto started laughing. "I meant on fixing you up," she said. I think you and Trina would make a lovely couple."
"John has no problems finding women to date," Sherlock said, peering at the trolley with the corpse. "Is that my corpse?"
John said, "Yes," as Jack said, "After you suit up."
"I'm careful," Sherlock said, irritably. "I won't contaminate--"
"I'm worried about your being contaminated," Jack said, standing up straight and folding his arms across his chest. "Not about you contaminating the evidence. "We don't know what's going on. Suit up or no autopsy."
Sherlock glared, drawing himself up. After a minute, to John's surprise, his flatmate backed down, returning to the med bay to find what he needed. When John looked over wide-eyed, Jack smiled.
The autopsy gave them no information they didn't already have, except that Sherlock had a list of questions for Jack and an even longer list of experiments to run. After he and John had washed up, they met in a small conference room where Gwen had set up.
She'd posted head shots of the four victims, with all the personal data she'd been able to find on them. "I haven't found much yet," she said.
"All four victims had been on the receiving end of sex within twenty-four hours of their deaths," Sherlock said. "They'd also all been restrained with heavy leather restraints. The latest victim didn't suffer any other injuries; however, she appears to have had an allergic reaction to human semen."
"That's unusual," Jack said. When the others looked at him, he shrugged. "I've known a few Cintolphians in my day. Men and women. I've never had a problem."
"With no other examples," Sherlock said, "I have no way of knowing if it's a common problem or not, although I would have suspected not, even without your experience. If you look at--” Sherlock went off into a lecture that John had already had the benefit of. In short, she seemed to be one of those individuals with an oversensitive auto-immune system.
Once he was done describing her allergies, Sherlock said, "The evidence points to these four being sold as sex slaves."
Gwen's lips were pursed. "Andy thought that might be the case, but I didn't want to prejudice your findings."
Sherlock looked offended for a moment before ignoring her. "The question is where they're finding these people," he said.
Ianto pulled up a map which displayed on the wall. "Less than a week before each of the bodies was found," he said, "there was a Rift event that indicated a person was left. We were called to other places at the time, three Weevil complaints and another Rift event with the fourth. By the time we checked the area, they were gone."
"Someone is drawing us away," Jack said, scowling at the map.
"And has a way of tracking the Rift," Ianto pointed out.
"Can we fool the sensors they're using?" Sherlock asked.
Jack turned and looked at him, his eyes narrowed. "Maybe," he said. "What are you thinking?"
"A sting," Sherlock said.
John nodded; it was the obvious thing to do. "The only problem is that Torchwood seems pretty well known in Cardiff."
"And thanks to Denise," Jack said, "that includes you." He was still looking at Sherlock.
"But not me," Sherlock said, a slight smile on his face. "Fortunately, they seem to accept humans."
"Doesn't matter," Jack said, standing and circling Sherlock. "Your file says you're good at disguises. How's your acting?"
"I've fooled John at least half a dozen times," Sherlock said, smirking.
"Not in a while," John said, straightening up.
Jack didn't say anything for a minute. "Stand up. And move away from the table." When Sherlock did, Jack said, "Eyes down. Shoulders in. No, too much. You don't want to look like bait."
Sherlock turned to look at Jack, and slipped his jacket off. His stance was different in a way John couldn't have described.
Jack grinned. "Yeah, you've got it. Walk across the room. Bounce up on your toes. No, too much. Little less. Now, turn. A little slower. Try it again. Good. Slouch a little, shoulders back, eyes up. Perfect."
John couldn't have said what they were trying for, but it did have the effect of changing Sherlock's normal stride into an equally-graceful, but completely different, glide.
"Oh, yeah," Jack said. "You're a natural at this, Sherlock," he said. "Ever tried running a con?"
"I'm an honest man," Sherlock said, but with an East London accent, not his normal posh tones.
Gwen and Ianto exchanged impressed looks while Jack laughed. "You're wasted as a detective," Jack said. "Can you go for something blander?"
Sherlock expression was very focused as he said, "Can try. How's that?" John couldn't place the accent. It had a little of a lot of things, including Jack's American accent.
"Oh, we could have made a fortune together!" Jack said. "Stay put; I've got something that'll make this great!"
"Work on m'own, I do," Sherlock said, to Jack's delighted laugh.
The older man was back in a minute with a bluish metallic round . . . thing. "Hold it for a minute and press it," he told Sherlock.
A minute later, Sherlock's skin turned a pale green, just enough to be seen.
"Oh!" Gwen said. "That's . . ."
"That wasn't in the archives," Ianto said, his lips tight.
"Misfiled," Jack said. "Intentionally. Came through the Rift in the fifties; I'd forgotten all about it." At Ianto's glare, he said, "I'll try to remember anything else like it. Sherlock, check that out in the loo, but I think that's it. We'll come up with a suitably different outfit, but that'll just be window dressing."
Sherlock was back in a few minutes. "If we can fool their sensor technology, I can act dazed and a little confused. Do you think we'll need anything else?"
"Tracker," John said, sighing. "Not in your mobile, on you." He hated this kind of thing, but he knew Sherlock loved it.
"We've got several," Ianto said.
"Gotta be careful," Jack said, tapping his fingers on his lips. "Can't use anything obviously from here and now."
"That Denevelian--" Ianto started.
"Perfect." Jack snapped his fingers. "We'll have to let you get pretty far in," he said to Sherlock. "Think you can handle it?" When Sherlock just looked at him, he grinned. "All right." He clapped his hands together. "Everyone, go home and go to bed. We'll all get a good night's rest and set up for three tomorrow. Any questions?"
Gwen leaned over to Sherlock. "You can tell him to go to hell, Sherlock. No one will think any less of you."
John snorted. "He lives for this. I'm looking forward to knowing where he is during this kind of operation."
"Good luck," Ianto said, shaking his head. "Although maybe Sherlock will have better luck than Jack does. These jobs always seem to go tits up."
"Remember the Pharm?" Gwen asked.
"Contacts," Ianto said.
Before John could ask what he meant, Jack nodded. "Yeah, we'll do that tomorrow. You'll love 'em," he said to Sherlock. "John, make sure he sleeps. Sleeping pills or whatever."
"They leave me groggy," Sherlock said, scowling as he put his jacket back on.
