24 October 2009
The pub was one of those tourist-y sorts that had cropped up around the more popular sight-seeing locations in London; a bit too British for a regular British crowd, but looking like something out of a television drama that foreigners would lap up like cats around a bowl of fresh cream. It was just a bit too trendy; a bit too current, to be anything but a tourist trap.
Which was probably the reason the man Jack was meeting had chosen it; just to irritate that part of Jack’s soul who had long been native to Great Britain, especially Wales.
This particular pub was nearby Buckingham Palace, which was one good thing about it. It meant that Jack wouldn’t have far to go when he’d have to go back to the meetings that had kept him in London for the last four days.
Jack was tired. He could go days without sleep, and be able to deal with one alien invasion after another, but there was something about bureaucracy that managed to exhaust even him.
He really wished Ianto was with him. His mate could navigate through the halls of power with the ease of a shark ghosting through the open ocean. Ianto could be just as dangerous as well; swimming along peacefully until he got his teeth into his unwitting prey. It was really arousing to watch him in action, dealing with the various idiots that Jack had had to put up with the last several days.
But, Ianto was still recovering from being buried alive in the rubble of Thames House. The explosion that had caused the collapse hadn’t helped at all, leaving the dragon bruised and battered and down a wing. Jack hated seeing his mate that badly injured, and hadn’t wanted to leave him, but when Her Majesty summoned him to London Jack hadn’t had a choice.
Ianto had stayed behind to run Torchwood; Owen hadn’t been at all pleased that his dragon patient had had to come in early off of medical leave, but there really had been nothing for it. Owen had demanded that Ianto stay in the Hub for the duration, and the dragon had agreed…anything to get him out of the house for a bit. Ianto had been going a bit stir crazy; a twitchy and bored dragon was a sight to behold, and not in a good way.
The captain nursed his iced water; the publican had given him the stink-eye when he’d ordered it, only looking happy when Jack had added bangers and mash to it. He had to admit that the food was fairly good for a place that obviously catered to the tourist trade. There was a bit too much salt, and it was much more expensive, but he could deal with that.
He’d been there for about half an hour and had just finished his meal when the man who’d invited him showed up.
Nicholas Fury, Director of SHIELD, couldn’t have looked farther from a tourist if he’d tried. Dressed all in black, with a coat that swished just as flamboyantly as Jack’s own and that eye patch…yes, there was no way Fury would ever be mistaken for the everyday American tourist.
He slid into the booth across from Jack. “Fancy meeting you here,” Jack drawled, giving Fury a slightly sarcastic smile, and if some of his tiredness slipped through into his greeting he didn’t much care. He’d planned on going back to his hotel room and call Ianto over Torchwood’s sub-wave network, catching up on the day and hopefully getting his mate’s feedback on some of the more impossible goals the Queen wanted set for Torchwood.
But no, he’d gotten a call from Fury practically demanding a meeting. Jack had almost refused just to piss the man off, but in the moment decided that he really didn’t want to start off any sort of partnership with SHIELD by making its Director mad. Because, if Her Majesty wanted things to flow the way she wanted them to, Torchwood was going to need all the help they could get that wasn’t UNIT.
Jack thought vaguely that Ianto would be proud of his somewhat tenuous grasp of diplomacy. He wondered if the dragon would reward him in some very pleasant way when he got home.
“You should try the shepherd’s pie,” Jack went on. “I understand it’s really good.”
“I just might,” Fury answered agreeably. “Sorry to drag you out after all that meeting shit –“
“No, you aren’t.”
Fury smirked. “Yeah, you’re right. But I wanted to talk to you somewhere that wasn’t under the noses of any sort of security, because as far as I’m concerned the agreements between Torchwood and SHIELD aren’t anyone else’s fucking business.”
Jack laughed despite himself. “Yeah, okay. I can go with that.” He had absolutely no problem with keeping certain aspects of whatever he and Fury discussed secret. In fact, he’d planned on it, only he’d hoped to do it in his own time and not in a tourist trap of a pub.
