Word count: ~ 1,700
Warnings: Brief mentions of violence, fluff, sap, humor.
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters are the property of their respective owners. I am in no way associated with the creators, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: Sometimes Jack can't tell whether he’s running an elite, clandestine team of alien-hunters or overseeing a kindergarten classroom.
A/N: This somehow descended into the depths of fluff and unexpected humor, even though I meant for it to be serious and angsty and a little sad. Um, I’ll try harder next time?
Come What Sorrow Can (It Cannot Countervail the Exchange of Joy)
The signal from Ianto’s cell phone, when Tosh traces it, comes from a nondescript building in the north part of the city, fifteen stories of grey boredom that could be anything from a legal office to a medical testing facility. There are no guards at the front door, only a doorman with a starling dæmon, who gives Jack, Owen, and Suzie a startled look that swiftly turns to terror as they rush by with guns drawn.
Amoria drops from Jack's shoulder to swoop ahead around the corners as the three humans slow, cautiously entering the first hallway. Owen jerks his chin at the elevator in silent query, but Suzie shakes her head, pointing towards the stairwell at the far end.
“Tosh?” Jack asks softly into the comm as they slip through the door. “What floor are we looking for?”
“Fifth,” Tosh answers promptly. “The cell signal is coming from a room in the middle of the building, probably storage, and there's a security station just before it. I'm hacking their systems now, but it might be faster for you to take out whatever guards are there.”
Jack doesn't bother to acknowledge as they burst out of the stairwell, surprising a pair of white-coated doctor types carrying trash bags. The man yelps and drops his burden, and it spills to the ground.
A severed arm tumbles out.
Pure instinct has Jack moving before he realizes it, slamming the butt of his gun into the man’s head as Amoria plummets talons-first at his ferret dæmon. The woman tries to run, but Suzie knocks her down with a sweeping kick, and Veremoren snatches up her tarantula dæmon with a victorious caw. In another moment, Suzie has the woman pinned with her arms behind her back.
“John Christian,” she demands. “We know he’s working for you. Where is he? Where’s the man he took?”
“I don't know!” the woman protests, but her eyes are fixed on her dæmon, twisting in Veremoren’s claws. “Please, put him down! Don't hurt him!”
She tries to knock Suzie off of her back, tries to get away and grab her dæmon, but Suzie’s good at her job. She shoves the woman back down and hisses, “Where?”
“Cell 24!” The scientist gives in with a sob. “The Torchwood agent is in Cell 24, and Sergeant Christian is in Cell 16. Now please, let Maitland go!”
Veremoren drops the spider with a vicious hiss that sounds oddly similar to Suzie’s, and swoops back to her shoulder. The tarantula dæmon scuttles back to the scientist as Suzie releases her, and she scoops him up desperately, clutching him to her chest. As soon as she has a hold of him, she stumbles to her feet and away, casting fearful glances back at them.
Jack watches her go, feeling something cold twist in his gut. Sergeant. The man who took Ianto is a sergeant, and Suzie had said that he wasn't entirely human.
Two and two make four, but this once, Jack's wishing he could have come up with pi.
Taking a careful breath, he taps the comm and orders, “Tosh, get UNIT on the phone and tell them that there's unauthorized alien genetics enhancement going on here. I want this place shut down. Go all the way to the Brigadier if you have to, but get it done.”
“On it,” Tosh answers grimly, the click of keys in the background.
Owen straightens from checking the dropped limbs, his face grim. “Male, Caucasian, late twenties, time of death around thirty-six hours ago,” he reports grimly. “From our corpse, no doubt.”
“No doubt,” a dry voice agrees, and the three of them jerk around to find Ianto leaning casually against a doorway down the hall, Mielikki sprawled carelessly at his feet. His normally neat suit looks a bit worse for wear, but the rest of him seems fine, and he’s coolly at ease.
“Ianto,” Jack whispers, and the rush of relief is akin to dying and coming back. He slumps a little, even as Suzie strides past him to slap Ianto in the back of the head.
“Ow!” he protests, ducking away from a second blow. “Suzie, stop it, what did I do?”
“You couldn't have called us?” she demands sharply, then grabs his arm and drags him into a quick, hard hug. “You bastard, Ianto, I was worried. How did you get away?”
