Rewriting Time – 1/4 – Bythia

Title: Rewriting Time
Series: The Time Given to Us
Series Order: 2
Author: Bythia
Fandom: Torchwood, Doctor Who
Genre: Science Fiction, Slash, Time Travel
Relationship(s): Ianto Jones/Lisa Hallett, Jack Harkness/Ianto Jones
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Canon Typical Violence; Minor Character Death (canon); Discussion of (canon): Suicide, Torture
Beta: starlitenite
Word Count: 114,000
Summary: Despite all of Jack’s efforts, the invasion of the Cyberman has cost Earth, Torchwood and Ianto the same as it did when Jack lived through it the first time. Ianto returns to Cardiff in the same circumstances, but Jack has already changed much for his team in Cardiff, and he will do everything in his might to not let Ianto down the same way he did last time.
Artist: Izzy Hound



Chapter 01

Ianto waited with forced patience in front of the tourist office that held the entrance to the Torchwood Three Hub. Last night he had had his first encounter with Captain Jack Harkness, who had led the team in Cardiff for nearly seven years now. The file One had on him didn’t have much good to say, but Ianto knew this was the only chance he had.

He had saved Harkness from a weevil and received no thanks for it at all. Instead, the man had dismissed him and warned him not to wander through Bute Park at night. Ianto had swallowed down his argument that he hadn’t been the one whose throat had nearly been ripped out by an alien, instead throwing out a random compliment about the coat because one thing the file had made absolutely clear was that Harkness loved to flirt with anything that breathed.

Ianto had learned to despise Torchwood since that horrible day six weeks ago when his world had quite literally ended. But Torchwood remained the only possibility for him to save Lisa, and therefore he needed to convince Jack Harkness to hire him. He would need Torchwood’s technology to keep Lisa alive, and the connections he could make through the organisation would hopefully allow him to find someone who could free Lisa from her half-converted state to a Cyberman.

Ianto had loved working for Torchwood. He hadn’t had many good prospects in life before them: he had already consigned himself to some dead-end, boring job he had no interest in at all, just withering away until he inevitably died. But then he had met Yvonne Hartman, who had drawn him into this fantastical world. Working for Torchwood had been exciting, it had brought something new nearly every day. And then he had met Lisa there and fallen in love with her.

Now, Torchwood had nearly destroyed the love of his life. Lisa was fighting for her life with every breath, trapped in a machine made by the monsters who had invaded their world because Yvonne Hartman had not known when to stop. He and Lisa should not even have been there, and Ianto cursed their decision to postpone the holiday they had won – or more likely had been anonymously gifted by their colleagues to celebrate their engagement – because Hartman had asked for Lisa’s personal assistance on a project.

“Stalking someone like me will bring a lot of trouble your way,” Harkness said the moment he stepped out of the tourist office. “I would have thought you would try to stay far away from Torchwood after what you lived through. The work here in Cardiff is a lot riskier since we’re a much smaller team.”

Ianto straightened his back. “I need a job. And I don’t exactly have any recommendations or even any kind of education beyond high school that is worth anything outside of Torchwood.”

“You’re young, you can still get that education. And I can give you any recommendation you want.” Harkness buried his hands in the pockets of his trousers and rocked back on his heels. “I could even get you a place in a university if going back to school is something you’re interested in. I have done similar things for several of the other survivors.”

“Why?” Ianto watched him with a frown.

Harkness shrugged. “Archie and I are the only remaining members of Torchwood’s leadership. He was more than happy to let me be the one to step into the empty space Hartman left behind. All former employees are my responsibility, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t have the best possible circumstances to start the rest of their lives after the sacrifices Hartman demanded of them.”

“You are putting the guilt of everything that happened in London at her feet?”

“Yes.” The word came out harsh and bitter.

Ianto was not sure he could agree with that, but that was not the point of this discussion. He was here to get a job, to get access to the Hub in Cardiff and to Torchwood’s resources. “I heard you were searching for a new agent before … everything. Has that changed?”

Harkness eyed him silently for a long moment. “Are you aware that I asked specifically for you and your fiancée?” He sighed. “I’m sorry that you lost her during the invasion.”

Ianto inadvertently flinched, but hopefully that would at least mask his surprise at Harkness’ revelation. “You wanted Lisa and me to come here?”

Harkness nodded. “Archie had a lot of good things to say about you, but also said that you wouldn’t stay with him in Glasgow because your girlfriend was waiting for you in London. The archive here is a mess. I don’t think anyone ever bothered to bring any kind of order to it, probably because we never had enough people to keep up with all the work the Rift was throwing at us. I thought if I asked for both of you the chances would be better for you to agree to a one or even two-year transfer, because anything less would be pointless.”

“I was never told about it.” Ianto wondered if Lisa had known and made the decision to decline for them both. They had argued about his three months in Glasgow before he had gone there because Lisa was unwilling to leave London, and she had feared he would leave London and her if he was offered a permanent position there, but that had never been his plan.

Harkness huffed. “I’m not surprised by that. Hartman was anything but a fan of mine. I’m pretty convinced she said no just to be contrary.”

Ianto shrugged. “I’m here now, I’m willing to work for you in whatever position you need me to fill.”

Harkness watched him silently for several minutes. Ianto forced himself not to squirm under the hard gaze, but to project confidence and determination. If Harkness was waiting for him to back down, he would be disappointed because Ianto could not afford to back down. Torchwood was his only chance to find a way to save Lisa.

He had contemplated going to Glasgow since he knew Archie and the facility there, but that same familiarity with the facility was what had ultimately led him to Cardiff. He would not be able to hide Lisa in Glasgow or give her everything she needed for the time being to stay alive. But Cardiff would work. He had studied the plans of the Hub here: there was ample room to hide Lisa and multiple unused entrances probably forgotten by nearly everyone that he could use to bring Lisa and all the equipment he had smuggled out of London into the Hub, plus several old, unused generators to produce the energy he needed.

“Alright,” Harkness nodded finally. “You’re right, since you are already here, I might as well use your expertise. We’ll need to talk about your qualifications later on because we are such a small team that everyone needs to be able to fill the position of a field agent regardless of their regular position.”

“I can handle a gun,” Ianto said confidently.

Harkness laughed. “On a range, I don’t doubt that. We’ll see how you handle it in a less controlled environment. You up to start now?”

Ianto nodded. “Yes, Sir!”

For a moment, Harkness’ smile seemed to freeze on his face, but then he turned and headed back to the tourist office. “Since you knew where to find me, I assume you know the plans of our Hub?”

“I have a fairly good idea,” Ianto admitted. He followed Harkness into the small office, surprised to see an elderly woman sitting behind the counter.

“Jack, that was fast!”

“Found a little surprise on my way out,” Harkness laughed. “It seems we are finally getting the archivist I asked for repeatedly over the last year.” He stepped aside and waved a hand in Ianto’s general direction. “Ianto Jones, meet Estelle Cole, our new secretary. Let me tell you, never show an old Welsh woman your secret base in an attempt to protect her. Chances are good she’ll hire herself despite all your protests because she is bored of retirement.”

“Don’t even pretend you don’t need my help, Jack! You are drowning in paperwork!” Cole sent a smile in Ianto’s direction. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Jones.”

Ianto nodded. “Likewise, ma’am.”

“Oh, don’t even start with that! It’s Estelle. This really is too small of a team to stand on any formalities!” She reached over to something out of his view and a moment later a hidden door to his right opened up in the wall.

“Let’s start the tour,” Harkness declared. “Behave, Estelle!”

“I won’t do anything you wouldn’t do!”

Harkness laughed loudly while he led Ianto through the secret door to an elevator at the end of a surprisingly long corridor. They were silent until they reached the level Ianto knew housed the main room of the Hub. He took deep, measured breaths to keep calm. To be shown the Hub and be introduced to the team members was a good indication that Harkness wouldn’t send him away again.

Ianto was not surprised when they stopped in front of a huge cogwheel, he had seen it on the plans back in London and had wondered who had had that grand idea. There was a panel beside the door that Harkness pressed a hand against. Ianto watched him with a frown, this was something he had not read about. He was not even properly inside the Hub yet and he had already encountered two unexpected things missing from One’s file.

“You’ll need to be scanned as well before the door will open,” Harkness said. “It scans your body for any foreign substances or objects, and it can identify a few kinds of shapeshifters, which has already come in handy once. Wouldn’t have believed that when I suggested it be installed here.”

“Why did you suggest it then?” Ianto asked as he mirrored Harkness, pressing his hand to the scanner.

“Like I said, it’s scanning for foreign substances and objects. Sometimes a hostile alien leaves more behind in an altercation than we notice. It keeps the Hub, and us, a little bit safer.”

Ianto nodded as the cogwheel started to roll to the side with a loud, blaring alarm. He wondered whether that was always the case or if it was a reaction to an unknown person entering the Hub, even in the company of a team member. There would be no arriving in the Hub unannounced if this alarm was a normal occurrence. But then, he had never planned to use this entrance for his personal side project.

The main room of the Hub was even more impressive than he had expected, much bigger than he had thought after seeing the plans. Ianto soon noticed that, even taking into account the size discrepancy, the plans he had seen were inaccurate, and he felt bile rise up. His entire plan to hide Lisa depended on the information he had gathered on the Hub and the team working here being accurate, but the information One had about everything here seemed to be out of date by at least a couple years.

“Not what you were expecting?”

Ianto turned to Harkness. “Not exactly.”

Harkness grinned. “The plans you found in One don’t match up with what you are seeing, huh?”

Ianto stared at him unmoving, willing himself not to give away how much he had prepared before coming here.

“Relations between One and us haven’t been the best for a while now, even before I took over after Alex died. They wouldn’t give us permission or the funds for the changes we asked for, so we never told them what we organized for ourselves. I’m not sure why, but the crown started to pay for at least part of our budget separately sometimes in the eighties, after One started cutting more and more of our funds.”

Ianto nodded without commenting. He would find another way to get information about the Hub. There had to be plans about it here, ones he hoped he could find without anyone noticing. He was fairly good at hacking, he had managed to hack the servers of Torchwood One, but there had also been no one monitoring the server’s security anymore. He had read enough about Toshiko Sato that he knew he wouldn’t be able to get into this system without being noticed, but that did not necessarily mean there was no other way for him to get those plans.

Ianto followed Harkness through the more than unusual orientation, meeting the other four members of the team, all of whom looked at him with so much sorrow that he had to fight the urge to scream at them. Most of them had been in London after all had been said and done, after most of the people Ianto had worked with every day had died. He could hardly resent them for not being there, it wouldn’t have made any difference even if they were, but they had no idea what it had really been like. They would never be able to understand the burden the memories of that day were. To see the ruins of Torchwood Tower afterwards could have only given them a very pale impression of the true horror that had occurred.

