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Once Bitten

Chapter Text


1 November 2008


Canton was livid.

But really, he’d been expecting this sort of plan.

It made sense.  He didn’t have to like it though.

“We can control the circumstances of the contact,” Harkness was saying.  “We set things up just right and everything should go to plan.”

“You’re actually going to use our grandson as bait for this thing.” Pat was as angry as Canton himself was, and not afraid to show it.

“Grandpa,” Patrick sighed, “I want to do this.”

“There has to be some other way!”

“There isn’t.”  Patrick looked tired; there were dark circles under his eyes and his very posture screamed how uncomfortable he was even sitting on the ratty old sofa in the Torchwood Hub.  His stomach was bloated unnaturally and it hurt Canton to see it.

The young girl, Deborah, was sitting next to him, leaning against him, showing her support.  She obviously cared for him, as did the rest of the team as far as Canton could tell, but this plan wasn’t a good one if it involved putting Patrick in danger like that.

Then he reconsidered that thought, and had to laugh at himself for even thinking it.

That startled the entire group into silence and caused every eye in the place to land on him. 

“What’s so funny?” Pat demanded angrily.

“It really isn’t funny,” Canton admitted.  “But I was just thinking that Patrick shouldn’t be put in the line of fire like that…but this is his job.  It’s the exact same job he did in the Army, even if he was more of a sniper than anything else.  And I’m the one who submitted his details to Torchwood, knowing that it would put Patrick on the front line of alien hunting.”  He reached out and took his husband’s hand.  “This is how our grandson is, Pat.  He puts his life on the line for innocent people who don’t have a clue as to what’s out there.  I’ve done it…you’ve done it…Maggie and Everett and Phil all do it.  We do what’s right for the world and don’t put ourselves first.  And I think we’ve forgotten that.”

Pat visibly deflated as his words sunk in.  “I know, it’s just…”

He really didn’t have to say anything.  Canton understood.

“I will swear to you,” Harkness growled, “that I will protect my team with my life.” 

Canton regarded the leader of Torchwood Cardiff.  Harkness’ face was stern; gone was the flirty pretty-boy that had been on display when he and Pat had first entered the Hub.  This was the leader that Patrick respected, one that was willing to do whatever it took to make sure his people were safe. 

There was a naked and really ancient sword in his hand, but instead of looking completely ridiculous it just pressed home the fact that Jack Harkness wasn’t someone to be fucked around with.

The sword – Dragon Killer, it had been named – just seemed dangerous.  It was a piece of metal with some leather attached, but there was something about it…Canton wondered what Dr Sato had meant about the Earth not liking it.  Also, the idea that dragons had been real wasn’t something he’d been expecting to hear.  That there had once been actual, honest-to-God dragons in the world seemed like a fantasy to him, and he really wanted to scoff at it.

But this was Torchwood, chartered by Queen Victoria in order to protect the Realm from what she’d called phantasmagoria.  Had she known about the existence of dragons?  Had they been one of the many things that she’d wanted to protect the British Empire from?

Canton wanted to ask more, but he just knew he didn’t have the clearance for it.  However, he could put things together, and while they didn’t add up quite right he could probably get close.

The sword had belonged to Jones.  Had it been in his family?  It was certainly old-looking enough to have been passed down, even if it was well cared-for.  Had Jones’ family been dragon slayers for Torchwood, or more likely the British throne?  Was that what made an inn owner qualified to work for such a covert organisation?

If he had been, it was apparently something he didn’t like to think about.  Jones had been really upset about using the sword, and somehow Canton didn’t believe it was because it wasn’t what the weapon was meant for.  There was something else, below the surface, and he didn’t have enough information to put everything together into a cohesive picture as yet.

He was also sure that Patrick didn’t know the whole story himself, at least about the existence of the sword.  Judging from his grandson’s face he was also seeing it for the first time, and if Canton had to guess Deborah and Rhys Williams were in the same boat.  Which meant it was an item that no one really wanted to be put to use, and most likely its presence in the so-called Secure Archives hadn’t been as much a secret as it just wasn’t spoken about.

He really wanted to know what made it so special.  And what made Harkness think it would work.

“We can use one of the more remote safehouses,” Harkness said.  “We’ll surround the place and be ready when the Nostrovite comes to collect her egg.  When she does, we’ll stop her.”

“How can we be sure she won’t see us and take a runner?” Harper asked dubiously.

“We don’t, but what we do know is she’ll want to get her offspring, and she’ll be desperate if she knows her mate was killed.  It would be her only chance to have a child, since the Nostrovite mate for life.”

While Canton understood the need to stop the alien, there was a small part of him that felt sad about having to kill both mother and child.  He’d had to do worse in his time working for the government – aiding an act of near genocide against an invading alien race had only been the tip of the iceberg – but there was something innately tragic about this situation. 

They were basically trading an unborn child’s life for his own grandson’s.  But Canton couldn’t regret it.

“We want to be there,” he said before he’d even realised he was talking.

Harkness shook his head.  “You’re civilians.”

When Canton opened his mouth to deny that, Torchwood’s Director went on, “You might have been deep in this business at one point, but…forgive me…both you and Mr Andrews aren’t young anymore.  I don’t think either of you would be able to keep up if we ended up having to chase the Nostrovite down.”

Canton appreciated Harkness’ bluntness even as he hated the insinuation that he was too old to do what needed to be done.  The man was right, though, and Canton had to face it.  His knees were bad, his eyes weren’t what they used to be, and despite still being active after all these years there was no way he could hope to handle the sort of strenuous action that might have been required without possibly giving himself a heart attack.  Seventy-four years old wasn’t a good age to go alien hunting.