"Don't care," Jack said. "John, there's stuff in the med bay; Owen will have marked it. You need to be well rested."
To John's surprise, Sherlock didn't argue. "Let me try on my own first," he said, which Jack shrugged at.
Three hours later, Sherlock was staring at John grumpily. "If this leaves me groggy tomorrow--"
"I'm sure it won't," John said as he prepared the injection. "Let's get you in bed first. Dr Harper's notes indicate that it works fast." Harper's notes also indicated that the patient was nearly impossible to wake up for the next six hours, but could then be woken and would experience no aftereffects. It was also highly addictive; John could read between the lines of Harper's notes that there had been some trouble when the nature of the substance had first been worked out.
Less than five minutes after the injection, Sherlock's eyes started drooping. In less than ten, he was fast asleep. John sent an email to himself at work; addictive or not, a sleeping aide that effective was a godsend for an insomniac.
John hadn't needed sleeping pills, but it had taken him a little time to get to sleep. He certainly wasn't expecting Sherlock up, dressed and ready to go five hours later.
"What are you doing still asleep, John?" Sherlock asked, in full manic mode.
"Sleeping," John muttered and looked at his alarm clock. "So much for six hours of sleep." He sat up, trying to wake himself. "How do you feel?"
"Magnificent," Sherlock said. "Ready to get on with it. Come on, get up."
"I need a shower," John said as he hauled himself out of bed.
"No, you don't," Sherlock said, and began listing all the reasons why John's shower was unnecessary.
John ignored him and spent a little time under the cold water. When he was awake enough to function, he dried off and got dressed. "Right. First thing is to examine you." Before Sherlock could object, John said, "You're not reacting the way I expected. That may be Harper's notes, that may just be you, or there may be a problem. So, we're going to take five minutes and make sure. Besides, it's not even six. None of the others will be awake yet."
"Jack will," Sherlock said, sitting down and submitting to the exam with his version of good grace.
John rolled his eyes and checked Sherlock's pulse and blood pressure. "All right, everything seems fine. Let's stop on the way in and pick up some breakfast."
They were the first ones into the Hub. John dropped off the pastries in the kitchen and started the tea.
Jack came out of his office while John was looking over the previous night's reports. "You weren't there a minute ago," he said.
"I was in bed," Jack said, grinning. "I live here."
"Oh, I didn't know that."
"Of course," Sherlock said, but before he could say any more, Ianto walked out of Jack's office. He looked perfectly put together, as always.
"Sherlock's here late enough to see us go to bed pretty regularly," Ianto said, smirking.
Sherlock looked put out while John and Jack chuckled. "Gwen'll be here later," Jack said, "but we can get started." When no one objected, he looked at John's breakfast. "Are there any more of those?"
Ianto was already in the kitchen making coffee. "They brought plenty," he called. "I'll bring one with your coffee."
Jack smiled at his lover happily, before turning to John and Sherlock. "First of all, Sherlock, no one will think any less of you if you back out. This will be dangerous and unpleasant." When Sherlock simply ignored him, Jack just laughed. "That's what I thought, but I had to try. Ianto and Gwen are lead on anything else that happens today. They'll be the ones handling Weevils and what have you. John, you're the lead on this case."
That surprised John. "Not you."
Jack shook his head. "Nope. Thanks, Ianto," he said, taking his coffee and pastry. "I'm backup. You know Sherlock better than any of us, so you'll probably be the first to realise that something's going wrong. Now, have you ever run anything like this before?"
John shook his head. "I've tagged along, but I've never been in charge of anything."
Nodding, Jack swallowed the huge bite he'd taken. "Ianto and I went on a search through the archives last night--fun times--and found a few things that will help. You know about the one thing. We also found this," he said as he pulled a small box from his trousers pocket and opened it to reveal a set of contact lenses.
"Gold star for paying attention," Jack said. "If anything's said, you can explain them as necessary because the light here is damaging to your eyes."
"If that doesn't seem like the worse thing to say," Sherlock said, scowling. "I'm perfectly capable of maintaining a cover. What do they do?"
Jack took a step back with his hands up. Instead of baiting Sherlock, to John's relief, he explained, "They do two things. First, they transmit anything you see back to us."
John perked up. "How many of those do you have?"
"Why?" Ianto asked.
"Because it'd be nice to keep track of him," John said, thinking of all the times Sherlock had taken off on his own.
Jack handed the box to Sherlock. "Put 'em in; do you know how?"
Sherlock gave him a look, not bothering to answer as he put them in. He blinked for a moment. "Comfortable enough," he said.
"Yep," Jack said, and sat down at John's terminal, pulling up a program John hadn't been shown yet. Once it was running, he typed, "Say Hi Sherlock."
"No," said Sherlock. He looked over Jack's shoulder. "That'll be useful; how does it work?"
Jack slapped the detective's hands away from the computer. "When this is over, I'll walk you through it. For now," he pulled a small phial from his pocket. "John is going to inject this into you."
Sherlock made a face. "What if they find it?"
"Not a problem," Jack said, handing the phial to John. "It's a standard recovery beacon. Lots of races use them for travel. This one is especially useful as it'll send us your vitals and any sounds in your vicinity, as well as your position."
"As long as it keeps working," John said, going to get the tools to inject it.
"Nothing's perfect," Jack said, shrugging. "For now, let's go over the plan."
"Shouldn't we wait for Gwen?" John asked.
Ianto rolled his eyes while Jack said, "She'll be here in half an hour and I'll be going over it again anyway."
By the time Gwen made it in, Sherlock had wandered off and was working on something that smelled foul. Jack eventually gave up on pulling Sherlock back in for the second briefing, muttering to himself something John couldn't make out.
In the end, they decided to start a little early. It wasn't a tactical decision as much as it was everyone was tired of Sherlock, who was even more manic than usual. Gwen drove Sherlock to an Indian restaurant about two blocks from their target. Sherlock was in an overcoat he'd borrowed from Ianto that would cover the ship's uniform he was wearing. Jack assured them that it fit Sherlock’s cover as a trader who had been pulled here by the Rift.
Once Sherlock was in place in the alley behind the restaurant, he triggered the fake Rift event and crumpled to the ground.
The rest of the team was clustered around John's laptop, with all the monitoring software up and running.
"Did he have to land right on the garbage?" Gwen asked, making a face.
John chuckled tightly. "He wouldn't have any aim if it were real, now, would he?"
