Chapter Eight: An Unexpected Arrival
Summary: In the wake of his untimely death, Ianto Jones accepts a deal that will change his life forever.
Rating: Strong T, for now.
Warnings: Spoilers for The Series That Never Was (AKA, Children of Earth); brief description of torture
X-over: Torchwood/Doctor Who/Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter books.
A/N: I am really, really sorry for the length of time it’s taken me to type up and post this chapter, so I hope the length of it will offer something in the way of compensation. Unfortunately, RL has intruded majorly, and I’ve had a hard time of getting my head in gear to focus on my fics. I do promise sincerely, though, that the next chapter will be posted within a week, so please don’t cyber-hunt me over the end of this chapter....
Gwen Cooper stepped off the plane in New Orleans, and took a moment to stretch the kinks out of her body. It had been an excruciatingly long flight, and the stress had been compounded by her less than amicable parting from Rhys.
Oh, he wasn’t especially upset at her running off after Jack. Surprisingly, he seemed to understand her need to find him, make him see sense and bring him home. He’d made it pretty clear that he didn’t agree with her, but he understood.
No, what had really gotten him off-side was that she was going off on a potentially dangerous wild goose chase while nearly ten weeks pregnant.
She understood where he was coming from. She really did, and she thought it was sweet that he was already feeling so paternal. In the end, though, his arguments fell on deaf ears. She had to do this. She had to find Jack and bring him home, and make him reinstate her as a Torchwood operative. He would see reason, one way or another, she was going to make certain of it. If he didn’t? Well, the consequences would be his fault, and his alone.
Rhys had been fuming over it, and that was something of an understatement. Why, he had demanded, could she not just sign up to join UNIT, if she had to continue with the alien catching rubbish. At least UNIT was an official and legitimate organisation, and she might be a lot safer with them than with Torchwood.
In reply, Gwen had patted his hand condescendingly and told him that Torchwood did far more important work than UNIT, and she simply wouldn’t feel fulfilled there. What she couldn’t bring herself to tell him was that she had contacted UNIT in the days after Jack’s formal disbanding of Torchwood, only to be told she wasn’t the type of person that UNIT needed at that time. She’d reminded them of her experience with Torchwood, and was told that was partly what they meant. The other part apparently had something to do with her personality, but she’d chosen to disregard that little slight.
When the UNIT General came to see her a week or so back, asking if she’d be willing to help them track down Jack and bring him in, she had readily agreed.
He was needed, the General had told her confidentially in a dimly lit corner of her favourite pub some time before midnight. Some of his colleagues didn’t necessarily agree, but that didn’t change the fact one iota. When she’d admitted that she didn’t know where he’d gone, the General had assured her that that wasn’t a problem. He knew exactly where Jack could be found. The issue was that he had apparently fallen in with some disreputable people, and the General didn’t want to do anything that might startle Jack into doing another disappearing act.
Gwen felt reassured that the General... what was his name again? Stryker, that was it. She felt reassured that General Stryker was genuinely concerned that Jack be brought in for his own good, but it didn’t hurt that he’d also offered to pay for all her expenses in exchange for her help. Even though she couldn’t recall anyone from UNIT by the name of Stryker, she didn’t doubt his legitimacy. After all, she’d never really had that much to do with UNIT. Jack had always been the one to deal with them any other such agencies, and in the months that Jack had been gone, she’d allowed Ianto to liaison.
Oh, it wasn’t that she couldn’t have done it. She’d just felt that it was good experience for Ianto, and it helped to make the poor boy feel like he was actually contributing something more than a broom and the occasional cup of admittedly sinfully good coffee.
Now, though, working with UNIT was a necessity for her, and she quietly hoped that it would prove to them that she was exactly the type of person they needed.
She was through Customs fairly quickly, having nothing to declare, and soon found a delectable looking man waiting with a placard with her name on it. She approached with a seductive smile that she couldn’t quite suppress. Jack bloody Harkness’s influence, she thought with only moderate aggravation.
“Hiya, I’m Gwen Cooper,” she announced, and couldn’t help preening a little when the man’s gaze swept up and down her body in a blatant show of checking her out. Oh yeah, even pregnant she still had it.
Her mind stubbornly refused to wonder why, if she was so attractive to men, was Jack still resisting her.
“This way,” the man told her abruptly, and took off at such a fast stride that she had to jog to keep up.
“Where are we going?” she asked as she caught him up.