Ianto was polite and quiet throughout the day. He needed them to accept him into their midst, but then to also forget about him whenever he was not in sight. He could not trust them to help him: he knew Torchwood’s policies in general, and especially Harkness’ stand in particular, concerning any technology the Cybermen had left behind. Harkness had been strict when UNIT had finally arrived at the ruins of Torchwood Tower, many hours after the Cardiff team had reached the battleground. He hadn’t let anyone get away with taking the few machines that had remained, insisting on their immediate destruction.

Ianto could understand him. Of course he could, after all the things he had seen happen that day. But for the moment he needed that technology to keep Lisa alive, and thankfully he had managed to successfully hide her and the machine she was stuck in from everyone else. Even after UNIT had arrived, there had been too few people to make a difference, and he had known the underground levels of the tower better than anyone else there. He had managed to get Lisa and everything they needed short term out of the ruins and to a secure and secret warehouse owned by One, all while Harkness had overseen the destruction of every scrap of metal that was even suspected of being part of the Cybermen’s technology.

Even if these people turned out to be decent – and that would be yet another contradiction to the information he had found about Torchwood Three in One’s files – he had no doubt about what they would do to Lisa, or at least the technology she was bound to. They would not give him a chance to find something to help her, they were too afraid of the Cybermen. He would use them, and he was prepared to pay the price for his deception as long as he was able to save Lisa.

It turned out to be a long day, although nothing much happened besides Ianto being shown around the Hub. It was a huge underground complex, much more sophisticated and cared for than he had been led to believe. Harkness focused on the archive, which was basically a mess of a number of storage rooms strewn over several levels, and Ianto could understand why he had desperately asked for someone to take charge of it. His work was cut out for him here, but it would also give him all the time he needed to care for Lisa even while the others were in the Hub.

If Ianto managed to vanish into the archives, the others would probably even forget that he was there at all. They would hopefully not care if he missed meals, though he had already learned that a shared lunch was a big deal for this team. Harkness seemed to take great care in small team bonding exercises, planning an outing to a pub later in the month already. That was another thing Ianto had not expected, but his experience was that people started to forget to include someone who declined invitations to such events often enough.

It took Ianto a week after Harkness had so unceremoniously hired him before he gave up covertly searching for plans of the Hub, and instead found a legitimate reason to just ask for them. He needed several rooms where he could start a proper archive: at least one for all the old files and one for the artefacts to begin with, and it needed to be someplace that was easily reachable but also secure. He went to Karen Baldwin with his question about the plans, because she was Harkness’ second and also because she was the only one he had not hired himself.

“You know, I thought more than once about getting a start on this whole mess myself, but it’s already overwhelming to just look at it, and there never seemed enough time,” she said, while they dropped the big paper rolls depicting the Hub on the table in the second conference room.

“I’m surprised these aren’t digital.”

Baldwin laughed. “You don’t want someone to hack your information, don’t store it digitally. This is one reason why Hartman failed when she attempted to get into the Hub while freezing us in a time bubble a couple of years ago. It was great to see her face when she had to explain the situation and actually ask Jack for the thing she wanted to get.” She huffed. “As if we had been in a position to deny giving it to her. All of that was just one more occasion where she tried to walk all over us.”

Ianto hummed. He had heard about that, although the story had sounded quite different told by Yvonne Hartman. She had insisted that Harkness had deliberately trapped her and had previously repeatedly denied her access to the technology she had demanded. But after a week watching the team here, he was inclined to believe them over Hartman.

“How deep does the Hub go?” Ianto asked pivoting the conversation away from that incident. The less he had to talk about One the better.

“We have ten underground levels. Apparently, it was a bitch to build so deep with how close we are to the water, and in the deeper levels it’s noticeable. Not even Jack is sure why they built so deep, and he was here for most of it. If his stories are to be trusted, they let him work with the construction crew that built the two lowest levels.”

Ianto nodded, not questioning the legend Three had built up around the persona of Jack Harkness. When he had looked up the files for the team, he had been surprised that the one about Harkness seemed to go back as far as the beginning of the last century, and he had only taken the time to study the last four decades of that file. He had gotten the impression that every time the man currently using the name “Jack Harkness” died, another one took his place. There had been no indication of the original identity of the man, or why Three maintained such a cover, but Ianto hadn’t much cared to look into it.

Ianto had read the profile on the current Jack Harkness, who had been with Torchwood for at least thirteen years, and had based some of his plans on it, but as with so much of the other information One had about Three the profile had turned out to be wrong. Harkness was not the playboy Hartman had complained about, and Ianto had already seen that he took his job much more seriously than Hartman had assumed. True, Harkness flirted a lot, with everyone on the team except Ianto and with most everyone Ianto had seen him talk to outside the Hub, but he never let it distract either himself or the others from doing their jobs.

Since Ianto had become a member of the team, the others had held up this mythos about Harkness being part of Torchwood for over a century. It had to be some kind of inside joke, one Ianto was already tired of it, but he figured it would be a good indicator that the team had stopped viewing him as an outsider as soon as they ceased playing this game with him. It would be a good indication for him of how far he had already been able to distract them from the real reason he was here.

“These are less … chaotic than I had expected them to be,” Ianto muttered after he had helped Baldwin spread the plans out over the table and even the floor.

“We used the restructuring of the bay area for a lot of renovation and even restructuring of the higher levels of the Hub. It was easy to hide that amongst all the other construction taking place at the time. Matthew Ryder and later Alex Hopkins also used the opportunity to get detailed plans drawn of each level. I’m not sure if the team who took care of that was paid handsomely to keep quiet or if they got a dose of Retcon afterwards, but they did a great job.”

Ianto nodded, letting his gaze roam over the papers. The deeper levels indeed showed only a few minor changes from the plans he had found in One, which should mean his plans to finally bring Lisa here would not need much alteration. According to the plans he had accessed from One’s files, there was a set of tunnels under the city sewers which led from the Hub all the way to the castle. Ianto suspected they were a means of escape, but they were not included on the plans he was studying now. He hoped they had been completely forgotten and were still usable.

It would be hard work to transport Lisa and the equipment through the tunnels, but as soon as he had accomplished that she would be much safer than she was now, hidden in a warehouse he had rented under a false name. He hated that he needed to leave her there alone for most of the day, and the sooner he could get her into the Hub the better. It would be easy to search for the entrance to those tunnels from inside the Hub since he knew where it should be.

“These sets of rooms are all empty, if I remember correctly,” Baldwin said, pointing to a cluster of six rooms three levels under the main room of the Hub. “When I started here, we used them as our offices because this level here was still under construction. But they had already been renovated before that, so they should be in a good condition for an archive and an office space for you down there so that you won’t have to bring everything you work on up here first.”

“I’m not sure I even need my own desk up here,” Ianto muttered.

He would be quite happy not to be assigned a workplace in the main room like everyone else, but he suspected that hope was in vain. Not once had he managed to miss lunch in the past week, Harkness putting his foot down about him taking a break in his work, and going so far as to hunt him down in the least tidy of the current archive storage rooms where Ianto had tried to hide. At least it had taught him not to skip one of the team meals in the future, and that he needed to set up some kind of proximity alarm so that he would know if someone from the team came down to search for him.

“Of course you’ll have a desk up here!” Baldwin insisted. “You would have one already if we hadn’t spent so much time the past two days running after the Rift trash those kids dragged all over the city.”

Ianto snorted. He was as glad as everyone else that whatever it had once been, it had been so thoroughly destroyed that it hadn’t functioned anymore, but they had still needed to find all the parts of the tech that the Rift had dropped in front of a group of boys on their way to school. The boys had thought it would be a great idea to take the thing apart instead of going to school, and for some reason they had thought they needed to hide the parts they had been able to scavenge.

“It’s a curse in this city, really,” Baldwin shook her head. “These kids grow up with stories about Torchwood, urban legends about a secret government agency, and strange things happening all over the city all the time. They have no sense of caution at all.”

“I’m surprised how much Torchwood isn’t a secret here,” Ianto said. “I don’t remember hearing much about it when I grew up here, and what I did hear I dismissed out of hand.”

“Was probably still a bit easier to keep it on the down-low in the eighties and early nineties when most of the bay was barely worth visiting. It was good that we could take care of a lot of structural problems during all the rebuilding, but now we are based in the middle of a tourist attraction and it’s gotten hard to stay hidden.”

“Maybe it would have been better to move the location of the Hub when those plans were made,” Ianto suggested.

Baldwin laughed. “I know you don’t mean that. You already saw our archive. How do you think we could have managed to transfer that somewhere else?”

Ianto inclined his head at the valid point. If One had been as unsupportive as he had gotten the impression it had been, it would have been nearly impossible to move a facility of this size without including dozens of outsiders, which would have never been a possibility.

“Can I make a copy of these?” Ianto asked.

Baldwin frowned. “What for?”

“For one, to include them in the archive. It’s never a bad idea to have more than one copy of these types of documents. And it will help me to make a plan of the rooms that I need to look through. There is no order at all anywhere from the fourth level down. The old teams seem to have just filled up one room and then moved on to the next one. Before I start to reorder everything, I need to know which rooms are empty, and I need to have at least a vague idea of what I can find in each room. Marking it down on a copy of the plans would be the easiest way to go about it.”

Baldwin nodded slowly. “That sounds like a good idea. I’ll ask Tosh to make you two copies. We’ll help you as much as we can, you don’t have to go through all of these rooms on your own.”

“I’m … very particular in the way I work,” Ianto smiled. “I’ll ask for help when I start to haul artefacts from one level to another, but everything before that I will mostly do on my own, otherwise I would just get the urge to double-check all the information you gave me. Not because I don’t trust you, but because I couldn’t help myself.”

Baldwin laughed. “One of those, huh? Alright. But just ask if you need help with anything. And be prepared to be dragged up for regular breaks. Jack is trying to establish a program to care for our mental health, which probably isn’t a bad thing. I’ve already heard him muttering that it can’t be good for anyone to vanish into the depths of the Hub for hours on end, and you are the only person he could have been talking about there.”

“He hired me to do exactly that,” Ianto muttered.

“Sure,” Baldwin smiled, but it was overshadowed by sadness. “But we all know what you lost, what you went through, what you survived. Jack is worried about you, as are we all.”

“He barely knows me.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Baldwin shrugged. “You are one of us now, that means he’ll do pretty much everything he is capable of to protect you. He is very determined to keep everyone on the team safe, alive and sane. As much rivalry as there was between One and us, he still mourns every life lost in London, and I think he views it as a personal failure that he couldn’t save a single person there. I’ve known Jack for a very long time. He’ll turn around and be overbearingly protective of us when the hurt starts to lessen in a couple of weeks.”

