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Adina's Journal
Stuff and Nonsense

Adina
Date: 2009-07-21 12:14
Subject: Fic: The Long Game (Torchwood), Part 1 of 2
Security: Public
Mood:contentcontent
Tags:fiction, torchwood
Title: Long Game
Fandom: Torchwood
Pairing: None
Rating: If you're old enough to watch Torchwood, you're old enough to read this. (All Audience)
Spoilers: S1
Length: 11,874
Genre: AU
Summary: Ianto had known Torchwood's retirement policy since the first day he started in London: twenty years and a gold watch, or...less...and a little white pill. And he wanted out. A first season AU.
Author's note: Thanks to copperbadge for looking this over.
Warning: Extremely dodgy Whoniverse "science."

Part 1 | Part 2

***

"Do you have any idea how much shit I'm going to get from Gwen when she finds out about this?" Jack asked conversationally, thumbs tucked casually, ostentatiously so, into his braces. The pose was lost on Ianto, sitting with his back firmly turned. "Tosh too, though she'll be quieter about it."

The steady tap of Ianto's fingers on the keyboard didn't even stutter. "Do you have any idea how little I care? Sir."

"Why, Ianto, I'm hurt," he drawled, not even trying to put much sincerity into it. If he was honest with himself--something he tried to do as little as possible--he was going to miss this, miss sparring with Ianto.

"I'm sure you'll survive." There was maybe a touch of humor in Ianto's voice. Maybe.

Time to bait the hook, see what kind of fishy he had based on whether it bit. "At least I can tell her that it was your choice."

Ianto's fingers stilled while he looked at the computer screen. Finally he twisted to look up at Jack. "Given that you would say that even if it weren't, I doubt she'll believe you." He turned back to the screen but his typing was much slower than it had been. He stopped again but stayed facing the screen. "I could write--record a message, assure her--tell them the truth." He paused. "I don't want her to get someone killed while worrying about me."

And that was what he was looking for. "A suicide note, then?" he drawled, hiding his satisfaction.

Ianto gave the nearest thing Jack had heard to a laugh from him since before they discovered the cyber-conversion unit in the basement--possibly the first sincere laugh he'd ever heard from Ianto, he realized. "My mother always did say that you owed a note to those you left behind, if only to keep them from being prosecuted for your murder."

That much hadn't been expunged from Ianto's records. "Cheerful maternal advice," he said with a chuckle, as if he hadn't read those same records, as if he hadn't spent the night reconstructing Ianto's mutilated personnel records in exquisite detail. Ianto's mother hadn't left a note when she actually managed it, but given her history his father hadn't been subject to more than cursory investigation.

Ianto's voice was flat, emotionless. "A ball of laughs, Mum."

"So you'll leave a note so I don't get accused of your...metaphorical...murder?" He grinned at Ianto. "Now I'm touched."

"Yes, sir, you are." Ianto closed out of the NHS database and logged into the MOT database.

Ianto was good at that, really good, beyond good actually, making up a past and a future for himself that would stand up to scrutiny both from within and without. "I think you've been holding out on us, Ianto," Jack said, letting some of the real betrayal he felt show in his voice. "You let us waste you in housekeeping and filing when you could have been doing so much more."

Ianto twisted to look at him again. "You hired me to clean up your shit, sir, nothing more," he nearly spit the words. "What should I have done, come to you and said, Oh, by the way, I'm a fully trained researcher and I can do this crap in my sleep?"

Jack matched him glare for glare. "Torchwood Three doesn't survive--Cardiff doesn't survive!--on my people just doing their jobs, nothing more." The waste, the fucking waste. "If that's your attitude," he said more calmly, "then we're better off without you."

From Ianto's wince that stung, as Jack meant it to, but he was never one to give in without a fight. "Then we're both best served," he said, turning away again.

Jack watched in silence as Ianto created the gruesome motor accident that killed Lisa Hallett and left her fiancé, one Ianto Jones, battered and amnesic. His hands were steady as he wrote out the destruction of his life, only biting his lower lip as he photoshopped Lisa's corpse, stripped of its cyber components, into the accident-scene pictures. "You don't have to do this," Jack said on sudden impulse.