"And here come the 'rescuers'," Jack said, pointing out two large men who came up to Sherlock.
Sherlock was "struggling" to stand up when one of them walked up to him. Before anyone could do anything, the strange man pulled out an aerosol can and sprayed Sherlock in the face with it. The image misted and then Sherlock's eyes closed, leaving the others blind.
Gwen was standing. "Sit back down," Jack ordered. "John, vitals."
"Looks like a light sedative," John said, swallowing hard.
"But, Jack--” Gwen’s eyes were wide with distress.
"He won't thank you if you bollix this up because you're worried," John said. His voice was tight but steady. "The SUV is loaded and ready; if we lose anything else, then we pull him out."
Jack's hand came down, firm and steady, on John's shoulder, while Ianto said, "I'll make another pot."
"Because what we all need is more caffeine," John muttered.
"Oi!" Jack said, with a laugh. Then he turned serious. "Actually, I think we ought to move to the SUV. We don't want to be too far away if he needs a rescue. There are places we stay hidden while we keep an eye on things.
Sherlock's tracker moved for about half an hour, and then stopped. They were able to find a parking garage several blocks away. His vitals stayed stable for a couple of hours until his heart rate and pulse began to pick up. A moment later, they began to see where he was. It was a plain room, no windows or furniture and only one door. Sherlock stood and tried it. It clearly was locked.
"Are you OK?" John typed.
Sherlock's head nodded and then he looked down. His clothes were gone.
John thought a moment and then typed, "Are you cold?"
The others laughed while Sherlock shook his head.
Jack reached over John. "Do you want us to pull you out?"
Sherlock shook his head again. Then he looked down at his hands which were moving.
"Does anyone speak sign language?" Gwen asked.
"Not enough," John said. "None of us understand you," he typed.
Sherlock's hands stilled. Then he started pacing around the room, peering at everything.
"There's not enough in this room to tell us anything," Gwen said.
"No," John said, "there's not enough to tell us anything. Sherlock can probably tell all kinds of things."
"We know where he is," Jack said. "As long as he's OK, we stay put. If he gets spooked, or things start to look bad, we pull him out. We need to know what's going on."
John typed that all in, but Sherlock didn't respond.
"I wish he'd say something," Gwen said, fidgeting in the back seat next to John.
"Too much risk of being overheard," John said. "Trust me, when we pull him out, we'll be getting a lecture on how stupid we all are."
"Wait a minute," Ianto said. "What about writing?"
"Worth a try," John said, and typed it in.
Sherlock looked around the room for a moment. Then he walked to one of the corners and used his finger to write on the wall. "Not underground," John read. "Hear voices. Not close. Temperature is fine. Boring."
That last comment got a laugh. "Tell him he wants it to stay boring," Jack said. "OK. We can communicate if we have to, but it's better if he doesn't keep it up."
It was another hour before anything else happened. There was a hiss and Sherlock's head went down and he was shaking it.
"His vitals are OK," John reported. "Pulse and respiration are up a little, but that's surprise, I think."
Before he could type anything to Sherlock, the door opened and the same two men rushed in. They grabbed Sherlock and before he could react, they'd put heavy leather cuffs on his wrist. "Can you understand me?" one of them asked.
Sherlock nodded. "I have an implant," he said.
"Good," the other man said, "because we don't have any fish for your ear."
"You put fish in your ears?" he asked, sounding shocked.
"Oh, God, he's good," gasped Gwen as she laughed.
"No," John said, "he doesn't follow popular culture. He thinks they've found some kind of fish--"
That set the other three off. John carefully didn't type anything so Sherlock would react naturally.
The first man grabbed Sherlock's chin and looked him straight in the eye. "If you fight us, you'll get hurt. You're not getting out of this and fighting just means you'll get hurt, too. Nod if you understand me."
John was typing, "If you want out, let us know," while Jack told him the same thing. Meanwhile, Sherlock nodded, while he looked down at the two fingers curled out of his fist.
"That's pretty clear," Ianto said. All four of them were now tense and ready to move.
The two men led Sherlock to a room with half a dozen well-dressed men and women sitting around. One of the men pulled out a hook and attached Sherlock's cuff to it. Sherlock was standing still.
After a minute, a man in a plain black suit moved to stand next to Sherlock. "This is a fine specimen, understands English, cooperative, healthy and attractive. The bidding starts at fifty."
"Sixty," one of the women said.
While the bidding went up, Jack said, "All right. We're going to break this up as soon as they clearly transfer 'ownership'. At that point, it's clearly slavery. John, tell Sherlock. I'm going to move the SUV to just outside the gates. Everybody ready?"
John nodded while typing. Sherlock curled a thumb a little out of his right fist. "We're good," he said.
As soon as they approached the gates, someone started shooting at them. "All right, we'll do it the hard way. John, keep a watch on Sherlock. We need to know if he's in trouble. Everybody, hold on!" Jack revved the engine and accelerated hard. John held on tight as Jack hit the gates.
To John's surprise, the SUV was able to crash through the gates. "John," Jack yelled, "can you run with the GPS?"
Before John could answer, Ianto said, "The app's on your phone. Here." He held up his hands and John tossed him the phone. While Ianto got the phone set up, John made sure that both his handgun and rifle were ready to go. Ianto tossed him back the phone. "We're ready."
"Let's go," Jack said.
All four of them hit the doors of the SUV, weapons up and firing. There were three guards firing at them, but that didn't last long. The door was locked, but Jack shot the lock out and kicked the door in. John didn't look to see if they were dead, injured or running; right now, his priority was Sherlock.
Using the app Ianto had loaded onto his mobile, John was able to direct the others through the house, which seemed deserted. At first, Sherlock's position remained stationary, but shortly after the Torchwood team had entered the house, he started moving. "They've probably closed the transaction," Jack said, as he hit another door, "and are trying to get everyone out."
"We'll never be able to prove who was here," Gwen said, checking around a corner.
Jack smiled at her. "Which way?"
Several minutes later, they turned a corner and found themselves facing a group of people, including a well-dressed middle-aged woman holding Sherlock, now wearing a robe, by his shoulder. "Everybody stop!" Jack shouted, holding up his gun. "You're all under arrest!"
"Phil!" a man wearing a grey suit called. "No one listen to these . . . people. We're done for the evening; please head to your homes."