Ianto nodded in acknowledgement, thankful for the insight she was so freely giving him. He was not sure whether he believed her, but if it were true, it was something he needed to account for because it would make it harder to avoid Harkness. He would think about the ramifications later. For now, he was finally at a point where he could bring Lisa into the relative security of the Hub, and that would need to take precedence before anything else.

Chapter 02

Jack watched Ianto, unsure what he should do about the young man. He was still rattled by the fact that all his plans for Ianto and Lisa had fallen through, that they had still been in London, that Lisa had still been half converted.

Jack had learned about it only a couple of hours after they had flown to London when he had seen Ianto in the ruins of Torchwood Tower, sneaking around Jack’s team and the UNIT soldiers and raiding One’s medical supplies. When Jack had seen him, his knees had buckled in shock and only Owen’s quick reflexes had kept him from falling down. The others thankfully had thought he had lost his balance in the rubble under their feet and not asked about it.

Jack had anxiously waited for Ianto to approach him in Cardiff. He had even gone hunting the weevil in Bute Park alone, remembering how Ianto had approached him there the last time. It hurt to see Ianto again in this state of grief and desperation, especially after he had fought so hard to save Ianto and Lisa from the attack of the Cybermen. Somewhere in Cardiff was hidden the Cyberman Ianto thought was still his fiancée, and Jack had no idea what he should do about it.

He had never planned for this failure. He had been convinced this was something he would be able to change, after all there had been so many things he had been able to change in the last couple of years. Jack wanted to help Ianto, and he needed to eliminate the Cyberman as soon as possible, but those two things were contradictory for the moment. He remembered how desperately and determinedly Ianto had fought for Lisa last time, and he knew he would do the same now. He remembered how much it had destroyed Ianto to lose Lisa in the end, and he wanted to find a way to lessen the blow this time.

The Hub was better prepared for the kind of threat Ianto brought into it just ten days after Jack had hired him. The internal security system, which Toshiko had worked on relentlessly since her first months working for Torchwood, informed Jack right away when Ianto first opened the hidden door to the old escape tunnels leading to an exit near the castle.

The last time, Jack had not even remembered that those tunnels existed, but this time he had maintained their integrity throughout the past decades. He had not told the rest of the team about them, cautious about something similar to the time when Suzie had managed to trap them inside the Hub happening again. He had stopped being wary of her a while ago, trusting in her friendship with Karen and in the quarterly psychological evaluations he had made mandatory a couple of years ago, but he still thought it was a good idea to have a backup plan no one else knew about.

It took Ianto two days from first opening those doors to bringing the Cyberman and all his equipment into an empty room on the sixth level. It was a good choice for a hiding place: far away from everywhere that was regularly used and surrounded by many rooms Ianto would need to work through. No one would question Ianto being down there, and he could easily distract them with any number of other locations, but the internal sensors told Jack exactly what he was up to.

Jack gave him another week before he went down during a time when he knew Ianto was out of the Hub and started to manipulate the electrical wiring leading to the room in such a way that the Cyberman would be unable to start its machine. As much as Jack hated that this had turned out to be another thing he had been unable to change, it also gave him security in his knowledge of what Ianto would do.

After they had started slowly healing from the betrayal and hurt this situation had created in his first life, Jack had been able to coax Ianto into telling him how he had gotten Lisa out of London and into the Hub. The Cyberman had given Ianto detailed instructions on how to set up the equipment and made him believe that all of it was merely life support, while in reality it was a nearly fully functional conversion machine. But it would need more power to operate as more than life support for the Cyberman in its current state, and Jack prepared the wiring in such a way that it would burn out as soon as the Cyberman attempted something like that.

Ianto was completely caught up in this delusion that the Cyberman was still Lisa, and it was clever enough to know how to keep that illusion alive. They had a hive mind and the Cyberman knew that it was the only one left on Earth, barely functioning at that. Ianto was its only chance to gain independence and be able to continue its mission, and as much as the Cyberman detested emotions – and the contradiction of their blatant emotinal hatred for human emotions had always seemed amusing to Jack, regardless of how dangerous they were – it was clever enough to use those emotions against Ianto.

After fixing the wiring, Jack waited for Ianto at the entrance to the hall leading to the room with the Cyberman. He needed to confront Ianto with his knowledge and find a way to convince him that it was not Lisa anymore, that it was merely a hostile alien who had taken on her face and body to deceive him. He could kill the Cyberman on the spot, of course, and he probably should do exactly that, but the fear of losing Ianto through such an action was too big. He would let the Cyberman be for as long as it took to convince Ianto that Lisa was already dead.

Jack didn’t have to wait long, Ianto never left the Cyberman alone in the Hub for very long. When Ianto turned the corner and saw him, he nearly lost his hold on the two pizza boxes in his hands. He stared at Jack, frozen and unable to formulate even a single word.

Jack sighed deeply. “I’m not here to harm you. Or your little secret.”

Ianto’s gaze flicked in the direction of the door nearly at the end of the hall. “I don’t know what…”

“Don’t bullshit me, Ianto!” Jack stepped away from the wall he had been leaning against and stopped right in front of Ianto. “You didn’t really expect to bring anything into my Hub without me noticing, did you? Let alone a Cyberman!”

“She is not a Cyberman!” Ianto protested heatedly. “I destroyed the machine before it could complete the process! It’s still Lisa!”

Jack took a deep breath, but this was not the place to have this discussion. “If you are so convinced of that, why did you hide – her?”

Ianto frowned. “I don’t trust you. Why should I have risked you killing her? She wouldn’t be the first one!” Again, he looked past Jack in the direction of the room with the Cyberman.

Jack inclined his head because he could not deny that accusation. There had been others trapped in a half-converted state at Torchwood Tower, either because the power had been cut or because the conversion machines had malfunctioned. They had all been rigged together hurriedly after the Daleks had shown up, a threat the Cyberman had not been prepared for. Most of them had worked for longer than they were designed for, creating new soldiers out of the employees of Torchwood One, but their durability had been not enough to support the strain they had been put under.

“Go and convince yourself that I have done nothing to … harm her. But then we’ll go back up to my office and talk this situation through! Five minutes, then you are back with me!”

Ianto’s shoulders stiffened, and he hesitated for a moment before he eventually gave a brisk nod. Jack stepped aside to let him pass and watched him carefully. He could just imagine the panic Ianto was experiencing at the moment, but for the time being there was no way Jack would be able to soothe him.

Ianto viewed him as the antagonist in this situation, not as someone who wanted to help him. He barely knew any of the team, and Jack had a strong hunch that he had only learned terrible things about them from the files One kept on them. That was one reason why Jack had chosen this path instead of destroying the Cyberman right away; he hoped he could show with these actions that Ianto could trust him, that he would listen to Ianto.

Ianto didn’t take the whole time Jack had given him, returning hurriedly without the pizza, closing and locking the door carefully before walking back to him. Jack nodded and turned around, trusting that Ianto would follow him. They were silent all the way up to the main level and his office. He had worried about this conversation since the moment he had returned from London, because he had been sure Ianto would come here again, and still he had no idea how to even start.

“Sit down, please,” Jack muttered, while he started to prepare coffee for both of them. He had a top of the art coffee machine in his office, but it didn’t come close to how good he remembered Ianto’s coffee being. Hopefully, he would soon come to enjoy Ianto’s coffee once more, but first, he needed to weather this situation successfully.

Ianto didn’t take the cup Jack held in front of him, and only stared at it even after Jack had put it on the table by him. Jack took a sip of his own cup, watching Ianto thoughtfully. There was no reaction at all coming from the young man, and Jack could not remember enough of the man Ianto had been when he had first come to work for him in his other life.

One glaringly obvious change was the lack of suits, but Jack remembered all too well their hunt for Myfanwy and his remark about Ianto’s suit then. Even now it hurt to know that wearing them had been a habit Ianto had started to deceive him. This time he had caught Myfanwy with Karen and Owen two days after hiring Ianto, and he had insisted on making her into their pet, despite everyone else looking at him as if he had gone crazy. Domesticating her was a lot easier a second time given the experience he already had with it.

“I assume the woman was … is your fiancée, Lisa Hallett?”

Ianto pursed his lips, glaring at him when he used the past tense, but he nodded, still maintaining his silence.

Jack sighed. “At some point, you will need to talk to me. You smuggled her out of the Tower even after you had heard my instructions about destroying everything the Cybermen left behind.”

“Because she is no Cyberman!” Ianto spat. “I know her, I have cared for her for weeks. She is still my Lisa! And I couldn’t trust you to give her a chance to find a way to save her. You didn’t give anyone else a chance!”

“Because I know the Cybermen, and I know their technology!” Jack closed his eyes, forcing his anger back. “It’s not the first time I encountered them. The first thing they do is kill their victims. All they need is their nervous system, nothing else matters to them.”

Ianto shook his head. “You are mistaken!”

Jack leaned back in his chair. “What do you know about me?”

Ianto frowned. “I have no idea what you are aiming at with that question.”

“You read my file from One?”

Ianto shrugged. “The one about the Jack Harkness persona, yes. I have no idea about your real identity or why the mythos has been kept alive here in Cardiff for so long already.”

Jack blinked because that answer caught him completely off guard. “Persona?”

Ianto scoffed. “They even swapped out the pictures of the men holding this persona before for pictures of you. Did they manipulate the pictures, or did you need to go through a photoshoot?”

“Wow,” Jack shook his head, desperately racking his mind to remember when Ianto had learned about his immorality the first time. He had thought Ianto had known about it all along from his file in One. There had been ample notes about his immortality in it, Yvonne Hartman had never made a secret out of her plans to make him into a test subject for a group of her scientists again.

She had had plans to study him, and it had been a hard fight to stay out of her grasp the last time. She had made it clear that she had very similar plans this time around, but the threat had been much less obvious because she had known all along that his connections were too good for him to just vanish into one of her labs. He had known her well in enough in both his lives that he knew she would have put detailed notes about her plans for him down somewhere.

“It’s not a persona,” Jack said slowly. “You worked with Archie, you know he has been leading Torchwood Two for over a century now, right?”

Ianto nodded. “Something happened to him and he doesn’t age anymore. But there are a lot of deaths listed in your file.”

“That’s a big difference between me and Archie, yes.” Jack frowned. “We still aren’t sure what exactly happened to him, but it happened here on Earth in the late 19th century, and he hasn’t aged a day since. But his injuries heal at a human normal speed, so we assume he could be killed. I, on the other hand … Maybe it is easier just to show you.”

Ianto watched him distrustfully as Jack opened a drawer of his desk and drew out a jackknife. He opened it and turned his palm to Ianto, drawing the edge slowly over his skin and leaving behind a deep cut. He watched Ianto with gritted teeth while his flesh and skin knit itself back together. Ianto stared at Jack’s hand, unmoving and pale, long after the cut had healed up.