Still, there was that familiar burst of adrenaline that he’d almost forgotten what felt like.  He’d missed it, but there was no way he could do anything about it.

This sort of thing was for the young.  And Canton wasn’t that anymore.

“You’re right,” he capitulated, enjoying the surprise on Harkness’ face.  “We’d only be a hindrance.”

“Besides,” Patrick said, “I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on what was going on if you and Grandpa were there.  I’d be too worried about you both.”

“I’ll stay with your grandparents,” Deborah volunteered.  “I’m not a field agent anyway, and that way they can remain here in the Hub until everything is over.”

“Deborah can also monitor the situation through the comms and CCTV,” Dr Sato added. “She knows how to run an op from here, and she usually does that anyway when we’re in the field.”

That made Canton feel a bit better at being left behind, and he could tell it did his husband as well.  They might not have been onsite during the mission, but at least they’d know what was going on in real time.  It was enough.

He felt a hand on his shoulder; it was Jones, and Torchwood’s Second met Canton’s gaze with his too-old eyes.  “We’ll take care of Patrick; you have my word.”

For some reason, that made him feel a hell of a lot better.  There was something about Jones, something that engendered trust, and Canton couldn’t put his finger on what it was.  Perhaps it was the sheer earnestness he exuded; or maybe it had something to do with those eyes that had seen far too much for the man seeming so young.  Canton had thought he was in his twenties the first time they’d met, but he knew he’d need to revise that up by at least a decade.  He’d never met someone with such a baby face before.

Still, he nodded in acknowledgement of Jones’ vow.  He didn’t know why it meant so much, but he was glad to get it. 

“We need to get this show on the road,” Patrick interjected into that moment of silence.  “I can’t wait to get this thing out of me.  I need to go to the bathroom again.”

Deborah shook her head as Williams helped Patrick up off the sofa.  Patrick clapped the man on the arm as he waddled off into another area of the Hub, one hand on his back as if it was bothering him.

“I’ll be glad too,” Harper snarked, “I’m getting fucking tired of the whining.”

“Jesus,” Williams chuckled.  “You’re a right twat.”

“And you love me for it.”

“Not hardly, mate!”

The rest of the team reacted differently to the banter, but they were all amused by it.  Canton was glad that Harper wasn’t his personal doctor; his bedside manner sucked. Canton was certain he would have punched the man in the face within a week.

“Alright people,” Harkness brought them all back on point.  “We need to get everything together.” He turned to Dr Sato.  “We need one of the safehouses that’s covered by CCTV and is easily defensible. 

She nodded.  “Let me get into the database and see what I can find.”  She went back to the desk she’d been at when Canton and Pat had arrived, and began tapping away at the keyboard, her glasses reflecting the light from the monitors around her.

“Rhys.”  Williams stepped up at Harkness calling his name.  “I want you to help Patrick as much as you can.  Get to the armoury and bring out the biggest guns we have.  If the Dragon Killer somehow doesn’t take the Nostrovite down, we’re going to need alternatives.”

“You got it, boss.”  Williams was gone toward another room off the main area; he caught Patrick as their grandson moved past on his way back, tugging him along.  Judging from the security Williams had to go through to get them inside, that definitely was the armoury.

“Deborah,” Harkness continued, “make sure the SUV is gassed up and well supplied. We don’t want to run out of petrol in the middle of a chase if we have to have one.”

Deborah nodded, and left without saying anything.

“Owen, make sure the microtron is ready to go the minute we get back.”

“I’ll get my kit together,” the doctor said.  “That thing’s got nasty claws and teeth, and I wanna make sure I have plenty of antibiotics and shit.”  He turned away, took three steps toward an archway in the wall, and then looked back at Harkness.  “I’m also going to have the singularity scalpel on hand.  I know I’m shit at using it, but I want to make sure we can at least try it if something goes wrong.”

“You know I don’t trust that thing,” Harkness answered. “Even though it did work with Martha.”

Canton wondered who this Martha was, and just what the hell a singularity scalpel was.  It didn’t sound good, at any rate.

“We might not have a choice,” Harper pointed out. “If something happens and we can’t get Delaware back here in time…”

“Fine.  But it’s last resort only.”

Harper rolled his eyes.  “You don’t have to tell me.”  He then left to do whatever it was he needed to get things prepared.

“Jack,” Jones murmured, “can I speak to you in your office please?”

Such a look of tenderness crossed Harkness’ face that Canton felt he was intruding on something that should have been very private.  The hand not holding the sword came up to stroke Jones’ too-pale cheek.  “Sure.”  He ushered Jones toward the office, that hand at the small of the other man’s back as they walked together, the door shutting quietly behind them.

“You know,” Pat mused, “I think I have to wonder now if Harkness’ reputation was all it was made out to be.”

Canton doubted that too, after that display.  Much of what they’d heard spoke of Harkness as being a compulsive flirt and someone who wasn’t afraid to sleep around.  The flirting had been obvious, but this tenderness wasn’t what they’d been expecting, even after Phil had told them that the two leaders of Torchwood were together.  Now, they’d seen that first-hand.

Canton suspected that much of what they’d been told about Harkness, Jones, and Torchwood had been flagrant lies and exaggeration.

“Do you really trust they’ll look after Patrick?” his husband asked.

“I do, yeah,” Canton replied.