Jack fired a round into the ceiling but, before anyone else could do anything, three men came around the corner. They were big and heavily armed and, as soon as they rounded the corner, they started shooting at the Torchwood agents. The four Torchwood agents went for cover and shot back.
The fire fight didn't last very long. One of the men was dead and the other two were down with injuries. Gwen was picking herself up, shaking her head, but John thought she'd be all right. Ianto was checking on Jack, who was down and bleeding. "John," the younger man said, his face grave, "get Sherlock."
"No. Gwen, you and John get Sherlock." John was impressed with Ianto's authority; he might normally be the assistant, but he had a natural forcefulness when he wanted to use it.
"C'mon, John," Gwen said, grabbing John's elbow. "Ianto'll take care of Jack."
John knew he should stay, but taking care of Sherlock first had become ingrained. He and Gwen went running for Sherlock.
He and the woman who had "bought" him hadn't made it very far. Sherlock's expression was dazed; John wondered what he'd been given. "Hands up," Gwen said, holding her gun steady, "you're under arrest."
"With my money?" the woman said, laughing. "I'll be out by breakfast, and have your career by lunch."
"Not likely," Gwen said, unsmiling. "Especially if in the heat of the moment, oops!, I shoot you."
The woman's expression froze, but she raised her hands.
John moved and started working on the restraints on Sherlock's wrists. "Sherlock," he said, "how are you?"
"I think they gave me something," Sherlock said, his voice distant. "I don't think I'm thinking clearly."
Gwen had put handcuffs on the woman. "Let's see what Jack wants done with this lot," she said, herding the others back to Jack and Ianto.
As soon as they were in sight, John cursed himself for letting Ianto and Gwen talk him into not checking over Jack. The front of Jack's shirt was covered in blood. John ran to him and started checking his condition.
There was no pulse and he wasn't breathing. "Where was he hit?" he asked Ianto.
"It wasn't his heart," Ianto said, sounding as if he hadn't realised how badly Jack was hurt. "I think it was a lung, though; he was breathing as if he wasn't getting air."
John was trying to decide if there was a chance of bringing Jack back when Ianto laid his hand on John's shoulder. "Don't worry," the younger man said. "He just stopped breathing a minute ago; he'll be back in a few minutes."
John didn't bother even looking at Ianto; he had to be in shock. "Gwen," he barked out, "get him in a blanket, and one for Sherlock as well." He pulled open Jack's shirt to find the wound. Behind him, he could hear Gwen talking quietly to Ianto.
Checking his watch, he noted the time; he'd need it for the reports. He started to stand when Jack gulped in a huge breath and sat up quickly. John was unbalanced and fell back.
"Are you all right?" Gwen asked John while Ianto went to his lover.
"Am I all right?" John asked, staring at her. "Are you out of your mind? He's--” He turned to Jack, whose head was snuggled into Ianto's shoulder.
"Sorry about that," Jack said. "I probably ought to tell new people before they see my act."
John's mouth was open. "This has happened before?"
"Of course it has," Sherlock said, his voice still distant. “Neither Gwen nor Ianto are nearly upset enough for this to be a surprise. Ianto, naturally, is more upset than Gwen; it's probably distressing to watch your lover die and knowing he'll be seeing it again. Gwen's seen it as well; she was making sure you weren't too close. Can we go home? I think I might sleep tonight."
Jack was starting to struggle to his feet. "Gwen, I called UNIT in on this one. They should be outside; they've probably already started rounding people up. Ianto, we need to go through the house--"
"Sit back down," John said through gritted teeth. "Gwen, Ianto, you have your orders. Sherlock, sit down." John had his medical bag out and started examining Jack.
"No, John, really, it's OK," Jack said, looking bemused. "I'm fine."
"I'm the doctor here," John said. "I'll decide when you're fine." He could hear Sherlock sit down, sighing dramatically. "You be quiet," he said over his shoulder. "You just have to wait until we're ready to go." As far as he could tell, Jack was fine. "All right; I'm not finding anything, but you're going to take it easy until I do a full scan," he said to Jack. "I'll go help Gwen and Ianto."
"No," Jack said. When he started to stand, John pushed him back down. "Really, John, I'm fine. The only damage is to the shirt. Check Sherlock and--"
John stood up, at attention. "Am I the CMO here or not?"
Jack looked stunned. "Uh, yeah. So, I'm supposed to sit here quietly, right?"
"That's right," John said, biting out his words.
"Right," Jack said, looking as if John were about to transform into something even more dangerous than he felt right now. "Sherlock and I'll keep an eye on each other."
John gave Sherlock a cursory look, but it appeared that whatever it was he'd been drugged with had just been to make him compliant. "Call if either of you have any problems." He went off after Ianto.
With UNIT handling the clean-up, it didn't take long for John and Ianto to ensure that nothing was left behind.
On their way back to the others, Ianto put his hand on John's shoulder. He glanced around and pulled John into an empty room. "Look, John, don't be too hard on Jack."
John took a deep breath and pushed his anger down. Ianto was in an impossible position--Jack was both his lover and his commander. "Why not?" The question came out harsher than he'd wanted.
It didn't appear to surprise Ianto. "Think about it. Every person who knows is one more who knows how vulnerable Jack is." Before John could comment on that, Ianto said, "Yes, vulnerable. Think of him in the hands of a Mengele. How do you keep an immortal man confined? He was recently buried for almost two thousand years; Gwen and I still don't know how he's as sane as he is. He doesn't usually tell people; they find out."
"OK. How'd Gwen find out?" It wasn't that Ianto didn't make sense--he did--but John was caught between hurt and professional pride.
Ianto smiled. "Susie, her predecessor, shot him and was planning to shoot Gwen. He came back in time to stop her. And before you ask, I found out when Owen shot him." Ianto's smile twisted. "We were in the midst of a mutiny at the time. Stopping the world from ending that time left him dead for three days. That's the longest, by the way. Usually it's minutes; an hour if he's been really ripped up."
John was aware that his jaw had dropped open. "I, I don't know, what am I supposed...?" He took a deep breath and thought, and then shook his head. "That's too much to take in." Then he looked up at Ianto. "He seemed so casual about it, like it didn't mean anything."
"That's how he treats it," Ianto said. "He was in a carnival once, as a sideshow attraction. The Man Who Cannot Die." He scowled. "I hate it."