"I've known Torchwood's retirement policy since the first day I started in London: twenty years and a gold watch, or...less...and a little white pill," Ianto said. "And I want out." He gave a little snort, "Or do you mean I should leave my life to your ham-fisted attempts at building a cover story?"

Ianto was trying to make him angry. It was amusing, really, except that it showed just how much Jack--and Torchwood--had lost out on in the months of his deception, as he put his intelligence, his fire, into saving a dead woman and unwittingly advancing her murderers' cause. This was the real Ianto, without the subservience and fear, because what did he have to lose anymore?

Jack could offer Ianto retirement without Retcon; it wasn't like it would make any difference, and it might, just might, change things for Ianto if he knew that Jack had never removed more than a day or two of anyone's memory. His own anger at losing two years was too strong for him to do that to anyone else. He watched the tightness of Ianto's shoulders, tasted the anger in the air. No, Ianto needed this, needed a fresh start. Or at least the illusion of one.

***

Gwen, Tosh, Owen.

By the time you see this I won't remember you. You aren't the part of the last few months that I most want to forget, but you're part of Torchwood, and I plan to forget that I ever heard of Torchwood or aliens. Yes, Gwen, this was my idea and my choice; don't go blaming Jack for something that is not, for once, his fault.


***

Ianto stretched, feeling his back pop as it aligned, and opened his laptop on the cheap outdoor table. It felt strange to sit in what passed for sun in Cardiff, above ground and in the middle of the day, sipping coffee he hadn't made; strange but good. He had found the café on the day after he got out of the hospital and adopted it as his office away from home, but mostly he only surfed and read the news. He didn't need to look for work immediately: according to his records, Ianto Jones had worked for a London IT firm during the two missing years of his life and had netted a tidy sum when the firm went public, enough to live on for a couple of years or to start his own company with. If he didn't remember the firm or the work, well, it wasn't like he had any friends or family left in Cardiff to ask him about it.

He needed the time. He'd done sod all for a month and the coiled knots in his gut were dissolving, and he was even sleeping through the night two or three times a week. It was probably time to start thinking about doing...something. Moving on with his life, figuring out what he wanted to do with the rest of it.

A man walking up the street caught his eye, the swing of his long coat incongruous on a mild September afternoon. Ianto's first reflex was to sink into his chair, sink under his table to avoid being noticed. His second was to glare at the man until he went away. Neither was appropriate for a stranger, a man he didn't recognize or remember. Instead he managed to keep his face straight, neutral, even as the man noticed him and walked up to his table.

"Ianto...Jones, isn't it?" the man asked with a lazy smile that he'd probably been told was charming. "We met a year, year and a half ago, at that conference in London?"

Ianto swore silently. "I'm afraid I don't remember--"

The man smiled again. "And here I thought I was unforgettable." He held out a hand and Ianto perforce took it. "Jack Harkness. Captain Jack Harkness."

He had no reason to hate a man he didn't remember, no reason even to distrust him. "My memory's not what it was," he admitted with a self-deprecating shrug.

"Ah, well," Jack gave a matching shrug and a small pout. "Mind if I join you?" he asked even as he was seating himself. Ianto was tempted to object, but the waitress was already hurrying over. Jack ordered with another of those oh-so-charming smiles for the waitress. "So what brings you back to Cardiff?" he asked after she was gone. "I thought I remembered you were a Londoner, all those lovely Welsh vowels wasted so far from home."

What the hell was Jack playing at? Ianto knew that Torchwood was monitoring him, tracking his every move, but this--this was stupid, risking destroying the very thing it was testing. Even someone with a normal reaction to Retcon might have started remembering by now. "Surely that's my business, Mr.--Harker?" There. Let Jack see just how forgettable he was.

"Harkness," Jack corrected. "But you can call me Jack," he added with a leer and a smirk. "Can't blame a guy for being curious about a good looking man." He stretched and took a sip of the coffee the waitress brought him, giving a small shrug as he did so. "Besides, it's either ask about you or talk about the weather. Though that freak windstorm over at the Coed y Garreg school makes the weather a bit more interesting than it might be."