He reached into the pocket of his greatcoat and pulled out a small tube of what looked like a lipstick. He touched the button on the side of the tube, and then set it down on the table between them. “There,” he said, “if anyone is listening all they’re gonna hear us talk about is the weather.”
“Fancy,” Fury approved. “I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on some of those.”
“I’ll ask Toshiko to get you the plans.”
“That would be Dr Sato, correct?” SHIELD had shown some interest in Toshiko after the CERN affair, but of course nothing had come of it. Toshiko was loyal to Torchwood, and always would be.
“Doctor Sato-Swanson, actually. Toshiko got married about five months ago.”
“Please give her my congratulations.”
“Just a second.” Fury got up and went to the bar, speaking to the landlord. The man behind the bar nodded and pulled a pint for SHIELD’s director, who paid and then carried it back to the table. “Figure I better look like I’m supporting the local economy.” He took a sip. “Picked up a love for bitter when I was assigned a mission here about twenty years ago. Don’t get enough of it and American beer just doesn’t cut it sometimes.” He eyed Jack’s water glass. “Not drinking?”
Jack shrugged. “Alcohol does absolutely nothing for me,” he admitted, knowing that Fury was very much aware of his issues with staying dead. “I drink every once in a while, but it’s usually some of the single malt Sir Alistair keeps sending me for various holidays. The Brig has excellent taste.”
Fury nodded. “Seemed like that to me, meeting him.”
Brigadier General Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart had been a large part of the meetings Jack had been taking with Her Majesty, as well as current head of UNIT Great Britain, Brigadier Winifred Bambera, who’d come out of retirement in order to salvage things after the 456. “He’s a grand old gentleman,” Jack replied. “Hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye with Torchwood but he never did cut us out like Oduya did during the 456 incursion.” He didn’t add that he’d always owe Sir Alistair for setting him onto Toshiko’s incarceration in a UNIT holding facility, because the old soldier hadn’t cared for the way she was being treated. “He’s just about the fairest man I know.”
“He helped found UNIT, didn’t he?”
Jack nodded. “Out of the old Intrusion Countermeasures Group. Kinda like how SHIELD grew out of the Strategic Scientific Reserve, only Peggy Carter had nicer legs than Ian Gilmore.” He leaned forward confidentially. “Don’t let either of them know I said that.”
Fury rolled his single eye. “Jesus, Harkness. Does everything come down to sex appeal with you?”
Jack leered, and then let his expression fade into a slight smile. “Actually, I met both of them and I have nothing but respect for Gilmore and Carter. I do know Her Majesty had Carter earmarked for Torchwood before Howard Stark got to her.” He thought about it for a second. “I’m kinda glad he did. Carter did amazing things for SHIELD, and I think she would have been wasted here.”
Fury took a drink from his pint. “I’m a bit surprised to hear you say that. I would’ve thought Torchwood would have been in raptures if they’d managed to recruit Carter.”
“Oh, they would have been. I very much doubt Carter would have agreed with a lot of what Torchwood did back then. They didn’t have the best morals in the universe.” Jack remembered it very well, and had been glad to have been seconded to the RAF for most of World War Two. Although he’d been a bit disappointed in never having met Captain America.
“She wasn’t exactly innocent,” Fury answered.
“Oh, I know. But she made her name with SHIELD, and that’s the way it should have been. I doubt your organisation would be what it is today without her leadership.”
“Very true.” Fury leaned back, resting one arm along the back of the booth’s seat while the other hand was looped loosely around the base of his pint. “Have you decided just what you’re gonna do about Her Majesty’s mandates?”
Jack sighed, scrubbing his face with one hand. “I have a lot of ideas, but I need to talk to my Second first, just to get his feedback.”
“That would be Jones, then.” It wasn’t a question.
“Yes, it would be.” The captain’s eyes narrowed, and he scrutinised Fury’s bland expression for any sort of tell. He didn’t find any, which just confirmed the thought that had just occurred to him. “You know, don’t you.” That, also, wasn’t a question.