His expression softening, Ianto hugs her back, though his eyes meet Jack's over her shoulder. “They're scientists, not soldiers,” he says gently, “and they didn't expect us to fight back, I think. Even the guards weren’t expecting it. As soon as we got out I found the security booth and shut down the cameras, but you got here before I could find a phone.”
Mielikki chirrups at Veremoren, who hisses at her, but nevertheless hops off Suzie’s shoulder to sit at the snow leopard’s paws. He leaves her back clear for Amoria, who settles there with an air of entitlement that makes Jack want to roll his eyes. He knows how she feels, though, so he steps past Suzie and kisses Ianto right there in the hallway, for everyone to see.
It’s not the most romantic timing. Ianto has a knot on the back of his skull, and adrenaline is still pounding through Jack's blood. They're in a lab that’s been performing illegal genetics experiments on men who probably have no idea what’s happening to them, and which have already killed at least one person. Ianto tastes of fear and nerves and it’s a little awkward, a little unfamiliar, teeth bumping and noses in the way and the smell of antiseptic a little too strong around them.
But Jack kisses Ianto, and Ianto kisses back, and it’s perfect.
This is more UNIT’s area than theirs, so the Torchwood team leaves them to it, retreating to the SUV as the building is swept and the captured scientists are marched out. Ianto leans against the bonnet with Suzie on one side and Jack on the other, and Owen scowling at the scientists as though mortally offended.
“Combining human and alien DNA,” the doctor says in disgust, “and they didn't think there would be any side effects? They didn't think the poor bastards’ own cells would rip them apart? Bloody fucking butchers.”
Even after nearly six months at Torchwood, it’s still a surprise to witness just how highly Owen still holds his medical oaths.
Ianto shifts a little, pressing his shoulder against Jack's in a movement that could be entirely casual, if only his heart would stop racing. He stomps on the urge to trace his fingers over his lips, and says, “And then keeping the poor bastards as science experiments—it’s like Hartman all over again.”
Jack's hand smoothes over his shoulder, hot and so very there that for a moment Ianto can't think of anything else. “Yeah,” the Captain says wearily. “The lengths to which armies go for power will never cease to surprise me.” His other hand is stroking over Amoria’s feathers, an unconscious gesture, and his eyes are distantly sad.
“Dinner,” Suzie says suddenly, making all of them glance over at her. She raises an eyebrow at them, the gesture somehow regal, and swings open the rear passenger-side door for Veremoren. “I want dinner, and not just cheap takeaway. You're springing for Greek, Jack.”
“I am?” Jack asks, all dry amusement, but he’s already heading for the driver’s seat.
Owen looks back and forth between the team leaders, then rolls his eyes and follows Jack around the SUV, dropping Bronwyn onto his shoulder as he goes. “Why Greek?” he demands. “That Moroccan place—”
“Has received about twelve health code violations in the past year,” Ianto cuts in, sliding into the passenger seat. Mielikki bounds in after him, sprawling out on top of his feet. “Only you ever eat there. Now that I think of it, that might explain a few—”
“Oh, can it, tea boy, nobody’s interested. Just because you're an uptight, anal—”
“Oh, yes, because everyone else wants to die of food poisoning, and I'm just ruining it for—”
“You are, so shut up and—”
“Owen, I'm the second in command, and I say Greek. Piss off, you can kill yourself with Moroccan on your own time.”
“Abuse of authority, that's what that’s called, and what if I had said I wanted Indian, what would you have—”
“She would still have told you to shut up, and Owen, you hate Indian.”
“Piss off, tea boy, I'm making a point—”
“Oh, really? I couldn't tell.”
Jack rolls his eyes as he shifts the car into gear. Sometimes he can't tell whether he’s running an elite, clandestine team of alien-hunters or overseeing a kindergarten classroom.
But Ianto’s hand finds his between the seats, just a quick, light brush of skin on skin, and the warmth that rises like a tide inside of Jack is a shock. He risks a glance at the Welshman as he pulls out into traffic, and even though Ianto isn’t looking at him, there’s a faint smile on his lips as the three of them bicker.
Jack turns his eyes back to the road, unable to fight his own smile.
This could be good.