“This happens to every injury I sustain,” Jack explained quietly. “Even those that kill me. You could shoot me in the head, or cut open my throat, and I would just come back to life as soon as I healed up. What happened to me didn’t happen here on Earth, and it happened far, far in the future. Those deaths you read about in my file all happened, they are just not very permanent for me.”

“That’s impossible,” Ianto whispered.

Jack laughed listlessly. “Believe me, I would love if it were impossible. Dying hurts, and healing from a deadly wound even more so. Outliving everyone else over and over again is a curse, but I’m sure Archie has told you that already. I’m sure it’s harder for him, being stuck in an old man’s body.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“I thought you already knew,” Jack said. “And for the story I want to share with you to make sense, you needed to know this about me. I was once stuck in one of those conversion units. I know exactly what the process is like. The first thing these machines do is insert the connector between the nervous system and their system into the neck of the victim, directly under the skull. It severs the spinal cord, killing the victim instantly.” Jack leaned forward, bracing his arms on his desk. “That is the reason why I know with absolute certainty that your Lisa is dead.”

Ianto shook his head. “You have to be mistaken! She is talking with me, she is hurting, and she is fighting for her life every minute of the day! The machine isn’t controlling her!”

“The Cyberman is manipulating you!”

“No!” Ianto shouted. “You were subjected to another process, maybe even another kind of Cyberman! Lisa is still alive! You can talk to her, convince yourself of it! – How did you even get out of that situation?”

“When I’m healing after I die, every foreign object in my body vanishes and I’m basically reset to the state I was in the first time I died and was brought back to life.”

Ianto frowned. “How?”

Jack snorted. “No idea. It was a long time before I even noticed what had happened to me. And despite all the experimentations I have been subjected to throughout my time with Torchwood, no one has ever figured out what is truly happening with me. I hated the periods in which I was viewed as an experiment, but I learned a couple of very valuable lessons from them as well. But that reset is something I never got an answer for. – I died two times in that Cyberman armour before I could free myself. It was one of the most gruesome experiences I’ve ever had.”

In other circumstances, Ianto’s idea that he encountered a different system of Cybermen could have had merit, but it had happened during the fall of Torchwood One in his first life when he had stumbled into a nearly fully converted Cyberman in the Tower that had been able to free itself. Thankfully no one had found Jack before he had been able to free himself from the armour. This time he had been much more careful to protect himself and his team from everything that had been left behind. Jack could not tell Ianto that, of course, and so he would just dismiss it and hope that Ianto wouldn’t come back to it.

“Why two times?”

“I was unable to free myself the first time and I had still a couple of connections to the armour stuck in my body,” Jack shrugged. “There is a period of time very shortly before I come back to life in which a foreign object will remain in my body and only vanish the next time I die. I guess I came back to life that first time before the conversion process was fully completed. The second time I had nothing stuck in my body anymore and I managed to rip the armour off.”

“Is there a way to transfer what you are to another person?”

Jack blinked in surprise, but he probably should have suspected such a question. He shook his head. “No, not that I know of. And even if there was … it wouldn’t help Lisa. As I said, my body is set back to the state it was in when I first died. Which means, if there was a way to put Lisa under the same curse as me, she would be brought back to the state she is in right now every time she died. I can’t imagine either of you would want that.”

Ianto deflated. “No.”

Jack watched him for while silently. “You said you are talking to her. What do you talk about?”

“Memories we share, dreams of our future,” Ianto murmured. “Anything to keep her distracted from her current situation. She is in constant pain; she can’t move on her own. I try to do everything I can to make the situation more bearable for her.”

“Are there any infections where the armour connects to … her?” It was hard to remember to use that pronoun, but to call the Cyberman an ‘it’ would only agitate Ianto further. “Or dead tissue?”

Ianto shook his head. “No, thankfully not. I’m cleaning all of those wounds twice a day. An infection is the last thing she would need right now.”

Jack nodded, wondering how long the Cyberman could manage to keep the body alive. Last time it had taken nearly four months before the situation had blown up, and there had been small signs of decay on the body by then. The Cybermen were not prepared to keep the body they took over alive. They surrounded it with their armour and managed to preserve the main nervous system of the brain and spinal cord because that was the human component they needed, but everything else would rot away inside the armour. It was something that gave him a deadline, and also something that could hopefully help Ianto understand that his fiancée was long gone.

“We shouldn’t even have been there!” Ianto’s head dropped down and he raked his fingers through his hair. “We should have been in Spain enjoying four days on the beach!”

Jack had a hard time holding back his reaction to that. “Why weren’t you?”

Ianto huffed. “Because Lisa was asked to participate in a project and … It would have been a ticket to her next promotion. We had won this holiday, or at least that’s what it was supposed to look like. I think our colleagues put something together as an engagement present for us. We managed to postpone everything for two weeks and stayed.”

Jack sighed and closed his eyes, fighting against the frustration overtaking him. In the end, he had put everything into this plan when it had become clear that Hartman would not relent. He hadn’t even thought about the possibility that they might try to postpone the trip. Maybe he could have still changed something if he had arranged to be informed about something like that. It was too late for those regrets now, and still, he automatically began to think about what he could have done better.

“It’s one of the things we are holding on to,” Ianto whispered. “We’ll go there as soon as Lisa is better! I’ve already put money aside for it.”

Jack pressed his lips together. Right now, there seemed to be no way to get through to Ianto, but that was no surprise. Jack could even understand him, better now than he had allowed himself to in his first life. He regretted a lot of things he had said and done to Ianto when he had discovered the Cyberman back then, and some of those things they had never quite gotten over. Those conflicts wouldn’t happen this time: he would not put Ianto through the pain of seeing his teammates execute the being wearing his fiancée’s face, or send him after her with the order to kill her. Hopefully, Ianto would already be aware that Lisa had been gone for a long time when Jack executed the Cyberman.

“What will you do with me now?” Ianto asked after a long stretch of silence between them.

Jack cocked his head. “What do you think I’ll do?”

“Torchwood policy would be to execute me.”

Jack snorted. “That is Hartman’s policy. It hasn’t been our policy since Ryder, at least unofficially. I won’t execute you, and I won’t Retcon you, unless you ask for it. I won’t even step foot into that room of yours unless you give me permission or the situation gets out of control. I’m still convinced that you are harbouring a Cyberman down there and not Lisa, but it is bound to the machine, and as long as that is the case, the threat it poses is minimal.”

Ianto had wrapped his arms around himself when Jack began to speak about the Cyberman, and he shook his head all through Jack’s speech, but he didn’t look up at him. “She is not a Cyberman!”

To Jack’s ears, it sounded like a mantra Ianto needed to convince himself, and maybe it was. Ianto had to have doubts despite his desperate hope. In his first life, Jack had heard about those doubts more than once during his discussions with Ianto about Lisa as he had helped him get over her loss and the things that he had experienced during the fall of One. He needed to unearth those doubts now so that Ianto could begin to let go of the delusion he had built up around what he was doing.

“I won’t even tell the others as long as you don’t want me to,” Jack continued. “I know you don’t trust me, and as your opinion about me and my team is coloured by Yvonne Hartman, I expect it will take a long time for you to reach the point where you will trust me. But I can be very patient,” he sighed. “You are one of mine now, and I go to great lengths to protect my people.”

“I deceived you to get this place on your team.”

Jack laughed. “Not really. I was aware that you had a reason for coming here that you weren’t telling me about. After what happened in London there was no way you would have stayed with Torchwood if you had any choice. I can’t even begin to understand the horror that you and the other survivors lived through. They all shied away from me when I approached them to help them start their new life.”

Finally, Ianto looked up at him again with a deep frown. “You didn’t approach me.”

“I knew of course where you were. With someone like Tosh on the team, it’s hard for anyone to hide from us. But you had done a very good job in hiding, and I didn’t want to disturb you unduly. I asked Tosh to keep an eye on you and to inform me if it seemed like you needed help. I was surprised when she told me you came to Cardiff, but I thought you wanted to reconnect with your sister here. Instead, you apparently decided to stalk me.”

“That weevil would have killed you if I hadn’t helped you!”

Jack grinned. “Sure. Never a good idea to confront a weevil if you aren’t prepared for it. But it wouldn’t have lasted as you know now. I’m still stunned you didn’t know.”

“I’m still not sure I believe it at all,” Ianto muttered. “But … I didn’t read the whole file. It’s a big file and … I was not as thorough in my research as I should have been.”

“You were and are in a very dire situation. I don’t fault you for coming to a conclusion prematurely. But it is a very foreign concept for me to talk to someone who has been with Torchwood for as long as you have and who doesn’t know this about me. I never made a secret of it with anyone on the team here, and most of One knew because Hartman wasn’t the first person who wanted to put me back on the examination table. And you didn’t seem bothered by it at all when it’s come up since you’ve been here.”

The shared team lunches were a time when they all tried to let go of whatever the current threat was and relax. More often than not it ended with Jack sharing one of his many stories about the more amusing things that the Rift had dropped down on them in the last hundred years. It was something that generated laughter in their group, and something that reminded everyone that their work was not always gruesome and hard.

Ianto shrugged. “I thought it was an elaborate joke on the newbie.”

Jack snorted. “I wish I could claim that as absurd, but I actually can see Owen and Suzie come up with such an idea! But at least Estelle would never follow through with such a joke. I’ve learned in the last couple of weeks that she is a very earnest woman to work with.”

“Is there anything you haven’t destroyed that the Cybermen left behind in London, or even here?” Ianto asked. “Anything that could give us information on how to help Lisa?”

Jack shook his head. “No. I was very thorough. Because even one of them remaining here could mean the end of the world.” He looked at Ianto and waited until he raised his eyes far enough that their gazes met. “You must understand that I won’t hesitate to kill the being that has taken over Lisa’s body if it gains freedom from the machine it’s currently tethered to.”

Ianto swallowed hard. “I’ll show you that it’s still Lisa! Nothing has taken over her body, she is just injured.”

Jack sighed deeply and wondered how they would ever cross this impasse. He couldn’t remember enough to know what exactly had created doubts for Ianto. When he had found himself thrown back in time, he had made no notes about this situation, because he had never expected to find himself in it again. Back then everything concerning Ianto had still been so present in his mind, he had been convinced he would never forget anything about it.

Jack shook his head at himself. It was a good thing that he had learned the lesson with Toshiko that he could not rely on his knowledge of the person he had known before. He wanted to build up a friendship with the man who was sitting in front of him now, not chase after the memory of something that was long lost. The people surrounding him now may share certain similarities with the people he remembered, but all of them had turned out to be quite different.

He needed to remember that it was the same for Ianto, and therefore it was a good thing that he would need to unearth Ianto’s doubts about the Cyberman by getting to know him, not by relying on his knowledge of another version of him.