"I read about that," Ianto said, nodding towards his laptop. The weird weather had Torchwood's thumbprints all over it, but to have not read about it would have been suspicious. "Lucky no one was hurt."

Jack grimaced at that, so maybe someone had gotten hurt. Ianto found himself hoping it wasn't Toshiko. Or Gwen. Even Owen he'd be sorry to see hurt, at least seriously. "Lucky, yeah."

"So who'd you reckon for the footie?" Ianto asked, curious to see whether Jack would--or could--follow the subject change.

After a short and unconvincing conversation on the relative merits of Arsenal and Manchester, Jack excused himself and left. Ianto looked down at his shaking hands. Maybe it was too soon to think about moving on.

***

It wasn't hard to follow Torchwood in the news the next few months, though Ianto wondered if anyone believed the cover story about cannibals--human cannibals--in the Welsh countryside.

***

Gwen hesitated at the arch leading to the morgue. Jack had insisted on storing Suzie's body away himself, and she wasn't sure he was ready for company. She knew she wasn't ready to see Suzie again, not even in a morgue drawer. But the drawers were closed, Jack leaning back against the wall with one boot up behind him.

"Want something?" he asked, sounding tired. If there was innuendo in his voice she couldn't hear it, for once.

"No." She stopped. " Yes--" She wanted this day to have never happened. She wanted to apologize for falling for Suzie's blandishments. She wanted to yell at him for disregarding Suzie's needs, Gwen's needs, for assuming that the rest of Torchwood could emulate--would want to emulate--Jack's ruthless detachment.

Jack pushed away from the wall with his foot. "Well, that's clear." He put a hand on her shoulder, pushed her around to face the exit. "You should go home."

And do what? Tell Rhys that her deceased coworker tried to steal her life today? Hi, dear, and how was your day? "I was looking into Retcon," she said instead, falling in step with him back to the Hub. "Wondering if it really made that man psychotic."

"That was Suzie's programming," Jack said shortly.

"We don't know that!" she said, ignoring his body language telling her to drop it. She grabbed his arm, pulling him up short. "Suzie did something to him, yes, but from the residue she gave him massive amounts of Retcon too."

"Even if the Retcon affected him, it took massive amounts, as you said," Jack said with exaggerated patience. "I don't think you need to worry about the little dose you got."

Did Jack think she was worried about herself? Did he really think she was that selfish? "Ianto--"

"Ianto is none of your concern!"

"Ianto lost two years of his life," she spat. "I don't even want to think of the dose that took. What if it affected him? What if it hurt him? We need to check on him, make sure he's all right." She kept her chin up defiantly. It was the first time she or anyone else had mentioned Ianto since his video, but she wasn't going to let Jack make her back down, damn it.

Jack glared at her and she matched it stare for stare. "Ianto Jones is not your concern," he repeated slowly, implacably. "Leave it. Now."

"Jack--" She couldn't just forget Ianto again, not after the way they ignored him, not after what Jack had done to him. She couldn't let Jack forget him.

He pulled away from her hand, striding away faster than she could match without running. "Leave it!" he called back over his shoulder.

***

"Mind if I sit here?" Gwen asked. The café was crowded enough for it to seem a natural question.

Ianto looked up briefly from the laptop he was working on. "Go ahead." His attention was already back on the screen before she finished setting down her coffee.

He looked...good. Relaxed. Not as thin and brittle as he had been before leaving Torchwood. Seeing him now, how had she never noticed the strain he'd been under? Maybe--maybe Retcon had been the best option for him. If it didn't make him crazy like it had Max.

Ianto looked up from his screen and caught her staring at him. "Got a spot on my nose?" he asked with evident good humor. She ducked her head anyway.

"Sorry, you look like someone I know," she said. "I mean, not like you are him, but you could be his brother. Bobbie Lloyd?" Who was actually a boy from Year 6 and looked nothing like Ianto, but it was as good a conversation starter as she could think of.

"Sorry," he said, pushing his laptop to the side. "I have a cousin Bobbie, we look a bit like, but he's a Maddox." He smiled at her. "Ianto Jones."