“I have instructions to take you to your hotel, so you can get a few hours sleep before night time.”
Gwen couldn’t stop the disappointment that filled her.
“I thought I’d be going straight to find Jack,” she admitted.
“I believe you’ll find instructions regarding that in your hotel room. General Stryker has had Captain Harkness under limited surveillance. He’s made up a list for you of likely places where you’ll find him.”
She nodded thoughtfully. That would be useful, of course, but why wait until night? She asked much the same question of her driver, and he flashed her a grin that left her feeling strangely unsettled.
“Trust us, Miss Cooper. Captain Harkness doesn’t surface during the day all that often now. He mostly conducts his business at night. We believe he’s working for a man who only ever comes out at night.”
Gwen snorted. The night activities bit was easy to believe. Working for someone else? Not so much. Still, she herself had no leads and no ideas, and until she did she may as well follow Stryker’s instructions.
The list, she discovered when she arrived at her hotel room, consisted of just one lowly name – Sanctuary, along with an instruction to stake it out until Jack turned up. Sanctuary, she discovered after some searching on the internet, was a bar in the rough end of town. It wasn’t really her scene, but it wouldn’t be the first time she’d made sacrifices for Jack. It would just be one more to add to the list of favours that he owed her.
According to her personal tally, that list was quite long now, and she had every intention of making Jack pay up sooner, rather than later.
Night came, and Gwen found her way to Sanctuary, where a man easily as sexy as Jack let her in. A sultry look and seriously plumped cleavage certainly didn’t hurt, either, she thought with a hint of triumph as she entered the bar.
Whatever she’d expected, Sanctuary was nothing like it. Though lit only with low lighting, the place was clean, not especially noisy and generally lacked the overly masculine atmosphere that she’d come to expect from most pubs and clubs. Not to mention, the males on the staff were all unbelievably gorgeous.
Maybe, just maybe, she might take the chance and have a go at getting one of them into bed. Rhys need never know.
A sharp pang of guilt swept through her. What was she thinking? She was married, and pregnant, for god’s sake! Slightly shaken by the shameful deviation her thought process had taken, Gwen renewed her focus on the set task, to find Jack and bring him home.
“Hooker alert, table eight,” Wren muttered as he joined Dev, Fang and Aimee at the bar. Aimee lifted an eyebrow as she passed him a beer.
“You, of all people, ought to know better than to judge on appearance.”
Wren shrugged unapologetically.
“If it looks like a hooker, walks like a hooker...”
“Smells like a hooker,” Dev added with a smirk. “I don’t know what perfume she’s wearing, but it reeks. She can think about getting laid all she likes, but it won’t be with anyone in this place. Not while she’s doused in that crap.”
“She’s pregnant, too,” Fang stated bluntly, “and married, if that tan line on her ring finger is any indication.” He paused, then wrinkled his nose. “And she’s been in contact with daimons. I can smell them on her. It’s not strong, but it’s there.”
“Aimee, go and take her order,” Dev murmured. “See if you can find out who she is, at least.”
Looking a little perturbed at being used in that way, Aimee nevertheless headed across to talk to the newcomer. She came back nearly fifteen minutes later, looking for the world like she wanted to turn bear and chow down on someone’s head.
“Next time, one of you can go talk to her,” Aimee grumbled. “Silly woman doesn’t know when to stop talking. In the midst of a whole lot of babble, I managed to work out that she’s here looking for Jack.”
“Jack, as in Ianto’s squire?” Dev echoed in surprise. “What would she want with him?”
“You think she’s his wife?” Wren wondered, and all of them grimaced at the thought.
“Married and pregnant?” Fang retorted. “Ianto’ll have his balls on a plate.”
“She’s married,” Aimee clarified with a withering look at Fang, “but not to Jack. Her name is Gwen Cooper, and her husband’s name is Rhys. She said she was just wanting to catch up with an old friend, but Jack’s face was a pretty clear image in her mind, and she isn’t exactly thinking warm fuzzies about him.”
“So, we have a woman who is looking for one of the Dark Hunter squires, and has been in contact – either knowingly or unknowingly – with daimons. I don’t know that we need to contact Ash Yet, but we definitely need to warn Ianto and Jack.”
“Oh fuck, too late,” Fang muttered, and they all looked to see Jack walk into Sanctuary with a hyper-excited Simi at his side, talking a mile a minute. Jack, they couldn’t help but notice, was laden with shopping bags and had an indulgent smile on his face as he listened to her chatter.