Chapter 03

Ianto flinched when he turned around and found himself unexpectedly face to face with Estelle Cole. After the very confusing discussion with Harkness the day before, he had finally started to actually do the job he had been hired for. He was still wary of the man, and of the fact that he knew about Lisa. He did not trust him to leave her alone, and Harkness had made it abundantly clear that there were scenarios in which he would be a threat to her security, but Ianto tried to hold onto the hope that he and Lisa were safe for the moment.

Ianto took a step back. “Mrs. Cole! I didn’t hear you come into the room!”

“It’s Estelle!” she admonished, not for the first time. “I have a feeling you are deliberately trying to keep yourself separate from the team by continuously using our surnames.”

“It’s hard to overcome a habit of a lifetime.”

She was right of course, but Ianto would not tell her that. He doubted that there was any future for him with the team. He and Lisa didn’t plan to stay with Torchwood after they managed to cure her. They had nearly lost their lives once, and it had been pure chance that they had gotten away. There was no reason to get attached to this team, especially as they would not want to keep working with him after they learned he had deceived them, Ianto was sure of that.

He cleared his throat. “How can I help you?”

Cole shook her head. “The question, young man, is how can I help you. Suzie is currently taking care of the tourist information. I can’t sit up there all day long every day and take care of the paperwork Jack is unable to fill out for himself. One would think after years of leading the team he would know his way around this paperwork!”

Ianto forced himself to smile. “Maybe he just takes advantage of you.”

Cole eyed him for a moment with raised eyebrows before she began to laugh. “Maybe you are paying more attention to us than you are letting on. But maybe I did ask for it; after all, I didn’t leave him much choice in hiring me. You told us during lunch you would start sorting through the files so that we could start to digitalize them whenever we had a little bit of free time for it.”

Ianto nodded. It would take years to bring any kind of order to the mess Three had assembled over the past century. He did not intend to stay here for that long, but he felt compelled to get a decent start on it, and to leave behind instructions for the continuation of his work. Harkness was helping him more than he had ever expected, and he felt he should repay that by actually doing the job he was hired for, and doing a good job of it at that.

“So, did you start with the oldest or the newest?” Cole asked, letting her gaze wander around the room crammed with filing cabinets.

“As far as I could determine, these are the oldest files, or at least the first room that was used to store files. From what I have seen up till now, the newest files here are from the forties.”

Cole sighed. “You are in over your head with all this work. This room alone could take years to work through.”

Ianto shrugged. “It won’t be so bad once I have established a filing system. I don’t have to study every single file. Miss Sato has excellent equipment to digitalise them. I sort them, label them now, and we will establish a register while we digitalise them later.”

“And do you already have an idea for a system to work with?”

“The easiest is by date and the agent who filed it. From what I have seen, both pieces of information are included in most files that I have already looked through,” Ianto explained. “Harkness gave me a list of employees and he assured me it’s mostly accurate.”

“Don’t trust Jack with any paperwork,” Cole noted dryly. “So, let’s get to work. Are you sorting them here, or are you carrying a number of them to your office to sort them there?”

“I’m still trying to determine if there exists any kind of order. Most of the cabinets seem to be dedicated to a certain time frame.” Ianto pointed at the dates he had written on the cabinets with a permanent marker. “I do want to start with the oldest and work forward, so I need to know where I can find which period.”

“You have a second one of those markers?”

Ianto stared at her, but he found himself unable to decline her help, and so he nodded and gave her what she asked for. “So, how did you come to work for Torchwood? With all due respect, you aren’t exactly in the recommended age group for working for a government agency chasing after aliens.”

Cole laughed. “I’m not, am I? Jack brought me here on the morning of that terrible day eight weeks ago. He told me he didn’t trust that I would be safe in my home, and he locked the whole team in until those terrible things were gone. After that–”

“He knew what would happen?” Ianto turned to her, agitated.

Every sign of amusement had vanished from Cole’s face. “Yes. He told us he tried to warn Hartman when he recognised what she was doing. I don’t think he knew before that what would happen. He is from the future, you know. But … what do you know about the things that happened three thousand years ago? I mean, he knew that it would happen sometime, but he didn’t know when until Hartman had already started all of it.”

Cole sighed and shook he head. “Jack is devastated over the fact that he could do nothing to help anyone in London before it all went down. He has spent years complaining to me about the strained relationship with the branch in London, so I’m not surprised no one there listened to him. He still feels guilty over every single life lost, I think. He knew the Doctor would save us from the Cybermen, and the team spent the hours of the invasion preparing to go to London and take care of the aftermath.”

Ianto took a deep breath, fighting against the tightness in his chest. “He knew and did nothing?”

“He tried,” Cole said softly, reaching out for him, but Ianto took a step back. “The team wasn’t very happy when he trapped us all in here and explained to us afterwards what was going on. They wanted to go to London right away, but what good would that have done?”

Ianto closed his eyes, concentrating on his breathing. He knew she was right, five more people fighting in London would have made no difference. But if Harkness would have warned Yvonne Hartman about the consequences of her experiment – Ianto shook his head. He remembered Hartman complaining about Harkness giving his opinion about her affairs where it was not wanted. She had raged about it, more than once if the gossip of the Tower could be believed, but Ianto had only witnessed it once himself when he had brought files she had requested from the archive up to her office.

“He should have found a way to do something. Anything,” Ianto muttered.

“I really think he tried,” Cole said. “It’s not Jack’s fault that no one in London listened to him. I know that Jack has had problems with the part of the institute located in London for a long time, but he fights for every single life. He wouldn’t have let this happen if he’d found a way to stop it.”

Ianto flinched when he suddenly felt her hand on his arm, but he accepted the comfort the touch was offering.

“I’ve known Jack for a very long time. He likes to show an abrasive front, to play the part of the worst playboy you will ever meet, but he only does that to protect himself. He cares a great deal for the people in his life, and for the lives of the innocent.”

“When did you meet him?” Ianto needed something to chase away the memories that threatened to overwhelm him.

“I first met Jack in 1941, when I wasn’t even twenty yet. We met whenever he was in town, and we made grand plans for the future. But then, late in ‘44, I was told he had died. I was devastated, but life went on. And Jack decided not to come back to me at that time. He told me later that he would have left me, either way, a couple of years later because he wouldn’t have trusted me with his immortality. And I know myself well enough to know I wouldn’t have deserved that trust as a young woman either. I’m not sure I deserved it when he came back to me eventually.”

Ianto opened his eyes to stare at her. “You were his lover?”

Cole smiled. “Yes. I loved him very much back then. And I think he loved me, too. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have come back to me later, I believe. It took me quite a few years to be able to handle the friendship he offered, to handle his immortality. But I’m glad he came back into my life despite the burden it was at times.”

“When was that?”

“In ‘81. He’s found time nearly every week to come and visit me since then.” Cole watched him with shining eyes. “I’m sorry I brought back those memories for you earlier.”

Ianto sighed deeply. “There is nothing you have to be sorry for. It was just … a shock to learn that there was a warning for what happened and it still … You are right, Harkness’ word wouldn’t have mattered in London. But I still…”

“You still wish he had tried harder.” Cole nodded. “They should have listened to him. Jack is terrified of those Cybermen. I think he encountered them before, but he didn’t tell us about that. He told us it would take a lot of luck to defeat even one of them even as a group, and that he would protect us regardless of what we thought about it. That protecting us was all he could do at that moment.”

Ianto nodded, thinking about his meeting with Harkness the day before. What Cole was saying contradicted the calmness he had seen in Harkness then. Ianto knew he was convinced that Lisa was lost, that Ianto had brought a Cyberman into the Hub, and still he let it be. Harkness hadn’t set one foot in Lisa’s room, had calmly waited in front of that room for Ianto. It was also a contradiction to the ruthlessness he had shown in the ruins of Torchwood Tower.

Lisa had not been the only half converted victim of the Cybermen, and Harkness had executed them all personally. It was one reason why Ianto had hesitated for more than three weeks to come here after he had decided that Cardiff was the only chance he had to find help for Lisa. He had expected to be killed by Harkness if he ever learned about Ianto’s true plans, and for a while, he had thought he would not survive last evening. Ianto did not understand why Harkness was giving him this chance and as glad as he was for it, he was still wary about his motives.

“Maybe it is too early for you to discuss any of this,” Cole whispered. “You asked how I came to work here. Karen and I were the ones staying here when the others went to London. Jack told me I could go home again, that the threat was over, but I had helped all through the preparations, I just kept working. Jack has built a great network with the police, but Karen still needed to go out, and so I stayed here and monitored the calls. In between, I started to sort through Jack’s paperwork and decided he needed help with that. And so, I’m still here.”

“Can you handle a gun?”

Cole laughed. “Good gracious, no! My father taught me during the war, just to be sure, he said, if the worst would happen that I could defend myself. But I never had to use it. I never touched a gun again after that. There are safe rooms in the main area of the Hub and one in the Tourist Office. Jack showed me all of them. If there ever is an emergency, I know where to hide. And I know to stay there until Jack comes to get me out.”

“That’s good,” Ianto muttered, remembering all the administrative staff in London who had had even less defence against the Cybermen than everyone else. Ianto himself had never been part of any mission that had included an alien encounter, but he had been out in the field to retrieve technology or question witnesses. He had learned to handle an array of weapons, even though he had spent most of his time in London in the archive. But none of that had prepared him to face a hostile alien force, least of all something like the Cybermen and Daleks.

“Don’t think Jack just let me stay.” Cole patted his arm, before finally turning away from him and going back to her cabinet. “It was a great discussion, but I have learned how to out stubborn the man over the past twenty years.”

Ianto smiled, turning back to his work as well. “How long have you known about Torchwood?”

It was easy to convince Cole to talk about her experiences with Harkness, and Ianto used the opportunity while they spent the next two hours going through the rest of the cabinets. He needed to learn as much about this man as he could, because not only his but also Lisa’s life depended on it. Any moment, Harkness could turn around and change his mind, and Ianto knew he would not hesitate to execute Lisa if the mood struck him. He needed to find leverage against him to keep himself and Lisa safe.

***

Ianto knocked on the open door of Harkness’ office. “Sir?”

“When will you finally start to call all of us by our given names?” Harkness looked up from whatever he was working on. “No one here stands on formality.”

Ianto ignored the remark. “I found a file I’m unsure how to handle.” He stepped into the office and closed the door behind him because he suspected Harkness would not want to be confronted with this file while everyone else could just walk in on him. He held out the file, but Harkness only stared at it warily without taking it.

“I assume it’s one of those files concerning their experiments on me?”

Ianto swallowed in the face of that implication. He had been surprised to find even one such file, and he was appalled to learn that there would be even more. “It’s from 1917,” he said because it was the only thing that came to mind.

“You read it?”

Ianto shook his head. “I was only looking for the date and for the name of the agent who filed it, and at first I thought it was you until I saw…” He had stared at the page in horror for several minutes after he had understood that Harkness had been the subject of the experiments listed on the first page.