"Gwen Cooper," she replied. He gave no sign that he remembered her, which was creepy. "You from around here, then?"

He chuckled, and that was certainly nothing she'd heard much from him in Torchwood. "What was your first clue, the Ianto or the Jones?" She laughed obligingly. "Grew up here, but I spent a couple years in London." Something shadowed his eyes for a moment, not surprising if he was missing those years. What would that be like? Did he realize that something horrible happened, or was it all just blink and he was two years older?

She gripped the stun gun she'd taken from the arsenal before she left the Hub. "Since you're local, you know a group called Torchwood?" she asked, her heart beating almost too loudly to hear her own words.

Max had gone berserk at the name; Ianto only frowned. "New band, are they? Where're they playing, then?"

She sagged with relief, released the stun gun. "Not a music group, just something I heard. I thought you might know." It wasn't the smoothest interrogation she'd ever performed, but it did the job. Torchwood meant nothing to him.

"Nope." He shrugged and nodded to the laptop. "I can Google them for you, if you'd like."

Tosh monitored searches for Torchwood and related terms. "Oh, no, that's okay. I wouldn't want to keep you from your work."

He chuckled again. "Not much to keep me from. I'm just messing about, thinking of starting a software company if I can figure out what to build."

She blinked. "You're a computer programmer?" He had to be something, Torchwood London wouldn't have hired him just for his coffee, but he'd been the invisible man, the butler, the janitor.

Something of her surprise must have shown, because his mouth quirked in a not entirely amused way. "Something of one, yes." He turned back to his computer with a definite air of finality.

***

Gwen was back the next day. Ianto watched her approach over the screen of his laptop while pretending not to. He might have to switch cafes, at least if he couldn't figure out what she wanted. She was persistent, her recruitment to Torchwood proved that.

She stopped at his table and he looked up, pretending to be surprised to see her. "Hi," she said, smiling at him in a friendly but not flirtatious way. At least he was pretty sure she wasn't flirting. "I thought of a program you could make if you wanted to."

He could freeze her out, but he'd never know what she wanted unless he let her talk. "Oh?" he said, keeping it friendly.

She took the seat opposite. Her coffee slopped as she set it down, but he let it lie, only pulling the cord of his laptop away from the puddle. It wasn't his job to clean up after her, after any of them, not anymore. "How about something to stop you before you send stupid email?" she suggested.

He shook his head, only a little rueful. "Google beat me to it with a drunk test. Friday and Saturday night you can tell it to make you do maths problems before you can send email."

Her eyes widened. "Really? I've got to tell Rhys's friend Banana Boat about that."

He could feel his eyebrows rise. "Banana Boat?"

Gwen laughed. "I don't know how he got that name, Rhys refuses to tell me." It was her turn to shake her head. "If only we could install that program on his mobile too."

"Drunken calls in the middle of the night?" It had been--god, it had been ages since anyone called him in the middle of the night for anything but weevils or the end of the world. His friends in London were Lisa's friends, and they were all serious sorts--if they got drunk on weekends, they kept it to themselves, never losing their flat keys, running out of cab fare, or getting soppily sentimental at 3AM.

"Oh, y--" Gwen cut herself off, sinking down in her chair momentarily before straightening and glaring defiantly over Ianto's shoulder. Ianto turned, expecting just what he found.

"Oh, hi," Ianto said. "Jack...Harker. No, Harkness, right?" Jack knew his memory and wouldn't believe too much forgetfulness. He turned back to Gwen briefly. "You two know each other?" She nodded tightly, her eyes never leaving Jack. He smiled anyways. "Small world."

"Very small," Jack said without a trace of humor. He was not glaring at Gwen, just looking remarkably stone-faced, like he wanted to yell at her but couldn't with Ianto there. Ianto carefully kept the smirk off his face. Whatever Gwen was there for, it wasn't on Jack's orders.

"He your boyfriend, then?" Ianto asked, not looking at Jack. The question was in keeping with his persona and supposed ignorance, after all.