One side of Fury’s mouth curled upward. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean. Although I feel I should admit I saw the uncut version of events at Thames House. It was just corroboration for Agent Barton’s verbal report last year after that business in Geneva.”
That pretty much confirmed Jack’s suspicions. He didn’t let his sudden fear show, but he’d convinced himself that Clint Barton hadn’t said anything to his superiors when SHIELD hadn’t approached him about having a dragon on his team. Although it was inevitable that the knowledge of his dragon’s true form would get out once he’d dug himself out from the remains of Thames House in front of so many witnesses, no matter how good the cover story had been and how quickly the cameras had been turned off and film confiscated.
“Chill out, Harkness. I don’t plan on doing anything with what you think I know, although I may have something I want to talk to him about…”
“Fury…” he growled. No one was going to do anything to his mate and get away with it, and that included the man he was hoping to come to an agreement with. Ianto was more important than having SHIELD onside, and Lizzie would just have to deal with that. In fact, she’d most likely agree.
SHIELD’s director held up his hands, in an effort to placate Jack…not that Jack was about to accept that, not where his mate was concerned. “Hey,” Fury said, “why don’t I promise not to make inappropriate advances toward your boyfriend and you promise not to eviscerate me?”
Jack couldn’t help it; he laughed. “We’ll see. Now, you invited me here for a reason; why don’t you tell me what it is?”
“Torchwood’s been in the alien business for over a century. You know your shit. Whereas SHIELD’s only been getting into things since the 1940’s, and most of that’s been crap that we inherited from the SSR and really didn’t do anything with. It only makes sense that your Institute knows things we don’t.” Fury leaned forward, propping his elbows on the table. “I’d like to propose an alliance. An…exchange program, of sorts. SHIELD can lend you scientists, technicians, and field agents until you get Torchwood up and running like the Queen wants…a ten-year plan, wasn’t it?”
“I think she’s being a bit optimistic, to be honest.” When she’d suggested a ten-year plan to develop Torchwood into something that could replace UNIT in Great Britain, Jack had laughed. However, Her Majesty had been completely serious. After what had happened with the 456, the Queen had practically exiled UNIT, but Jack had had to argue her out of it, simply because Torchwood didn’t have the resources to police the entirety of Great Britain.
And that was when she’d come up with her ten-year plan.
A plan that Jack wasn’t at all certain was possible.
“It’s not that she’s wrong,” he went on. “UNIT’s used up the last bit of credibility it had when they helped cut us out during the 456 incursion.” Jack knew that Fury had at least read the reports on what had occurred, and so felt perfectly fine in telling him all this. It wasn’t as if what went on was a secret among the intelligence communities of the planet, especially since MI5 had gotten caught in it up to their collective necks as well as the Prime Minister and the Cabinet…well, former Prime Minister and Cabinet, that was. Her Majesty had cleaned house pretty quickly when she’d learned what had happened.
“But thinking that Torchwood could grow to cover the entire UK?” Jack shook his head. “Sure, if we had unlimited resources and manpower…which we don’t. The Privy Purse is fairly deep but I doubt Lizzie will let me get my hand in too far. Plus Ianto might be the Queen’s favourite but even that won’t let him get away with everything.”
“This is why you need SHIELD,” Fury said. “I can’t promise unlimited anything, but we do have people and resources that could help until you got personnel trained up and bases staffed. How many do you think at first?”
Jack considered. “I’d want to go with small, mobile teams at first. Cardiff is fine; we don’t need anyone there for the moment. But one team to start in London, although I’d like to eventually have two or three in order to cover such a large area. The thing is, London is a target for invasion, and it’s had one every Christmas for the last several years. The Army and UNIT have been handling things just fine for now, but that’s not going to last forever, plus the Army doesn’t have the weaponry necessary to deal with full-scale alien invasions.” He gave Fury a smirk. “You’re lucky the US hasn’t had a major invasion yet, not counting the Daleks stealing the Earth. That was all taken care of from here.”