Harkness took a deep breath. “And what exactly is your question about it?”

“Should I destroy this file? And others when I find them?”

“No. File them with the rest. Some of the things discovered during those … phases may still become useful. And I don’t care about the files. It’s been a long time since any of that happened.”

Ianto cleared his throat. “Why did you stay after they did something like this to you?”

Harkness sucked in a breath. “At that time? Because I thought I had no other choice. I came to Cardiff because I was hoping I would meet someone here. And I needed to stay if I wanted to have a chance for that meeting. I came to understand over time that this team is needed here in Cardiff, and I hoped that I would someday be able to change how the team was handled. And that day came. It was a good decision to stay, despite … This is by far not the worst file you will find. Don’t read them. You’ll only lose even more of your belief in humanity than you already have.”

Ianto shook his head. “I don’t understand … I only looked at the summary page. If someone had done this to me…”

“I killed some of them,” Harkness’ voice was so matter of fact that it startled Ianto more than the confession itself. “That particular doctor died because of the Spanish flu, and I have to admit that I enjoyed his suffering. There were also a lot of good people who worked for Torchwood since its foundation. I was once asked to lead Torchwood One by Queen Victoria and I often regretted not taking that offer, but in the end, I didn’t care much for Torchwood or this planet for a long time. It was a means to an end so that I could stay in the city.”

“It’s mind-boggling to think about how long you have been here,” Ianto muttered.

Harkness laughed. “For me as well. I’ve spent the greater part of my life here in this city.”

“Did you ever meet the person you were waiting for?”

“Not yet,” Harkness turned to look at the calendar hanging on the wall to his left. “It will be soon now. I was once told that it would happen at the beginning of the century. Although I have since learned that the person who told me that seems to have had her own agenda. Still, I think it will be very soon.”

Ianto frowned. “May I ask…”

“The Doctor,” Harkness said. “I travelled with him for a while. I hope he has a couple of answers for me.”

Ianto turned his head away. “You missed him in London.”

“It wouldn’t have been the right time.”

“You knew the attack was coming.” Ianto was watching Harkness out of the corner of his eye, and he was surprised how hard he flinched. “Cole told me you brought her here that day to protect her and she just never left afterwards.”

“I did,” Harkness murmured. “Both of those statements are true. I knew what was to come and I needed to protect Estelle. And I knew the Doctor would be there. Which was one reason why I couldn’t protest more about Hartman’s experiment than I did. I couldn’t risk changing anything in the Doctors timeline, as much as I hated to let all those people die.”

“But you did warn Hartman?” Ianto did not doubt that anymore. It had been a week since Cole had first come to help him and they had that discussion, and he had spent most of his free time since then replaying many of his interactions with Hartman.

He had not seen her often, but the last couple of weeks he had been sent up to her every other day. He had been high enough in the food chain to handle sensitive material, but still low enough to be used as the errand boy. His position in the archive had let many people forget his presence even when they were looking directly at him, and Hartman had been no exception in that. Ianto had only witnessed one angry outburst from her about something Harkness had said, but she had talked quite a lot about her desire to find a way to subdue him. In face of the file he had just found, those words now had a completely different meaning than he had thought back then.

Harkness nodded slowly. “I did warn her. I probably should have praised her for her genius instead, that would have actually made her hesitate or even abandon her plans. But my first reaction was one born out of panic, and when I had a chance to speak with her again, I had already remembered that the Doctor was involved in all this mess, and didn’t dare interfere more than I already had.”

“I never quite understood who the Doctor is. Except that he is Torchwood’s enemy number one according to London. You don’t seem to think the same.”

Harkness laughed and proceeded to tell him a tale of Queen Victoria, the Doctor, a for the time period barely dressed girl from the twenty-first century, and a werewolf all meeting in Torchwood House. It sounded too fantastical to be true, but part of the story did resemble the history about how Torchwood had come to be.

In the end, Harkness shrugged. “He’s not an enemy of Earth or Great Britain, but he often leaves a great deal of destruction behind, not necessarily of his own doing, as was just proven in London. Once I planned to wait for him and travel with him again, but I have found my place here since then. I will probably be gone for a little while, if only because I’ll need to chase him down. I don’t think he’ll wait for me.”

Ianto frowned. “Doesn’t sound like he is a friend of yours exactly.”

“Some friendships can be … unique. I’ll come back, somehow. Karen knows all of this, of course, so she’ll be prepared when the moment comes. I hope he’ll be able to tell me what happened to make me what I am and if it will ever change again.”

“You don’t know what happened?”

Harkness shook his head. “I was stranded here on Earth for more than twenty years before I finally caught on to the fact that I wouldn’t stay dead, even after I was shot in the head.”

Ianto shuddered.

“That’s actually one of the easier ways to die and come back from,” Harkness said. “I’m not able to come back until my brain is fully healed, so I barely feel any pain because most of the injury has healed by the time do I come back.”

Ianto sucked in a breath because this was not something he wanted to even think about. He had asked about it for Lisa, of course, because it had seemed like the perfect solution. But the more time he had to think about the situation Harkness found himself in, the more relieved he was that he didn’t have to decide if he could put Lisa in the same situation. It would just exchange one bad situation for another; the file he still held in his hands was proof of that.

“How is – Lisa?”

Ianto did not miss the hesitation. It was there every time Harkness asked about her, as if it was hard for him to remember her name, but Ianto knew it was more the fact that Harkness thought of her as a Cyberman and not a human anymore. There was the same hesitation every time he used a pronoun instead of her name, and more than once the ‘it’ had slipped through. Ianto wanted to scream at him every time it happened, but up until now, he had managed to stop himself.

Ianto wet his lip and waited to answer until he was sure he would not say something inappropriate. “She is bored on top of everything else. But I think we have finally found the right dosage for the morphine.”

“Owen is a very good doctor, you know.”

“No!” Ianto snapped. “I’m letting no one from this team near her!” It was unnecessary to spell out that he didn’t trust them not to harm Lisa. He knew he had to rely on Harkness’ goodwill to keep her and her condition a secret, but it was easier to keep an eye on him alone than it was to have to look out for everyone else from the team as well.

“How will you find the help you seek then?” Harkness asked.

Ianto stared at him, keeping stubbornly silent. It was not the first time that Harkness had asked him about his plans, and once already Ianto had nearly told him about his research because he had been too inattentive, but he knew that could never happen again. As long as Harkness still believe Lisa was already lost, he would not be open to anyone telling him something different.

There was a man, a scientist who consulted regularly with UNIT, who had been at the ruins of the Torchwood Tower, and strongly protested against Harkness’ decision to execute the survivors trapped in the conversion units and to destroy any scrap of technology left behind by the Cybermen. Harkness had ignored him, had not once looked at him as far as Ianto had seen.

It had taken Ianto a long time, but he had finally found the man in the UNIT database. Dr. Ryoishi Tanizaki had written his dissertation on bioengineering, and had shown a vast interest in the Cybermen and their method of uniting a human body with technology. He had proposed repeatedly since the fall of One to study the Cybermen, to copy their methods for use in prosthetics. He had put out several research suggestions based on the footage from the Tower during the invasion, but up until now none of them had been approved.

There were no experts anywhere on Earth for Lisa’s situation, but this man had studied everything he could find about the Cyberman as much as was possible. There was no one who knew more about them and their technology, and Ianto hoped he would find a way to free Lisa from her confines. It would be the first step to get her out of the machine she was depending on right now. Freeing her from the rest of the technology could wait, as long as she gained at least a little bit of freedom soon.

Ianto knew Harkness would never agree to allow Tanizaki to come into the Hub to help Lisa. He had made his disdain of the man very clear after the invasion. Ianto had no delusions that he would be able to change Harkness’ mind, but he had already started to develop a plan to invite Tanizaki in while Harkness and the rest of the team were distracted. He just needed to wait a little longer so that Harkness would start to pay him less attention.

“Has she ever expressed anything besides boredom and pain?” Harkness asked after the silence had stretched on for minutes.

Ianto frowned. “Of course, she has. We share the same nightmares if she is able to sleep at all. She is despairing about her situation, about her confinement. There are days when she is begging me to free her, and I can’t even hold her properly!”

“Are you sleeping in that room with her?” Harkness sounded appalled, but when Ianto only shrugged he sighed. “Of course, you are. Do you even have a flat in town?”

“I needed to put our things somewhere. I couldn’t afford to pay the rent for the flat in London on my own, especially with everything else I needed to take care of for Lisa. But I’m not leaving her alone for the whole night! I have to leave her alone in that room for too long already when I’m working!”

It was agonizing to leave her alone at all, to know she was suffering alone. He had bought audiobooks of all her favourite books and was playing them for her whenever he was gone, but even that did not help her frustration. She could not even move her arms enough to read or to handle a mouse so he could leave her a laptop. The only thing more frustrating for Lisa was that Ianto needed to handle all the care for her, including feeding and washing her. She was fighting, she tried to be strong for him as much as for herself, but Ianto could see the hope dying in her eyes a little bit more every day.

“Do you at least have a cot or are you sleeping on the floor?”

For a moment Ianto was completely taken aback by the open worry Harkness was displaying for his comfort. It was once again not the turn he had expected this discussion to take, but Harkness had proven to be a master at surprising Ianto.

“I’m good,” Ianto said finally.

“I can bring you a cot, or an air mattress. And a fridge could be a good idea.”

Ianto shook his head, suspecting a ploy to gain his permission to go into the room. He still had no idea why Harkness had made him the promise to not go into Lisa’s room as long as Ianto had not invited him to do so, and he didn’t trust the promise, but he would hold Harkness accountable to it for as long as possible.

“I don’t need anything,” Ianto repeated. “I’m able to take care of myself, Sir. But thank you for your concern.”

Harkness visibly deflated, but Ianto did not care about his disappointment. He could not afford to trust anyone on this team, least of all Harkness, and he was glad that his rebuff seemed to finally herald an end to their meeting.

Chapter 04

Jack wanted to scream in frustration, but he knew it was not the right moment for a reaction like that. He raised his hands in front of his chest, palms outwards, in a calming gesture. Nothing seemed to be going as he had hoped it would since the Cybermen and Daleks destroyed Torchwood London. First Ianto and Lisa had still been in London when the invasion had happened, and now Suzie was pressing a gun to her chin, again.

“Please, don’t,” Jack begged. “We’ll find a solution!”

“No,” Suzie whispered, sounding infinitely tired and desperate. “You won’t let me live either way, we both know that.”

“You made a mistake, but we can work through that!” Jack had no idea how they could accomplish that at the moment, but the important part was that he believed it, and he needed to make Suzie believe it as well.

Suzie shook her head slowly as her fingers tightened around the handle of her gun. “I tried so hard, but it just never ends! What’s the reason to keep fighting if we only lose in the end anyway?”