Gwen's eyes were almost comically large. "Oh, no. Rhys is my boyfriend. Jack's--Jack's my boss, I guess you'd say."

"Oh." He took a sip of his coffee, like he wasn't really interested, only making conversation with a couple of chatty strangers. "What d'you do?"

"Imports and exports," Jack said with another of his 'charming' grins. "Mostly imports." Before he could spin more of a yarn, he mobile rang. "Yeah?" he answered it. "Oh," he said after an interval. And then, "Damn." Finally, "Pack up the SUV, we'll meet you outside." He disconnected.

Gwen was already standing and Ianto found himself on his feet as well, a reflexive response after years in Torchwood. His heart pounded with adrenaline, ready to do, to fight, to find out. Jack looked at him with a raised eyebrow. All Ianto had to do was 'remember,' the return of memory triggered by the alert, and offer his services once again.

And then Jack would shoot him. Or imprison him until they could determine why the Retcon hadn't worked. Or lock him up in a psychiatric hospital. Or any of the other ways of dealing with holders of inconvenient memory.

Ianto offered his hand to Gwen, the perfect gentleman who always stood when a lady got up. "It sounds like you have places to be. It was nice talking to you again."

He sagged back into his chair after they were gone, staring speculatively at his laptop. How hard would it be to find out what they were after?

***

"Jack needs to hire another tea-boy," Owen grumbled. "Someone to do this shit for us." He heaved empty cans of weevil spray out of the backseat of the SUV and chucked them into the corner of the garage.

"Owen!" Tosh protested. Someone was going to have to pick up the trash, and it wasn't going to be her. Not this time. Except it probably would be. She dumped Owen's med-kit into the boot and glared at him.

Owen stopped and looked at her. "What? I'm a doctor, you're an electrical engineer, it's not like there's any reason to have us do stuff that some bloke who never took an A-level could do."

She gave a quick look around, even knowing that Jack wasn't in the Hub. "Ianto isn't--"

"Did I say Ianto?" Owen interrupted. "Did I mention Ianto? I'm just saying we need a new tea-boy--one who won't try to kill us with cyber-girlfriends in the basement. Should have recruited that Eugene Jones guy before he croaked. He was enough of a loser that he probably never had a girlfriend, cyber or otherwise." He climbed into the driver's seat, waved his fingers at her through the window. "I'm off to work, dear. Don't wait dinner."

Tosh fumed as Owen roared out of the garage. Ianto wasn't just some bloke who'd never taken an A-level; he was smart, knew computers better than Owen did. She'd been tracking his computer use since he left, and even Retconned he had a breadth of knowledge and curiosity that impressed her.

Ironically, she knew him better after he left than she ever had during his brief tenure at Torchwood. She had followed him about the Internet, reading news and journals he picked, watching him associate ideas as evident by sudden Google searches on seemingly unrelated subjects. Except that she could see the relationship between the ideas when he presented them. Watching Ianto had gone from routine chore to self-indulgence. Some days it was the nearest she came to a social outlet. Owen would have said she was pathetic.

She was pathetic, she thought as she returned to the Hub, stuck here running comms while the rest of the team investigated a crashed spaceship. She checked the SUV's location; Owen had picked up Jack and Gwen, but they were still en route to the ship. There were no further reports from the police, just chatter about 'bloody Torchwood' and the officers' annoyance at being ordered to pull back. She pulled up satellite recordings of the ship and matched it against the archive. Waltherians, apparently--mediocre ships, some advanced weapons tech, uncertain tempers. She forwarded it to the SUV, still half an hour out from the crash site. With a guilty smile she opened her file on Ianto.

This was new: zombies. Ianto was researching zombies, not the horror movie sort, but accounts of voodoo and folklore. He started with Wikipedia and followed links, switched to Google and found more academic links, followed them for a while, switched again to tabloid news and the wilder sort of blogs. He seemed to be looking for contemporary accounts, recent accounts of zombie-like behavior and schizophrenia. Checking backwards, she found the news that seemed to trigger the interest, reports of corpses missing from University Hospital. The connection between that and zombies was obvious, a doctor quoted as saying that 'unless they got up and walked out' she had no idea what happened to the corpses. Tosh chuckled and checked the SUV again.