"Harper," John started. "Wait, Harper shot him? In the midst of a mutiny? Never mind; I need to think this through." He looked at Ianto. "Are there records? Forget about anything else; I have a job to do and records will give me a baseline."
"A couple of the previous doctors, including Owen, have done baselines," Ianto said. "I'll get them for you first thing in the morning. Er, Jack'll complain." He looked apologetic.
"Then he can sack me," John said. "I don't do a job halfway. I should have already done this; everybody gets physicals tomorrow."
Ianto winced. "Full ones?" he asked.
John rolled his eyes. "I'll pick up sweets for everyone who cooperates." He sighed. "And restraints for Sherlock."
"Don't bother," Ianto said with a smirk, heading back to the others. "I've got ones better than anything you're likely to have."
"Why aren't they in--" John noticed Ianto's smirk and laughed. "Do they contain him?"
Ianto grinned. "Oh, yeah. Neither of us can pick 'em."
"We'll give them the Sherlock test tomorrow," John said, taking a deep breath.
By the time the five of them had reunited, Sherlock appeared to be back to normal. John gave everyone a cursory exam and announced, "Unless there's an emergency, I will be giving full physicals to everyone tomorrow. Everyone who cooperates will get sweets or other treat of their choice--non-sexual," he added quickly before Jack could say anything. "Anyone who doesn't cooperate will not like the consequences."
"Including no sex until they do cooperate, if I have anything to say about it," Ianto added.
Jack's face fell. "You two ganging up on me is no fair," he complained.
"Can I bring a doctor's note?" Gwen asked. "I just went."
"No," Jack said. "Although I'll leave it up to John if he wants to do the special lady's exam."
"Sorry, Gwen," he said. "After an alien pregnancy, I'm going to have to include it, unless a recent exam was done by someone who knew about it. And I'll need documentation."
"Who does yours?" Jack asked.
John shrugged. "You tell me," he said. "I was checked over pretty thoroughly after the bombing--"
"So was I," Sherlock said, looking grateful to finally have an excuse to get out of it.
"But," John said, "it wasn't a true physical. My last one of those is over a year old."
"I'll call Martha," Jack said. "Sorry, Sherlock, you're out of luck."
"Gwen, if you'd prefer this Martha to do the pelvic, I'm fine with that," John said. He knew a lot of women preferred female gynaecologists.
Gwen shook her head. "Might's well do it all at once," she said. "It'll be nice to see Martha."
"Let's get this show on the road," Jack said, standing while keeping a wary eye on John. When he didn't object, he clapped his hands together. "Reports due tomorrow; John, let me know if you can't fit it in."
The next morning, John walked into the Hub to find a large, disintegrating folder on his desk. The tab read "Jack Harkness". He thumbed through it to find multiple medical reports. He set it back down and went looking for Ianto.
He found the other man in the Archives. "Good morning. How're you doing?"
"Fine, thanks," Ianto said, smiling.
John frowned. Ianto seemed relaxed, but he was moving stiffly. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing." Ianto's smile was a little dreamy. When he noticed John's expression, he tried to keep the grin off his face. "Jack was in the mood to, erm, mark his territory. He wanted to see how red you'd get."
John huffed a laugh. "He's doomed to disappointment then. Between medical school and the Army, and the fact that you can move, I doubt he came up with anything I haven't seen before."
Ianto's grin was mischievous. "Even coloured lube."
"I'll do yours first, and make a comment about how children prefer it when I use the coloured soap," he said, grinning.
Ianto laughed. "Make sure I'm in earshot."
"Actually, that's what I came to talk to you about," John said, getting serious. "I'm not comfortable doing full physicals out in the middle of everything. Most people prefer as much privacy as possible, and I'd prefer to make everyone as comfortable as I can."
Ianto thought about it. "The better scanners are all in the medical area, but for the, erm, intimate parts, we could set you up in one of the rooms on the next level down. Or, you can just ask everyone to stay away; you can't really see in unless you're close and looking." He shrugged. "If something happens, it won't stop anyone, but it wouldn't anyway."
John thought about it. "I'll give everyone the choice," he said. "Gwen's the one I'm most concerned about anyway."
John decided to do hers first. When he offered her the private room, she rolled her eyes. "I'll sic Rhys on anyone who's rude," she shouted. "Happy?"
"Your call," John said with a chuckle. "You three are pretty easy with each other."
"Well, I've walked in on Jack and Ianto," she said, grinning, "and I'm still kicking myself for not taking a picture. We used to joke about how attractiveness was one of Jack's hiring criteria."
By the time he'd finished the exam, he'd been invited to her flat for dinner, been given the story of how she'd been recruited and the story of her wedding and Nostrovite pregnancy. "All done," he told when she'd finished the last story.
"Thanks," she said. "All clear, boys," she bellowed.
A minute later, Jack's head popped over the railing. "Just talked to Martha; she'll be down tomorrow. Says she can't wait to meet you; she's 'impressed' at Ianto's description."
"What about yours?" Gwen asked as she went up the stairs.
"Called me a big baby," Jack said with a fake pout.
"I like her already," John said. "Is she single?"
"Good man," Jack said with a huge grin. "Straight to the important stuff. And, no, I'm afraid she's happily engaged. To another doctor, at that."
John snapped his fingers playfully. "Ah, well. Gwen, will you get Ianto?"
To John's surprise, he found Ianto much less comfortable than Gwen had been. "Are you all right?" he asked as he checked Ianto's reflexes.
Ianto shrugged. "Nothing personal," he said. "I just hate exams."
"Any particular reason?" John asked.
"I was at Torchwood One, in Canary Wharf, the day--” Ianto trailed off. "The Cybermen used the medical facilities. On bad nights, I can still hear . . ."
John had read Ianto's medical file, but there hadn't been much explanation about what had happened--just a 28-day disciplinary suspension that had PTSD as a contributing factor. He told that to Ianto. "Was this when the terrorists destroyed it? I don't remember hearing anything about Cybermen."
"I'm a bit fuzzy on some details, but I think the official story was that there were hallucinogens in the water. In reality, Cybermen are alien, but yeah, that's when." Ianto took a deep breath. "They convert humans into Cybermen like them, to . . . They cut people up . . ."