“We haven’t lost yet,” Jack took half a step in her direction. He was aware of Ianto hovering at the edge of his vision, alert but staying back. And he knew Gwen Cooper was standing somewhere behind him along with her partner Andy Davidson, since it was her appearance that had triggered this whole scenario again in the first place.

Suzie reacted to his approach by taking two steps back. “I wanted to be like you,” she muttered. “I thought it would get rid of that constant fear to not be able to die.”

“There is no way to become like me. And it wouldn’t have taken away your emotions. Let’s sit down peacefully and talk, Suzie, please. We’ll find a way to help you and…”

“I killed those people, you know?”

Jack fought against the urge to close his eyes in defeat. “Yes.”

“I found something in London they thought had something to do with your immortality. I didn’t want to kill them, I just needed to test it, but it doesn’t work.”

He had taken away the gloves that promised a connection to the dead and maybe even some kind of immortality, and Suzie had still fallen into the same trap. Jack had made it a rule that all of them needed to see a psychologist regularly, and they had still reached this point where he would have to watch as Suzie killed herself. He had no idea what more he could have done to save her.

“Please put down the gun, Suzie. We will find a solution for this!”

Suzie looked over his shoulder and Jack suspected she was searching for the two police officers behind him, who had come to talk to her even earlier than before after she had been much less careful than the first time Jack had been in this situation. “I’m not going to jail. And I’m not letting you kill me.”

“NO!” Jack moved forward with a shout, but even if he had been standing right in front of her, he would not have been able to move the gun away from her fast enough as the shot rang out through the night. He reached her before her body hit the stone, catching her with a sob. He took no notice of his knees hitting the ground with a hard, painful thud nor of the blood and other fluids around him while he held her tightly to his chest, sobbing and cursing in a language no one around him would know.

Jack barely took any notice of Ianto, who reached his side just a moment later. He pried the gun out of Suzie’s hand, disabled it, and threw it aside. Jack pressed his mouth against Suzie’s forehead, rocking them back and forth, whispering apologies to her.

“Sir,” Ianto’s hand settled on his shoulder, but he ignored him. “Jack.”

It was the first time in this life that Ianto had used his name, and Jack looked up startled.

“I’ve sent Karen a massage, she is calling the rest of the team back.”

Jack closed his eyes and nodded. “Call DI Swanson,” he murmured. “To take care of them.” He gestured with his head in the direction of Gwen and Andy, who had approached them carefully and kept a respectful distance up until now.

Andy Davidson was one of those in the know about Torchwood after he had been involved in the apprehension of a feral alien not too long after he had first joined the Cardiff police. But Jack had made the decision a while ago to keep it away from Gwen for as long as possible. He had not wanted to involve her in his team again, but he remembered her stubbornness very well. Now she wouldn’t stop until she had discovered everything there was to know. He hoped she would not come to regret it as much as she had in his other life.

Ianto kept his hand on Jack’s shoulder in silent support while he followed the order Jack had given him. It was such a novelty given the distant relationship Ianto had allowed to develop between him and anyone on the team, that it was very effective in distracting Jack from the desperation he was feeling over Suzie, at least for the moment.

He listened to Ianto telling Kathy Swanson what had happened and who was with them while he lowered Suzie’s body carefully to the floor. He closed her eyes and busied himself with straightening her clothes just so that his hands would have something to do.

This should not have happened again. He had been so careful with her, had tried to give her the support she had lacked and searched for with Pilgrim the last time. There was no Pilgrim this time, or at least Suzie had not been involved with them, she had had a strong connection with Karen, and had told him she was getting on well with the therapist she had chosen from the five in Cardiff who were in the know about Torchwood so that the team was able to be open and honest with them. She had not been as distant with Toshiko and Owen and even himself as Jack had remembered from the last time, either. She should have been fine.

“I’m so sorry, Suzie,” Jack whispered, closing his hand around hers.

“It’s not your fault,” Ianto muttered beside him.

Jack huffed. “Of course, it is! I should have noticed the change in her!”

“We are doing a hard job and sometimes one of us breaks. You are doing a lot more to prevent that and to catch the team … us if it happens than I ever saw happen in London. There is nothing more you could have done. She made her decision, and I’m sure she made it before she left the Hub earlier. I don’t think she intended to flee when she left, but to search for a place…” Ianto trailed off with a deep sigh.

Later, Jack would bask in the feeling of joy at the realization that Ianto was finally starting to include himself in their team, but at this moment he didn’t even recognise the deliberate choice of his words. Jack already knew that Ianto was right, that Toshiko would probably find a note from Suzie in the network like she had last time. Suzie had left the Hub because she had not wanted to die there, and this time there was no backup plan for her in place.

“Excuse me, Sirs, we need you to step back and…”

“Gwen!” Andy hissed.

“They are witnesses to a suicide and confession of murder!” she shot back. “We need to clear…”

“They are also her boss and her co-worker,” Andy said. “And this is not our jurisdiction.”

Gwen huffed. “Of course, it is!” She stepped up to them. “I need you to step back and to show me your identification.”

“Our doctor will be here shortly to take care of Suzie,” Ianto said coldly before Jack could react. “We will not disrespect her by leaving her alone!”

Jack turned his head in time to see Gwen frown down at them. “We have called for backup and the coroner. Your doctor has no–”

“They are Torchwood, Gwen!” Andy interrupted her. “Dr. Harper will take care of their teammate. And the two of us will forget we ever saw anything!”

Gwen shook her head. “I don’t care who they are. The procedure, in this case, is very clear. Additionally, we heard her confess to a murder, which will have to be investigated.” She looked at Jack. “You said you knew she had killed someone!”

Jack sighed. He had forgotten how annoying Gwen could be and that she had always had a habit of not knowing when she crossed a line. “DI Swanson called me to tell me that the two of you were coming for Suzie, and why you were coming. I knew you suspected her of murder. But that was the last thing I wanted to discuss with Suzie while I was trying to get her to lower the gun, Officer Cooper!”

Gwen took a step back in the face of his fury, and Andy used the opportunity to grab her arm and drag her away far enough to give them an illusion of privacy. Jack turned back to look down at Suzie again, wondering how and when he could have made better decisions to prevent this from happening again. He had learned in the long years living his life a second time that he had to just accept some things, but that knowledge did not make it any easier to accept another failure.

“We’ll have to search her flat thoroughly while we pack it up,” Jack muttered. “Whatever she found in London, she never brought any technology into the Hub. She had to have studied it at home.”

“Do you have any idea what it could have been?”

Jack shook his head. “No. It wasn’t technology that made me what I am, and I have no idea at all what ideas One had over it. – How could I miss that she had developed this kind of intense fear?”

Ianto started to rub his hand over Jack’s back. “It’s not your fault. No one noticed it, apparently not even her therapist, or else they would have found a way to warn you.”

“None of your therapists talk to me about you!” Jack protested. He wanted to say that he had been forewarned, but that was absolutely impossible because he had no way to explain why he had known it.

“That may be true, but a situation like this in which Suzie’s mental state could have been a threat to any one of us and was at least a threat to herself is not the everyday crap we unload on them.”

Jack shrugged, and they both remained silent until first Karen and a little bit later Toshiko and Owen came running past the water tower. Shortly thereafter DI Swanson arrived, and Gwen started to repeat her protest thinking she would find support in her. Jack was grateful that Karen took over communicating with the police, supported by Ianto, while Jack and Owen carefully transported Suzie’s body to the morgue in the Hub. Without saying a single word Toshiko gathered Suzie’s gun, following them into the Hub.

The next couple of days went by in a haze for Jack, while they searched Suzie’s flat and took care of basically dismantling her life. It felt as much of a violation as it had when they searched her stuff during the whole Pilgrim debacle in his last life. Again, Suzie had deleted her personal file off their mainframe, but this time Jack had tasked Toshiko long ago to have fail-safe backups which could only be accessed by her and Jack, so they found her file there intact.

Jack went personally to the hospital to tell Suzie’s father of her death, officially in the line of duty. The man seemed not at all affected by it, sending him away again without asking a single question, but Jack had not expected anything else. He knew the relationship between Suzie and her family had been bad for a very long time, but he had never asked her about it. She had gone to great lengths to kill her father in Jack’s last life, and he suspected there might have been a good reason for it despite her own insanity at the time.

As Jack had expected, Gwen refused let go of the things she had witnessed, showing up at the Roald Dhal Plass whenever she was off duty, basically stalking them whenever she could spot one of them. They let her follow them, most of the team taking some joy out of leading her astray, but Jack knew he needed to make a decision. Karen had suggested giving her Retcon while Owen had still been examining Suzie’s body, but Jack had declined.

It wouldn’t hold for Gwen, he knew that already, and he had started to be wary of their use of that drug. He had never been concerned about the issue of taking someone’s memories away from them in his other life when Torchwood had been this big, dark secret in Cardiff. But he had found that he was much more comfortable with finding other solutions since he had spread the knowledge of Torchwood through certain circles in the town. In this life they had never used Retcon on a police officer, opting either to let them in on the secret or for them to be transferred to another town if they had the impression they would not be able to handle it.

They played this game with Gwen for two weeks, before Jack finally decided that her boss should tell her about Torchwood, but that did not stop her from stalking them. She still suspected foul play, and Jack suspected that she did not quite believe what she had been told about them. Jack put an end to it when he made the decision to just invite her into the Hub and show her exactly what they were dealing with.

Before he knew it Karen and he had made the decision to hire Gwen Cooper.

***

Things had changed after the day Suzie killed herself, and Ianto was not sure what he should think about it. The distance he had forced between himself and the rest of the team had vanished while they worked through their shock and grief together, without him noticing or making any kind of conscious decision about it.

He had not wanted to get close to any of them for a good reason, but losing a co-worker was always something that tore down barriers. It had started with Ianto’s perception of Jack in the minutes before Suzie had pulled the trigger, when he had so desperately tried to talk her out of her decision. Afterwards Ianto had been unable to stop himself from opening up to his new team. Jack was still the only one to know about Lisa, but Ianto had started to accept that he really wanted to help him, even if their interpretation of what help Ianto needed was vastly different.

Not quite four weeks after Suzie’s death, Jack and Karen hired the annoying officer who had not endeared herself to Ianto at all in the minutes after Suzie had died. Ianto was sceptical of that choice, and he knew that at least Toshiko thought the same, but neither of them questioned it. She had proven herself very determined, and that could be a good thing in their job, but it also could turn out to be bad. Especially for Ianto, who was still hiding a big secret right under the noses of his co-workers.

Since integrating himself a little bit more into the team, Ianto had finally been successful in his goal of becoming unobtrusive, or maybe it was the fact that he was not any longer the newest member of the team that took away some of the attention. More and more often he managed to vanish into the background around most of them during their working hours, although the team never forgot to include him into their little team bonding exercises scattered throughout the day, regardless of how often he tried to decline one of their invitations.