She thumbed her headset to transmit. "You're almost at the site, guys."

"Yeah, Tosh, thanks," Owen said absently. "We can see it."

"The ship's in bad shape," Jack reported. "Looks like they lost control in atmosphere before crashing. Lots of smoke and wreckage. No signs of survivors, at least not yet. Tosh, check with UNIT about a cleanup. There's no way this baby is flying out of here."

"Will do." They didn't have the manpower or equipment to remove something the size of the ship, about equal in weight to a car ferry, but UNIT did. She pulled up the contact list and made the call, getting assurances from the colonel on duty that they'd have a team there in an hour.

"Jack!" Owen's voice came over the comms. "Got something here, looks like it was ejected before the crash. Few scorch marks, but basically intact."

"Don't touch it before I get there," Jack called back. "Gwen, anything?"

"More wreckage, nothing else," Gwen answered.

"Okay, go check with the police, make sure they haven't seen anything," Jack said. "See if you can plant the idea that it's an experimental aircraft. Can't blame the Soviets anymore, so try North Korea."

Tosh spoke up. "Jack, I'm inserting news reports into the AP wire feed going back a few weeks: rumors from 'unnamed sources,' denials from various officials, the usual." All of it was vague and low-key enough that no one would wonder why they hadn't noticed it when it first came out, but they wouldn't think it came out of the blue--or the Rift--either.

"Good. Thanks, Tosh." There was a long pause and then Jack's voice continued. "Well, well, what have we here?" She wished she could see what he and Owen were looking at.

"Jack?"

"Looks like a bod-pod," Jack said. "Suspended animation lifeboat, basically. Not Waltherian technology, they must have scavenged it somewhere." How Jack knew these things was something Tosh had learned not to ask. "I wonder if--" His voice was cut off by an explosion.

"Jack!" Gwen screamed.

***

"Crap." Owen pulled himself up off the ground, dislodging flying debris that had landed on his back. Inventorying his body parts, he found everything present and working, nothing worse than a few scratches. Jack hadn't been so lucky. A jagged piece of metal was stuck in his neck, severing the carotid artery from the angle and the amount of blood. Owen found his headset, knocked to the ground, and put it on.

"Jack? Owen? Answer me!" Tosh was saying.

"I'm all right, Tosh," Owen said. He looked down at Jack's corpse. "Jack is unconscious, but he should be okay. Give us a few." If Jack could manage to come back before Gwen got there--but no, here she was. Owen knelt at Jack's side, trying to block her sight. "Gwen, get the medical kit from the SUV," he ordered.

Gwen ignored him and knelt beside him. Switching off her headset, she said quietly, "He's dead, even I can see that." She gave him a sideways look. "You know, don't you?"

So Gwen knew too. Who'd have thought. He switched off his headset as well. "I am a doctor, even if I'm not his doctor. 'Course I know." He looked over his shoulder at the surrounding cordon of police. "Let's get him into the SUV to recover before anyone needs a bigger dose of Retcon."

"Right."

Getting Jack into the SUV without being too obvious about the corpse-moving was harder than he expected, but they got him into the backseat with the doors shut before a police constable came to join them.

"There's a new lot at the cordon," she said. "Said you lot called them in. That right?"

"Should be, yeah," Owen said, rubbing at a stitch in his side. Who knew Jack would be so bloody heavy? "They give a name?"

"Colonel Warwick, he said," the police constable said. "Didn't say colonel of what," she added sourly.

Gwen thumbed on her comm. "Tosh, you have a contact name for--" She looked at the WPC, "--our friends?" She listened for a moment, nodded. "Thanks." She looked over at the WPC. "You can let them in, thanks. Can you send Colonel Warwick over our way?"

"Sure. It's not like I have anything better to do with my day." The WPC stalked off.

Gwen started back towards the wreckage and Owen followed. Jack's bod-pod was nothing but a pile of twisted metal, obviously the source of the explosion. They were still looking down at it, leery of touching anything, when Colonel Warwick came up.