"OK," John said, laying his hand on Ianto's shoulder. He crouched down to look in the younger man's eyes. "Don't push it. Have you ever talked to a counsellor?"
"Oh, yeah." Ianto rolled his eyes. "'Hello, I'm Ianto Jones. I'm here because robots from another dimension destroyed my last workplace and turned my girlfriend into one of them. Then, because I'm a moron, I brought her here and damn near helped them finish the job of destroying the planet.' Not really interested in being sectioned."
John tried to think of something to say. "That sounds awful," he said, aware of how much of an understatement that was.
Ianto's grin was lopsided, but real. "Sorry. I don't think about it much anymore, but hearing people in here without being able to see was . . . 'S weird. I don't know why it's getting to me today."
John shrugged. "When you work it out, maybe you can explain to me about the chip and PIN machines. When I'm done with you, why don't you take a walk, get some fresh air? Take Jack with you; I'm doing Sherlock next and I’ll probably need those restraints."
That made Ianto laugh. "Threaten him with Jack. Jack loves the restraints."
The image had John giggling. "Talk about the unstoppable force and the immovable object," he said. "I'd charge admission."
Several minutes later, he told Ianto, "That's you done. Go get dressed and drag Jack out for an hour or so. If he doesn't mind, you can hang out for his exam."
Although John had patched Sherlock up on more than one occasion, he’d never been able to give his friend a full exam. Being able to give him a complete exam with the Hub’s equipment was even better. And the best was that Gwen decided to help out.
“I don’t see what the problem is,” she said, mischief in her eyes. “He even warmed the speculum; a lot of male doctors don’t bother.”
“I’m perfectly healthy,” Sherlock said, staring at the experiment he was currently working on--something to do with detecting trace amounts of some kind of alien material. John hadn’t really listened past “non-reactive”.
Sherlock was pale and had two nicotine patches on his arm. Since they didn’t have an active case, he was eating, but he hadn’t slept much the night before.
John sighed. “All right, what are you so afraid of?” he asked. “What do you think I’m going to do to you?”
That made Sherlock look up. “You’ll give me a-- Oh, fine,” he stood up and walked quickly to the medical area. “It’s a waste of time, and I don’t need any lectures on eating properly, sleeping properly, or which psychiatric specialists to visit,” he said, his voice sharp.
“No psychiatric specialists I hate enough to send you to them,” John said, washing his hands and gloving up. “Down to your underwear and up on the table.”
As Sherlock finished dressing after his exam, John concentrated on labelling the blood phials and asked, “So, why were you giving me such a hard time about this?”
“You said it,” Sherlock said, his voice too quiet to be heard by anyone outside the medical area. “I was afraid that their equipment would find something . . .”
“I’m hurt,” John said, keeping his voice level. “I’m not Sally Donovan. I thought we were friends.”
Sherlock’s smile appeared like lightning, brief and dazzling. “We are,” he said, his voice full of amusement. By the time John looked up, his flatmate was hunched over the microscope, muttering to himself. John decided he needed a cup of coffee before he tackled their fearless leader.
It took over an hour for John to chase Jack down and get him down to the medical area. Since Ianto had agreed to clear Jack’s schedule of everything but emergencies, John knew it was procrastination, but he hadn’t been expecting this much resistance. Finally, out of patience, John snapped, “Shall I get Ianto to hold your hand? Since you seem to be determined to act like a child? Even Sherlock wasn’t this much work!”
Jack stopped in the doorway, took a deep breath and turned around. John winced; there was genuine fear on the older man’s face. “Sorry,” he said, not meeting John’s eyes. “I guess I’ve gotten used to associating ‘exam’ with . . .” He shrugged, and then took a deep breath, straightening his shoulders. “Right. Let’s get this done.”
Twenty minutes later, John was staring wide-eyed at the scan results. “You’re not human?”
Jack sighed. “Define human. Freeze that.” John fumbled his way to the right buttons while Jack got up from the table. “Take that, that and that away. What do you see?”
Oh. “Until this thing showed up, they’d have to have you open to see this, wouldn’t they?” John asked as what he was looking at shifted into focus. “Are both functional?” At Jack’s wince, John held up his hands, “Look, I’m fascinated, I won’t claim otherwise, but I’m asking as your doctor. Damn it, I knew I should have insisted that Ianto set up that private room.”
To John’s surprise, Jack laughed. “You could fit in anywhere, you know that? Be happy, too, which is one hell of a gift. I’m used to people freaking out,” he said when John stared at him, confused. “To have someone fussing because of insufficient privacy--”
“Of course you don’t want to be on display,” John said.
Jack howled. Gwen’s head poked over the railing and John scowled. “Just wanted to know what the joke was,” she said. Her “innocent” face wouldn’t have fooled anyone.
“John thinks I don’t want to be on display,” Jack said, with a huge grin and laughter in his voice.
Gwen snorted. “And I thought he was observant, for people who aren’t Sherlock,” she said, as she left.
“Yeah, well, I meant your advanced bits,” John said, grumbling. “Back on the table; let me get what I need.”
When they got back upstairs, Sherlock looked up. “Medical ethics?” he asked.
“I took an oath,” John said. “You’re welcome to ask Jack whatever you want.” He wouldn’t usually sic Sherlock on someone else that way, but he knew Jack could take it. For himself, he needed a pint or four to come to terms with it. He might not be a simple country doctor, but that didn’t mean that he was in any way prepared for Jack Harkness.
As everyone was wrapping up for the day, a young woman walked into the main Hub. John looked up and smiled. This was probably Martha Jones from UNIT, but the others hadn’t mentioned how beautiful she was.
“Martha!” Jack shouted, clumping down the stairs, picking the woman up and twirling her around.
“Good to see you, too,” she said, laughing, catching herself on a desk as Jack set her down none too carefully. “So, introduce me to these newbies. Sorry, sorry,” she said, her face becoming serious, “your temps.” John would have worried, but he could see the smile still in her eyes.
“Sherlock!” Jack yelled. “You’re done working for the night; we’re going out.”
Sherlock raised his hand, clearly more focused on the microscope slide than on Jack.
“I work with a lot of blokes like that,” Martha said, grinning. “You say he does field work, too.”
“All purpose scientist,” Jack said, “except for the socialisation bit. Still working on that. Sherlock, up or I’ll take away your toys.”
Sherlock continued to ignore the others, while Gwen and Ianto had clearly heard Jack’s greeting.