“Simi’s found someone who is not only willing to go shopping with her,” Dev said dryly, “but who loves to shop almost as much as she does. Poor, delusional bastard.”
“Never mind that,” Aimee growled, swatting her brother hard on the arm. “Get over there and warn him, before she sees him!”
“Again, too late,” Fang said.
Sure enough, the woman had spotted Jack, and was now headed straight for him.
“On the bright side,” Fang said with a shrug,” “if she gives him any grief, Simi’ll just eat her.”
Dev grimaced as he realised how right Fang was. If there was one thing Simi hated (and there were many things, actually, but that was beside the point), it was people who caused trouble for those select few that she had dubbed ‘quality peoples’. Jack and Ianto definitely fell into that category.
“I’m gonna call Ash,” he told them. “Keep an eye on things. Homicides are a bitch to clean up.”
Jack deposited the bags he’d been carrying with some relief. He’d thoroughly enjoyed going shopping with Simi – and he’d only needed to remind her twice that she couldn’t eat the salespeople – but he had to admit to being astounded by the amount of stuff she’d bought. It was almost enough to furnish a room, and when he’d pointed that out, Simi had cheerfully answered that it was okay, that Akri-Papa would just build her another one.
It never occurred to Jack to doubt that.
“The Simi has had a good day,” she announced happily.
“So have I,” Jack confirmed warmly. “I’m glad your Akri let me take you shopping.”
“You is quality peoples, Jacky,” Simi told him, throwing her arms around him in a ferocious hug. Jack returned it with equal enthusiasm, utterly charmed by the charismatic demon with a child’s personality. Ash was by no means the only one she had wrapped around her proverbial little finger.
“I love you, too, Simi. Now, why don’t you go and tell Aimee what you want to eat?”
Her face lit up at the mention of food, and she flew off towards the bar with an eagerness that was almost frightening. Jack watched her go with a fond smile that was wiped clean off his face with a familiar and most unwelcome figure entered his line of sight.
“Gwen,” he said tonelessly as the Welshwoman approached and sat down uninvited. “That seat’s taken.”
She regarded him with a shrewd look that, once upon a time, might have caused him to squirm a little. Not anymore, though.
“Aren’t you glad to see me, Jack?” she asked. “After all, I came all this way just for you.”
“No,” he answered bluntly. “You came all this way just for yourself. I suppose I can’t blame you for that, though God knows how you knew where to find me. Now that you have, I’ll thank you to take yourself out of here, get the first plane home and don’t come back.”
He was not the least bit surprised when she made no effort to move.
“You’ve changed your look,” she commented, looking him up and down with a level of scrutiny that left him feeling uncomfortable and just a touch dirty. It also didn’t escape his attention how long her gaze lingered on his crotch. “I think I prefer your old clothes. They make you stand out more.”
“I don’t want to stand out,” he said tersely. “Damn it, Gwen, why are you here?”
“I’m here to bring you home, Jack. Look, I appreciate that you’re still grieving over Ianto, and I admit I was being insensitive to simply show up making demands, but it doesn’t change the fact that there is still a rift in Cardiff.”
“No,” Jack cut her off sharply. “There’s no rift anymore. When the bomb went off inside me, the explosion combined with the vortex energy inside me and sealed the rift closed. It won’t be opened again, not in your lifetime.”
Gwen sat still, and Jack fancied that he could almost see the wheels turning in her mind, as she processed the implications of that revelation.
“Well, Torchwood is still needed,” she argued. “The 4-5-6 never came through the rift. There could be others...”
“Let UNIT deal with them,” Jack said dismissively. “I’m tired of it, Gwen. I’m tired of being the one who always has to make the shit decisions. Let someone else do it now. I’m staying here, and you’re going to go home to your husband.”
“You don’t have to be in charge,” she persisted. “I could do that! I led the team when you were gone, I could take charge again!”
Jack glared half-heartedly at her. He was sorely tempted to call Simi over and let the Charonte demon chow down on the stubborn woman. It was only knowing that Ash would kick his ass into the next dimension that stopped him.
“Gwen, when I came back that time, you didn’t even know what UNIT was!”
She looked more than a little put-out at the accusation.
“I said I got mixed up with all the alien investigation agencies.”
Jack uttered an incredulous laugh.