“It’s bound to happen at some point, and that particular instance is one of the reasons I’m suggesting this. They’re still finding bits of the Valiant in the East River.” Fury shrugged. “I don’t know what kinda target London has painted on it, but it’s going to spill over eventually. Hell, it would have done with the 456 if it hadn’t been for Torchwood putting a stop to it before it got out that it was aliens and not some sort of weird virus shit making the kids speak in unison.”
“That was a lame cover story and we both know it.”
Fury laughed. “You’re not kidding. A Level Two fresh out of Ops Academy would’ve come up with something better.”
“My grandson would’ve come up with something better!”
They shared the laugh, and then Jack got back on task. “Lizzie also wants Torchwood House cleaned and recommissioned. That’s something I’d have liked to have seen done years ago, but the last time Ianto wrote up a proposal for it the Privy Purse denied the expenditure. And with Archie wanting to retire…it’s the perfect opportunity. Thing is, it’s going to take years to get the main Archive up and running, and that’s with Ianto in charge.”
“Well, we can certainly provide ops personnel to help with fleshing out the mobile teams you want to start. Do you have anyone in mind to lead here in London?”
Jack nodded. “Patrick Delaware. I’m sure you’re familiar with him.”
“You know I am,” Fury smiled. “You think he’s up to it?”
“Oh yes. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and he was the brains behind some of the action we had during the 456 incursion. I’ve been impressed with him and I certainly believe he’s up to the leadership of London. I also have a preliminary team for him, if he’s interested in the position of course.” Jack didn’t think he’d have any trouble convincing Patrick, although he suspected his Weapons Officer would believe he wasn’t worthy. It also meant that he could very well be losing Alice and Steven, but London wasn’t that far and he wasn’t about to begrudge his daughter happiness if she wanted to be with Patrick.
“I think I can get behind that promotion. And his uncle will be smugly pleased.”
“I’m sure he will be.” Jack smirked. “I’ll let you know when we’d be ready for recruiting, although it won’t be until next year sometime.”
“I’ll have Commander Hill and Agent Coulson start a pull of personnel. I’ll also have them start looking for Sci-Tech graduates who might work well at this Torchwood House of yours. Do you know who you might be looking for?”
“No. I’ll talk to Ianto and have him get in touch with Agent Coulson. But I’m guessing certain types of scientists, technicians, and archivists.”
“That’s certainly doable, and we can make it as extra training as part of the Academy curriculum. But I’d like to propose a rotating roster for both locations. Maybe six months or a year? That way we can get trained people into positions at SHIELD as soon as possible.”
“That works. And what if someone decides they’d prefer to stay?” Jack was actually hoping for that, especially in the scientific ranks. While Torchwood would need the personnel to help out, he really didn’t relish all that training going to someone else. Yes, Fury’s proposal was a good one, but he really wanted to get more out of it besides temporary employees.
“We’ll cross that bridge if and when we get to it.” Fury didn’t look all that worried, but then Jack knew better than to get into a poker game with the Director of SHIELD. “We can also come up with a pool of people outside SHIELD who might work for you to hire directly.”
“Yeah, I love interviews,” Jack said sarcastically.
“This is why I have Hill and Coulson do it,” Fury answered. “That way I don’t have to mess with that shit.”
“Well, that would usually be up to Ianto and me, but with him taking on Torchwood House we’re going to have to split the hiring.” Jack didn’t really like that idea; the last two people he’d hired on his own – Suzie Costello and Gwen Cooper – hadn’t worked out all that well. He couldn’t help but still be wary of his choices in that regard. Maybe Toshiko and Owen would help…and Rhys, who had proved to be a pretty good judge of character.
His best bet would be to let the people in charge of the various sections of Torchwood hire on their own personnel, since he planned on promoting Owen, Toshiko, and Rhys to oversee the ones hired into their specialities, just as he would have Patrick look at CV’s that have to do with weapons knowledge.