“Martha,” Gwen said, “so, come on, let’s see it.”
Martha held up her left hand to show off the diamond ring. John sighed. Even with the Torchwood salary, it was more expensive than anything he’d ever be able to afford. “Sorry I couldn’t make the wedding,” she said, looking sheepish.
“That’s OK,” Gwen said, shrugging. “Jack, Ianto, Rhys and I are the only ones who remember it.”
“Yes,” Ianto said, his voice dry. “And we worked so hard to make it memorable.”
“So I heard,” Martha said, with a laugh. “Are you enjoying your beret?”
John was about to ask what that was about, but he saw Jack’s face. “Remind me never to wear my dress uniform,” he said.
That got a general round of laughter. “Martha Jones,” she said, holding out her hand. “I’ve heard a lot about you, and your blog is great.”
Jack looked alarmed. “Tell me you’re not writing about Torchwood,” he said.
John shook Martha’s hand. “It’s very nice to meet you,” he said, giving her his best smile. She was too young, really too young even for Sherlock, but she was lovely, with dark, intelligent eyes and a large, ready smile.
“I’m assuming they’re old cases,” she said to Jack as she shook John’s hand. “Mum wants your autograph. She’s never met a real author before.”
Sherlock’s snort was ignored by everyone.
John wasn’t sure they ever would have pulled Sherlock out of there, except that a pack of Weevils attacked a group of teenagers. By the time the six of them had subdued the Weevils, John had discovered that Martha was as competent a doctor as she was beautiful a woman. Jack insisted on taking them out to eat, where they met Rhys, scandalised the rest of the restaurant with their antics, and had a wonderful time.
By the time Martha examined John late the next morning, they were chatting happily like old friends. “I may have been the most boring of these exams,” he said as he fastened his buttons.
“Don’t know about that,” she said as she labelled the blood phials. “I don’t often see scars like yours. You move a lot better than I’d have thought with those injuries.”
John shrugged. “Just lucky, I guess,” he said.
“Yeah, right,” she said, her gaze level. “You’re more of a hero than you’ll ever know, John Watson. It’s good to see you in one piece.”
Jack was walking past the medical area and stopped. “Oh, yeah?” he asked.
Her smile was sad as she nodded. “Both of ‘em,” she said, looking up at Jack. “Not together, but--”
“You’ve travelled in time,” Sherlock said.
Martha laughed. “You need new lines,” she said, giggling. “You’ve already used that one.”
“C’mon, Nightingale,” Jack said. “Let’s talk.”
Sherlock looked as confused as John felt. “I never said anything of the sort to her,” he said.
John shrugged. “You did say she’d travelled in time,” he pointed out. “Maybe it happens in our future.”
Sherlock looked thoughtful. “Maybe,” he said, but he didn't look convinced.
John sat down at his desk and looked at the calendar on his computer. They’d been here just under a month. If he’d been asked to take up this post back before he’d met Sherlock, he’d already be asking to make it permanent. There was as much, if not more, of an adrenaline rush as running around with Sherlock, and his skills as a doctor were being stretched. Not only was he kept busy taking care of his four teammates, but he was learning about other races--intelligent races--that inhabited the universe. It really was the best job he’d ever had.
But he’d met Sherlock, and the thought of leaving the other man hurt. It wasn’t that he was in love with Sherlock; in fact, the thought of sleeping with Sherlock was vaguely distasteful. He thought he might love the other man, but that didn’t matter. Sherlock was his friend and, however much he might deny it, Sherlock needed him. John was no more able to abandon Sherlock for the perfect job than he’d be able to walk away from any other duty he’d ever agreed to.
Of course, there was also the fact that Jack hadn’t said anything about wanting John, or Sherlock, to stay. John sighed, and opened his task list for the day. Wishing about what he couldn’t have was a complete waste of time.
After a full day of chasing Weevils, John was putting on his jacket to go home. “Are you planning on sleeping tonight?” he asked Sherlock, who was typing away at his computer.
“I’m just trying to work out what this--” Sherlock started to say when a siren suddenly went off, and they heard a series of metallic “clanks”. Sherlock turned to the computer, typing quickly.
Jack came flying out of his office as Gwen started banging on the cog door. “What happened?” he asked, gun out.
“Lockdown,” Sherlock said as Ianto said, “Something’s attacking the Hub.”
“Sherlock, see what you can find out through that. Ianto, help Gwen. John, make sure you have everything you need.” Jack rapped out the orders while pounding on his wrist strap.
“Nothing detectable is in orbit,” Sherlock said, scrolling through different screens. His voice trailed down to muttering while his fingers flew.
John wasn’t paying much attention to the muttering; he was making sure nothing was missing from his emergency kit. Fortunately for his nerves, Sherlock tended to leave that alone; he’d needed the materials in it far too often.
Fifteen minutes later, they’d all gathered together around Sherlock. "The programs aren't labelled appropriately," he said.
"What does that mean?" Jack asked, sounding as if his patience were almost gone.
Sherlock looked up. "The program was called 'Time Watch'," he said. "There was no further description. I didn't think it would be dangerous to open the source code."
Jack was trying to look at the program over Sherlock's shoulder. After a minute, he hung his head and said something. John suspected he was cursing in another language, but it wasn't one he recognised.
"How bad?" John asked.
"Good news or bad news?" Jack asked.
"Shit!" Gwen said. Ianto had finally persuaded her that there was no way to get out of the Hub for the moment.
"Better have the bad news first," Ianto said as Gwen said, "The good news."
"So nice to have a consensus," Jack said. "Good news part one, I recognise the program."
"That is good," Sherlock said, "because I can't read it."
"Yeah," Jack said with a sigh, "that's because we found it on a wrecked alien ship's computer. The moron in charge of tech back then, this was in the Eighties, decided to store it on Mainframe until he could decode it."
"How long did it take him to die?" Sherlock asked.
"As far as I know, he's still alive," Jack said. "He took a retcon retirement a month or so later; it was just too weird for him."
Sherlock looked completely confused at that idea. John could see both points of view, but he agreed with Sherlock.
"Right. Bad news is, we can't stop the program." Jack was meeting everyone's eyes now, very solemnly. To John's relief, though, there was a bit of a glint in Jack's eyes.
"How long?" he asked.
"It does end?" Gwen asked, her eyes huge.