“How many do you think there are? There was only Torchwood and UNIT. That was it! Ianto was right, you never did bother with reading the Torchwood charter, or the manual. I accept that was my fault, but what I can’t understand is why, when you’re the one who always argued and never followed procedure, why are you the one who always managed to escape unscathed?”
“That’s not fair, Jack,” Gwen said tensely. “Tosh and Owen’s deaths hurt me as much as they did you.”
Jack was about to concede to her on that point when something struck.
“Only Tosh and Owen? Not Ianto as well?”
At least she had the decency to look embarrassed at her faux pas, Jack thought bitterly.
“Well, of course, I meant Ianto as well,” she stammered. “But really, Jack, you can’t just stay here and wallow. You need to do something meaningful again.” She reached across and grasped his hands tightly, not letting him pull away. “You need to come home, Jack. Help me to rebuild Torchwood. Ianto would want you to do it.”
“Ianto bloody well would not.”
Jack didn’t know whether to laugh or weep as Ianto appeared before Gwen. Laughter won out when Gwen turned so fast that she fell off her chair. Ever the gentleman, Ianto offered her a hand, but she scrambled away from him in a panic.
“Simi brought Yan to help with the heifer woman,” Simi informed Jack matter-of-factly, looking immensely pleased with herself. Jack only managed to suppress a further outburst of laughter when Ianto shot him a mildly threatening look.
“What is going on?” Gwen choked out. “Jack? Talk to me, Jack. Tell me what’s going on. Why isn’t Ianto dead? It is Ianto, isn’t it? Jack?”
She was heading rapidly towards hysteria. Sighing, Jack grabbed her by the upper arms and yanked her none-too-gently to her feet.
“Shut up right now, or I swear I’ll let Simi eat you, and to hell with what Ash thinks.”
“You can’t threaten that, Jack,” Ianto said with a roll of his eyes. “Pregnant, remember?”
Jack barely restrained himself from making an inappropriately sarcastic remark. As it was, he was already contemplating how many different ways Ash was going to kill him. After all, no one else from Ianto’s past was supposed to find out that he was still alive. Or, alive again. Or whatever.
“I’m going to ask you a question,” Jack told her in a low, threatening voice that he hadn’t had to use for a long time, “and you’d damn well better answer. How did you know to come here?”
Gwen glanced away from Jack, towards Ianto, but he remained passive and silent. His black eyes watched with deceptive detachment. Her breath caught. Ianto had brown eyes, not black...
“Gwen!” Jack snapped, and she gasped in fright. This was not going at all the way she’d planned it, and now she was starting to wonder whether Jack had somehow been brainwashed by a shape-shifting monster that had stolen Ianto’s form.
“Jack,” she whispered in burgeoning panic, “come with me. I can help you, but you need to come now. Please, before it’s too late! Can’t you see? That’s not Ianto! It’s just some... thing with his body. Come with me, please!”
Jack pulled away from her, quickly becoming conscious of the scene they were making. Luckily, they were in a fairly secluded corner of the bar, and the only other patrons so far were a handful of Weres who had no interest in the proceedings.
“That is Ianto, Gwen, whether you want to accept it or not, and no, I won’t be explaining to you why he isn’t dead. And don’t you dare say you have a right to know. You forfeited that right when you showed how willing you were to emotionally blackmail me over Ianto.”
“I’m sorry about that!” Gwen choked out. “I was upset! Ianto was my friend, too!”
“Was, being the key word there,” Ianto said flatly. “Gwen, I don’t know how you came to find us, but I suggest you leave now and don’t come back. Jack is not going back to Torchwood, and neither am I.”
“Jack, please!” Gwen begged, only to shriek when a pair of enormous hands clamped down on her shoulders and manhandled her towards the exit.
“Let’s go, lady,” Quin said in a bored drawl. “You’ve worn out your welcome.”
“Jack!” Gwen cried out, even as she was marched unceremoniously towards the door. “Help me!”
“I’d better go see her on her way,” Jack said ruefully. “Maybe take her to a diner for a coffee...”
Ianto’s gaze dropped to the two innocuous white pills in Jack’s hand.
“Yeah. It’s the last of it. This’ll clean her memory right back to around the time that she turned up on Alice’s doorstep. She won’t remember anything beyond me revoking her clearance.”
Ianto felt uneasy, but he knew it had to be done. More to the point, Jack was the only one who could do it.
“Go on, cariad, but don’t take long. I have a very bad feeling about this.”