"You Harkness?" he asked Owen, ignoring Gwen. Warwick was a big man, rather too red in the face to wear a red beret well, but the sort who obviously thought he should be cast to play the gruff but charismatic commander in a war film.

"Nope," Owen said casually. "He got caught up in the explosion here, got his brains shaken about a bit. He's back at the SUV." He nodded at Gwen, just to keep the man off balance. "She's in charge." Gwen gave him an appalled look, probably quick enough that Warwick didn't see it. "I'm just the doctor." Gwen could deal with this blighter until Jack returned from the land of nod or wherever he went when he was dead.

Gwen held out a hand. "Gwen Cooper." She nodded at Owen. "Owen Harper."

"Pleased to meet you, ma'am," Warwick said, sounding anything but pleased. "I hear you need this hunk of junk moved out of here."

Jack was 'awake' again, sitting up and looking out the windows of the SUV. Owen edged out of the conversation, leaving the two of them to deal with the spaceship while he went and pretended to be a doctor for a man who needed none. If nothing else, Jack needed to be given a heads up on the story he told Warwick.

Jack was still sitting in the SUV when Owen got there, doors still shut, which was...odd. Owen had only seen a couple of Jack's deaths, but he was usually up and about immediately after reviving. Maybe blood loss slowed him down?

"How you feeling, Jack? Back in the land of the living?" he asked as he opened the back door of the SUV. The wound at Jack's neck had healed without a scar, leaving no more sign of his injury than his blood-soaked shirt. His coat by some miracle was clean. Jack just looked at him, his expression blank, before trying to push past him to get out. Owen held up a hand, blocking him. "Jack?" Jack kept trying to get out and Owen pushed back harder. Jack fell backwards onto the seat without any sign of annoyance, anger, or anything else. His face held no more expression than it had when he was dead. He sat up and tried to get out of the SUV again.

"Shit." Colonel Warwick and his UNIT chums didn't need to be seeing this, any more than the police did. Owen pushed Jack back inside and climbed in after him, pulling the door shut behind him. With the door shut Jack stopped trying to go through Owen, but continued to look at him with the same blank lack of curiosity that he'd been looking out the windows with before.

"Jack. You're freaking me out now," Owen said. If Jack understood a word of it he gave no sign. "If this is a joke I'm going to kill you, you know. Slowly." Owen waved a hand in front of Jack's face and Jack followed the motion, but mechanically, with no real interest. "Shit, shit, shit." He thumbed his comm on. "Gwen, finish things up with your little playmate, we need to get Jack back to the Hub."

***

Ianto swallowed, looking at the closed door of the tourist office. The first time he had stood here he'd been holding a cup of coffee and trying to convince Jack to give him a job. The last time he had stood here Lisa had been alive and Ianto had been the loyal Torchwood worker bee, at least as far as anyone knew. If he did this there was no going back. His codes would open no doors, not anymore, but the attempt would raise alarms below. Jack would come and--and he could only hope that Jack would give him time to explain, to warn.

He touched the code pad by the door and entered his code before he could change his mind. The electronic lock gave an audible click. He hesitated only a moment before pushing the door open. "Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly," he said aloud, wondering if Jack was listening, if he was watching the CCTV. He wasn't really surprised when a touch to the button behind the desk opened the hidden door. If Jack wanted to save himself some steps and make Ianto come to him, it would all be the same in the end.

The long walk to the inner door was familiar, even comforting, though he could have wished for a suit as armor against the chill. The jacket that was warm enough outside seemed thin and insubstantial underground.

He expected Jack to be waiting for him as the cog door rolled open, but the Hub was deserted. Or no, there was a light in the conference room. He moved out into the center of the Hub and looked up at the conference room, waiting. Gwen saw him first, and then Tosh and Owen joined her at the window, looking down at his with identical looks of shock. Jack must not have warned them. Typical.

Gwen was first out the door. "Ianto! What are you doing here?"

"I need to talk to Jack," he said, his voice rough even in his own ears.

"Jack is busy," Owen said, his arms folded over his chest. "Why don't you tell us and we'll tell him when he has time?"