Jack smiled. "It runs for twenty-four hours, but we'll be here for three days." Before anyone could ask, he said, "It's a time loop. It was created as a tool for the police; you'll see exactly what happens in one area for twenty-four hours."
"What's the catch?" Ianto beat the other three with the question.
Jack took a deep breath. "Sometimes it gets caught." He held up his hands. "Don't get too freaked out; the longest time on record was ninety days. We have enough food, water and other supplies here, though, for a group of a hundred people to last over a year. For five--"
"We have enough supplies for five people to last a century," Ianto said. Before anyone could argue the maths, he shrugged. "The world keeps trying to end; being prepared seems sensible."
Gwen sighed. "So, our biggest concern is what happens if Sherlock gets too bored and tries to create a doomsday machine?"
"Don't do that," Jack said to Sherlock, but he was smiling. "Look, time loops aren't any fun, but the outside world will only think it's a day. Rhys'll live."
Sherlock went back to scowling at the code; Jack joined him and within minutes their discussion no longer sounded like English to John.
There had been plenty of times when John had to stay put and there wasn't anything to do. No matter how hard Ianto worked at it, he was only one man and he had lots of other duties. John went for the cleaning supplies.
Two days later, John and Gwen had the Hub sparkling. Ianto had started with them but had been seduced away by the thought of uninterrupted time to organise all of the Archives. Jack had put himself in charge of morale and Sherlock had taken the program's consequences personally and was determined to work out how looking at the code had triggered it.
After two days, though, John couldn't face any more cleaning. "I don't know how Ianto does it, day in and day out, without going mad," Gwen said.
"Who says I'm not mad?" Ianto asked, flopping down on the couch next to Gwen. He tipped over and laid his head in her lap. Her smile was fond as she carded through his hair. "I work for Torchwood; of course I'm mad."
"Good to know I'd be eligible for a full-time job here," John said, smiling at the picture the two of them made. "Are you two related or something?"
Gwen's eyes crinkled as she smiled. "Just that we're both Welsh."
"And we both started here at about the same time," Ianto said, his eyes closed. "And we're both still here. And Rhys doesn't hate me."
"Rhys adores you," Gwen said. "You saved our wedding. He just wants to get you on his rugby team."
Ianto's eyes flew open. "You never said," he said. He started to sit up. "Are you serious?"
"What's in it for me if you play rugby?" Jack asked, coming over and plopping down in a chair by the sofa.
"Sweaty man in rugby shorts," Gwen said, her cheeks pink.
"Sold," Jack said with a grin.
Before he could say anything else, Sherlock picked up his violin and started playing. It wasn't the first time he'd picked the violin up since they'd started with Torchwood, but it was the first time he'd actually used it to play music.
"Oh," said, Gwen, her eyes wide. "I thought that was an heirloom; I didn't know he could play."
"Mm," John said, closing his eyes to listen. "He's playing Mendelsohn, too."
"Courting music?" Jack asked.
John grinned. "Keeping the flatmate happy music," he said. "He says playing is good for triggering thought processes and he plays stuff I like when he thinks of it."
"That must be wonderful," Gwen said, her eyes shining. Ianto had relaxed and she was back to stroking through his hair.
"Except when he's playing Music to Annoy Mycroft By at four in the morning, it is," John said.
When John opened his eyes again, it was two hours later and he was lying on the sofa in Jack's office. As he sat up, Jack smiled over at him. "Didn't want you hurting yourself falling out of the chair," he said, smiling.
The violin playing had been replaced by glassware clashing. "Sherlock give up?" John asked.
Jack shook his head. "Nope. Pissed off cause I won't let him experiment on the program. He thinks he's figured out what happened. He may have--he's certainly brilliant enough--but I don't want him playing with it."
The thought of what could go wrong gave John shivers. "Thanks for that," he said, standing and stretching. "How much more time do we have?"
"Assuming we don't get stuck," Jack said, putting the rest of the paper on his desk away, "about twelve hours or so. Now, please get lost. Ianto and I need to have a serious discussion. Ianto!" he called.
John passed Ianto on the way and grinned, which made Ianto blush. "C'mon, Gwen," he said, grabbing her hand, "let's get out of earshot."
She chuckled. "Sounds good to me."
Fortunately for everyone's nerves, the time loop ended after seventy-six hours. As everyone was packing up to leave, Ianto looked at John. "I thought you played rugby?"
"I do," John said. "Loads of fun."
"Why didn't you ask if you could come along?" Ianto smiled at Gwen. "I suspect you're better than most of the other blokes on the team; they'd be glad to have you."
"If I knew you played rugby, I'd have already asked," Gwen said, her green eyes wide. "Why didn't you say anything? Rhys'd be thrilled; he likes you."
John smiled. "Jack brought us on as temps," he said. "I don't think making long-term plans here makes sense."
Sherlock snorted. "Jack has no intention of letting us go," he said, looking over at Torchwood's leader. "He took one look at your file, and decided he'd do what he could to keep you right from the start. He wasn't sure about me, but since I'm not actively unpleasant to anyone here and I'm willing to do what's necessary and follow his orders, he's perfectly happy to keep me on."
Jack had walked over during this. His hands were in his pockets and he was trying to project calm. "I don't remember you actually following orders," he said, his tone amused. "It's more like you're so busy volunteering for your plans that you don't have time to hear any orders I give."
"That's because you're willing to accept logical plans," Sherlock said, smirking.
Ianto and Gwen sniggered. Then Gwen looked up at Jack, with puppy-dog eyes and a bit of a pout. "Please, can we keep them?" she asked in a little-girl voice.
Jack threw up his hands. "Not my call," he said. "They're free agents." He smiled at John and Sherlock. "I know Mycroft suspected we'd get along well. He seemed to think it a good, if kinda terrifying, idea, but it's your call. This job isn't for everyone."
Sherlock snorted. "John may like this better than he did the Army, and I certainly don't mind working with people who don't think that those who enjoy a puzzle are freakish. Lestrade still has my mobile; he may call to ask for my help."
"So," Jack said, shrugging, "you stay. John joins Rhys's rugby team, so Gwen and I can watch three gorgeous blokes playing, and Sherlock can play with explosives and body parts to his heart's content. Hey, Gwen, call that husband of yours; I'm taking us all out to dinner. Let's celebrate."