“So do I,” Jack admitted. “I’m going to try and find out who clued her in over where to find me, and then I’m going to retcon her and dump her back at the airport. I’ll be a couple of hours at the most.”
Ianto watched him go in worried silence, chewing lightly on his lip. He was so busy worrying himself about how Jack was going to deal with this latest problem that he barely noticed when Dev slid into the seat beside him.
“You need to chill, kid. Jack’s just doing what he’s supposed to do as your squire, dealing with the crap.”
A tiny smile quirked the corner of Ianto’s lips. He felt mildly guilty for thinking it, but he couldn’t keep from thinking it was quite an apt description.
“I wouldn’t be so worried,” he admitted, “but this is Gwen Cooper we’re talking about.”
“You’ve never mentioned her,” Dev pointed out. “I take it she was either someone who didn’t mean a whole lot to you, or she betrayed you in some way and you didn’t want to rehash the memories.”
Ianto smiled wearily. It was a reasonable assumption on Dev’s part. After all, every Dark Hunter in existence – with the singular possible exception of himself – had been born of a life of torment and betrayal. It was a natural assumption that Gwen might have been a harbinger of betrayal for him, that he had been so careful not only to avoid talking about her, but also not to think of her.
“She was my friend,” Ianto corrected him. “She was a good friend, even if she did have a tendency to be overbearing. But no one’s perfect, right?”
“Very true. Seems like that’s ancient history now.”
“Obviously, given my current circumstances,” Ianto said dryly, and Dev chuckled appreciatively. “There’s no need to worry, though. Jack is going to retcon her. He’ll wipe the last month or so from her memory and in a few hour’s time, she’ll wake up at the airport, not knowing where she is or how she came to be there. I just hope Jack can find out who clued her in to where to find him, and why. If it really was UNIT, then I want to know what they want with him.”
“They won’t get him, Ianto,” Dev reassured him. “We look after our own, and Ash will go postal on anyone who tries to do anything to him. Believe me, Simi will guarantee that.”
Ianto knew Dev was right, but that didn’t keep the worries from gnawing at him.
“Gwen joined Torchwood almost by accident,” he explained. “Jack retconned her once, but she broke through it. Personally, I don’t think Jack gave her the right dose, but he wouldn’t ever admit to that. Also, even if that’s true, there’s no way of knowing whether it was deliberate on his part or not. Anyway, she apparently witnessed Jack die and then resurrect, and he chose to give her a job rather than try retconning her again. He got it into his head that she had a human perspective that the rest of us were lacking, and he had a tendency to fawn over her to start with. She didn’t take long for that to go to her head, unfortunately. Don’t get me wrong, with a bit of time and experience, she was good at the job... when she actually listened to Jack. The biggest problem she had was that she started to believe she knew better than Jack, and she became openly defiant if she disagreed with him. It also didn’t help that she seemed to think there was some sort of unrequited love between them.”
Dev snorted with laughter.
“That is funny.”
“Not so long ago, it wasn’t. Jack was attracted to her, and he made no secret of it. The CCTV footage of him teaching her to shoot was borderline pornographic. I think the only thing that kept him from making a move on her was the fact that she already had a long-term boyfriend.” Ianto shook his head in bemusement. “For all his fifty-first century attitudes to sex and labels, Jack is quite old-fashioned in his attitude towards relationships. As near as I can tell, he has never tried to intrude on an established relationship. I don’t think Gwen ever really understood that that was the reason that he never made a serious attempt to bed her.”
“You think you were some sort of consolation prize to him?” Dev wondered. “Because I really don’t think that’s true, kid.”
A small smile graced Ianto’s face.
“I used to think that, and I tried to convince myself that it didn’t matter, except it did matter.”
“I was never second choice,” Ianto said with confidence. “Jack loves me. Whatever he might feel for Gwen... or for anyone else that he’s loved throughout his life... won’t change that. I’ve learnt to accept that Jack is capable of loving more than one person at a time. I consider myself blest that now he chooses to be with me, over and above any others.”
Dev smiled wryly.
“You may be the first Dark Hunter philosopher, my young friend.”
Ianto grinned, but that grin was wiped off his face an instant later when Eric charged into the bar.
“Daimons!” he yelled, looking around in a panic. “They’re attacking Jack! He needs help, they’re tearing him to pieces out there!”
Ianto was out the door before anyone else had a chance to move.
to be continued...
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