"It's urgent," Ianto said. "Cardiff is in danger." Anything less and he wouldn't be here.

"Uh-huh." Owen was nothing if not skeptical.

Ianto could see someone moving still in the conference room. "Jack!" he called, hoping Jack would hear him through the open door, hoping he would pay attention. "You have to listen to me!" That brought Jack to the door, but he wasn't looking at Ianto. His gaze passed over the rest of Torchwood and Ianto as if he hadn't seen them and settled on the metal railing for an inordinate amount of time before turning to the glass wall beside him. Ianto looked at Jack's blank stare and felt his stomach drop. "He died, didn't he?" Gwen started to say something, probably a denial. "He can't die, I know that," he said impatiently. It was all the gossip in London. "He dies and comes back to life. Only this time he's been like this since." She nodded.

"Did everyone know about Jack except me?" Tosh complained.

"Looks like, love," Owen said.

Ianto ignored the byplay. "You need to get Jack into a containment cell. Now."

Owen's arms were still folded across his chest. "And why should we, Retcon-boy?"

Ianto glared back. Owen would be stubborn just for the sake of being stubborn. "Aliens--Ijada if that means anything to you--are taking over corpses in Cardiff to use as mobile extensions. "

"And Jack was a corpse," Gwen said. Ianto nodded.

"That's why you were researching zombies," Tosh said with a look of sudden enlightenment. He should have realized she'd be the one reviewing his computer usage.

"And you know this because--?" Owen tilted his head to the side.

"Because this isn't the first time. Or the first place. Because I worked for two bloody years in London before coming back to this--" He stopped, knowing he couldn't afford to antagonize them. "They showed up in London two years ago. My first big investigation. We figured out that they were using the bodies as--they were activating recently dead corpses to explore the city, like remote-control spybots. We located their ship and destroyed it and all the bodies were bodies again."

"Is that what triggered your memory?" Gwen asked.

"Something like that," he said, hoping that would be enough explanation. Jack--or Jack's body--was coming down the stairs now, his movements slow and uncertain. Ianto gave Owen a bright smile. "Jack. Containment unit. Yes?"

"Er, right," Owen said. He put a hand on Jack's shoulder. "Come on, mate. Down to the cells with you." Jack looked at Owen's hand and just kept walking. Owen grabbed him again and tried to swing him around, entirely unsuccessfully.

"Did I mention that they're stronger than the original person?" Ianto asked. He tried to suppress his smirk; from Owen's expression, he failed.

"Right," Owen snarled. "Tosh, look up the Ijada, see what else Ianto is forgetting to tell us. Gwen, check with local hospitals, see how many missing corpses we have. You--" He glared at Ianto. "Help me get Jack down to the cells."

"Stun guns work," Ianto suggested. "Just not for very long."

Part 2
Post A Comment | 5 Comments | | Flag | Link






hohaiyee
User: hohaiyee
Date: 2009-08-17 15:21 (UTC)
Subject: re: The Long Game
Ah, unique zombies, always like them.
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Adina
User: adina_atl
Date: 2009-08-17 18:07 (UTC)
Subject: Re: The Long Game
I would hate to write cliched zombies. *grin*
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pearlseed
User: pearlseed
Date: 2010-05-09 19:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Well, looky here--a good story with equal parts unnerving fear--yeah, Torchwood and doings are scary--then there's the voices of the beloveds which you have writ so perfectly. Thanks for the interesting--lots of cool little details like the last sentence and how Ianto was with Jack and Gwen--how he almost lost his hide when he stood up at the phone call. Very good eye you have for the littles that make the bigger soooo interesting, so fun and wow--the first conversation with Jack and Ianto--sharp! in all senses of the word. Thanks.
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Adina
User: adina_atl
Date: 2010-05-10 04:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Glad you like it. It was fun writing Jack and Ianto more adversarial than canon gave us, giving Ianto's snark a sharper edge.
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pingback_bot
User: pingback_bot
Date: 2011-08-24 17:51 (UTC)
Subject: AU Recs
User rabecka referenced to your post from AU Recs saying: [...] Long Game by adina-atl [...]
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