“The Torchwood House situation will need to be addressed almost immediately,” Jack went on. “I know you weren’t in the meeting where we were discussing it, but the Queen has demanded that UNIT turn over the entirety of their Black Archives to Torchwood.”
Fury whistled. “Like they’re gonna give up all their alien tech.”
“Sir Alistair pretty much guaranteed it. He’s fairly sick of what UNIT’s done in this circumstance and is ready to wash his hands of it all. And, if we’re going to accept all that tech, there has to be a place for it. That means Torchwood House has to be ready to accept it.” Jack pinched the bridge of his nose in a vain attempt to force back the headache he was getting. “Goddess, this is going to be a nightmare and Lizzie doesn’t have a clue.”
“You know, I love how you call the fricking Queen of England ‘Lizzie’.”
“When you’ve changed the diaper of one of the most powerful people on the planet, you’re allowed to call them by a cutesy nickname.”
Fury laughed, leaning against the padded back of the booth. “Jesus, Harkness. Makes me wish I could call Alexander Pierce ‘pooky’ or ‘love muffin’.”
While Jack had never met Alexander Pierce, he was very well aware of the man and of his place within the World Security Council. It also made him glad that the Queen was the only person who oversaw Torchwood. All of those opinions must sometimes get in the way of making important decisions. Of course, at this point Jack was stuck with what Her Majesty wanted, but at least it was only one person he had to argue with.
Not that he’d win any arguments with her.
“At least we have some time on transferring the main Archive,” Jack commented. “Apparently there are standing orders dating from Queen Elizabeth I that says nothing can be done until a specific date in 2013. All the smaller Archives in the UK can be moved immediately, whether or not we have the space. Some of it will come to Cardiff, while the majority will go up to Scotland. I’m going to lose my Second over this shit.” He shook his finger at Fury. “Which is why you’re not going to try to recruit him or whatever the hell you have planned. Clear?”
Not that Jack believed him, really. If Nicholas Fury wanted something, he went after it. Jack, however, had faith in his mate to stay the course and not go haring off on one of Fury’s wild schemes.
“Look,” Fury said, “have your people call my people and we’ll get shit done. SHIELD has a bit of catching up to do in the alien department, and you need staff to get things off the ground. This is a mutually beneficial arrangement for both of us. And, if we come across something we need help with…”
“All you have to do is come and ask, and if we know we’ll tell you…if we can.”
“Yeah, both organisations have secrets.” Fury finished up his pint. “Well, I should head out to let Hill and Coulson know I’ve just made their lives a hell of a lot more complicated.”
“And I should call Ianto and tell him that he’s going to be spending a lot of time up in Scotland. He’s gonna just love that. It’s just a good thing he gets along with Nessie.”
That earned him an incredulous look, and Jack wasn’t in the mood to explain just what the Loch Ness Monster truly was.
Jack really didn’t want to be parted from Ianto for the time it would take to clean up the mess that was Torchwood House but there wasn’t all that much he could do about it. But, once things were completed he fully intended on getting his Second back for good. He needed Ianto, just as much as the dragon needed him, and nothing was going to get in the way of that if he could help it.
“Take it easy, Harkness,” Fury said, standing. “Don’t let ‘em get to you.”
Jack grinned up at the American. “Who, me?”
“Yeah, you. You’re not as tough as you let on.”
Fury held his arms out from his body, and he simply oozed confidence and good cheer. “You’re lookin’ at him.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Jack waved him away. “Get out of here before people mistake you for a normal human being.”
White teeth flashed as Fury grinned. “Yeah, like that’ll ever happen. Take care, Harkness. You’ll be hearing from me.”
“You know how much I look forward to that.”
“Of course you do!” Without looking back, Fury left the pub, and Jack watched from the window as he climbed into a black SUV that had the eponymous SHIELD logo on it. Yeah, way to be inconspicuous.
Then Jack chuckled, because he really had no room to talk.