While his ability to vanish into the background didn’t lead to the team forgetting him most of the time as he had originally hoped, it did lead to Ianto being able to listen in on certain conversation he was sure the participants would have liked to keep private. Jack seemed to be the only one who was mostly aware of when Ianto was near him, but even he had moments where Ianto could evade his attention.

One of those occasions was on the day Jack and Karen had told them about their decision to hire Gwen Cooper. She would start in two weeks, the gap both because she didn’t want to leave a hole in the police roster and because even they were not immune to the slow processing of paperwork. Karen would take over her training because even with her background in law enforcement there was a lot she needed to learn to be able to be an asset to the team.

“You’ve been very unsettled today.”

Ianto paused and nearly flinched before he understood that Estelle was talking to Jack rather than to him. They were both in the little kitchen off the main area in the Hub. For once, Ianto was sitting at his workstation up here with the others instead of sitting in his office in the archive, filling out his report about yet another weevil hunt. His desk was the one nearest to the small kitchen, but he had not been aware he would be able to listen in to someone talking in there.

“I’m still wondering if it was a mistake to hire her.” There was a sound of distance in Jack’s voice that Ianto had learned meant he was lost in some deep thoughts.

“Why?”

There was a long moment of silence before Jack sighed. “I’m not sure she’ll be able to handle our work without losing herself. She has a boyfriend, and you have seen how she handles secrets. I’m not happy that basically no one here has a private life, but I know it’s because we all aren’t able to share anything about our life with a partner.”

“There are many people who are capable of having successful relationships despite having to keep their jobs a secret,” Estelle said.

“Yeah, jobs with normal hours,” Jack huffed. “We still don’t have enough people to keep normal working hours, and I don’t think it’s the right time to hire even more new people.”

“Why not?” Estelle asked. “You don’t have One restricting you or your budget anymore. We have the space, enough work, and the budget to double the numbers of the team. And in the wake of One falling…”

“But other people try to restrict our budget, and we don’t have the capacity to train so many new members at once anyway. We can’t hire another new person until Gwen is fully integrated into the team. There are still things Ianto needs to be trained in because One never bothered, but I think it won’t take long for him to be able to go into the field with Owen and Tosh instead of Karen or me.”

Estelle sighed. “I’m glad to see that he has finally begun opening up to us. I was very worried about that young man. I had … I would have not been surprised if we had lost him to suicide as well. After what he experienced … not everyone is able to overcome such a horror.”

“He is stronger than he seems to be. And I have an eye on him for that very reason. I won’t lose anyone else to something like this. Ianto has a long way still to go, but this time I’ll be there for him when he struggles.”

Ianto swallowed hard, overwhelmed by the determination in Jack’s voice. He had been told by Estelle and Karen during his first weeks here in Cardiff how determined Jack was to protect his team. He had started to see it with his own eyes, but it had only been Jack’s devastation over having presumably failed Suzie that had made Ianto finally believe what he was seeing.

“Is that the reason you are holding your shining personality back with him? Don’t think it has escaped anyone’s notice that you are very careful to never flirt with him!”

Ianto cocked his head, curious for the answer to that because he had noticed it as well. The files about Jack he had found in One had all indicated that he was a shameless flirt who would drag anyone into his bed who didn’t say No fast enough, but Ianto had fast learned that that was one of many false impressions One had gathered about him. Jack was shamelessly flirting with nearly everyone, but it was always very clear that it was friendly and good-naturally, not something designed to lead to something more. But with Ianto Jack was outstandingly polite, never crossing the line to any kind of innuendo.

“He just lost his fiancée,” Jack said with more force in his voice than Ianto had expected. “I’m trying to help, not drive him away. It may not seem like it most of the time, but I know very well which boundaries should not be crossed!”

Estelle sighed. “I didn’t mean to insult you. And I wasn’t aware that he lost someone in the invasion, he never mentioned that at all to me.”

“Lisa worked for Torchwood One as well. And I don’t think he has accepted yet that he lost her.”

Ianto flinched. Of course, he had been aware all along that Jack thought Lisa was lost, but they had not talked about it so explicitly in the past few weeks. Jack was constantly searching him out, talking with him about all kinds of things and never missing an opportunity to ask about Lisa and his plans, but he had held back his own opinion about the situation for a long time now. Ianto had started to think that Jack was maybe coming around, being open to the idea that they could find a way still to save Lisa, but it was clear that he had been mistaken in that.

“He found her, half converted. I don’t know how to help him to overcome that. I don’t even know how anyone could ever be able to leave an experience like that behind. I can understand why he is holding onto her, you know?”

Estelle snorted. “You are the master of holding onto your old lovers. Look at me! But you learned to let them go after they died.”

Jack kept silent for a long moment. “That was a hard road for me. I avoided getting involved with anyone seriously for a long time because I couldn’t take the pain anymore from losing them. But I was never very successful keeping my emotions to myself, so in the end, it never worked out. I just learned to make the best of it and hold onto my memories. But … not one of you needs to learn the same coping mechanisms I needed. With a little bit of luck, you can find people to spend the rest of your life with.”

“Expect, in this job death could come any day for any of us.”

“Do you know how much I hate that you include yourself in that statement? You will remember to use the safe rooms if it is ever necessary, do you hear me, Estelle?”

“I won’t break my promise to you,” she replied softly. “I’ll keep myself safe. But I’m an old woman. I might be healthy, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t still die any day. Ianto has opened up to Tosh, and even me a little bit more. I’m sure we’ll be able to help him process his grief. We won’t let him break down.”

Jack sighed. “I hope you’re right. It’s a good thing that all of you are pitching in and helping him down in the archive. I wouldn’t be very comfortable letting him be alone so much down there. That would be too much time to be lost in his thoughts.”

Ianto sighed because he found that habit mostly annoying. It cut down on his opportunities to go look after Lisa during the day. Jack had to know that, but then it was probably another benefit in his eyes. If Ianto was occupied with his job and unable to take a break, he had less time to search for something that could help Lisa, which would be less time wasted in Jack’s mind.

He had cautiously reached out to Tanizaki through email. It had taken him a little bit of time to set up an account that was hopefully hidden well enough that Toshiko would not find it for a while. He had no delusions that anything happening in the digital world could stay hidden from her if she searched for it, but he hoped he had been careful enough to stay off her radar for a while.

Up until now, Ianto had not been sure if it was the right decision to involve Tanizaki at all. He was wary of the scientist because he seemed to be much too interested in recreating the Cyberman technology, but he was still the only one with enough knowledge to be of any kind of help. But now, with the knowledge that Jack was still unwilling to help him in any way, Tanizaki was the only option left.

“You said someone besides One was trying to cut our budget?”

Ianto blinked, startled out of his thoughts by Estelle. He was sure he had missed some of the conversation, but that question drew his attention back. He had heard Jack curse about politicians and bureaucrats a couple of times, but he had never learned what the problem was.

“There is this guy, Harold Saxon, who has made waves in the last couple of months since he became involved in the defence department. Somehow he doesn’t understand that Torchwood is a private endeavour of the Crown and not something our government has to care about.”

“Saxon? The one running for Prime Minister?”

“Yes, that one.”

Ianto frowned. There was something in Jack’s tone that spoke of something more, but he was not able to interpret it. If he didn’t know better, Ianto would have said Jack was afraid of Saxon, but that was absurd. Jack may not be a fan of that man, but there was no reason for any of them to fear a politician from London.

Estelle hummed. “He seems nice. A very proper young man, knows what he is talking about.”

“What’s his agenda? What do you know about him?”

Estelle kept silent, and Ianto blinked, surprised because he had no answer to that question either. The election was still a couple of months away, and he had not cared to keep himself informed about it since the invasion, but he had thought to be well informed before that. And yet, he could not come up with anything concrete about him.

“I don’t trust that man,” Jack said after a minute. “I won’t vote for him. And I sure as hell hope he’ll learn to keep his nose out of things that are none of his business.”

Ianto was not sure he could agree with that, at least in general. He had often wondered since he had somewhat settled down in Cardiff if things in London could have gone differently if there had been more oversight. If there had been someone besides Jack to warn Hartman off, someone Jack could have gone to and who would have been able to stop her even if she protested, maybe the whole invasion could have been prevented. Ianto knew all the reasons why they were operating outside of the established government structure, but maybe the system needed to be overhauled.

It was nothing he needed to concern himself with right now. His first priority was still Lisa, and he had hesitated long enough. He would find no help for her inside this team, and Tanizaki had shown great knowledge despite his lack of material to study. He would need to have a little more patience, but with Gwen Cooper joining their team soon, he hoped that an opportunity to smuggle someone else into the Hub undetected would present itself sooner rather than later.

Chapter 05

Jack settled down beside Olivia with a deep sigh. It had been a hell of a week and he was glad to be able to escape Cardiff for a couple of hours. He had kept the promise that he had made to Olivia on the day Angelo died and came by every Sunday for a visit, often using his Vortex Manipulator not only to travel the distance in space, but also to travel back in time for a couple of hours.

“The first week with your new agent can’t have been that bad!”

Jack huffed. “I didn’t think so either this time last week.” He had thought that Gwen was starting earlier than she had originally, that they still had at least two more weeks until the meteor with the sex gas would land, but he had been mistaken. Sometime between Suzie’s death and the decision to hire Gwen, he seemed to have lost his sense of time, or maybe he had been mistaken about the time frame all along.

“You told me something about a gas possessing a young woman in your last life,” Olivia prompted.

“Yes. And even though Gwen wasn’t there this time to set it free, the meteor broke open on its own shortly after we arrived. Which I probably should have expected. It was clearly a transport vessel; of course, the gas – whatever creature that was – had its own way to escape. And it found the same young woman as last time.”

Jack accepted the half-hug when Olivia put an arm around his shoulders. Their relationship had been strange in the beginning, mostly because he had been unsure how to behave around her, but she had stubbornly pushed through all the walls he had tried to erect after Angelo’s death. It had been comforting and heart-breaking at the same time to still have this connection to him, but in the end, Jack was glad that he had stuck with Olivia through the worst of his grief.

“She didn’t escape this time,” Jack muttered. “I didn’t allow myself or the others to be distracted, or to be caught in the chemicals she was putting out. But because of that … The creature wasn’t able to feed, and while that saved the lives of a lot of men in Cardiff, we weren’t able to save her life. We couldn’t convince the creature to leave her until it was too late. I think it was some kind of revenge because it knew we would let it die.”

“And your new recruit?”

Jack huffed. “Gwen is … complicated, but I knew that already from my last life. The others don’t know it yet, but they got a pretty good glimpse of it. And it was not exactly the best first day, so we are trying to cut her some slack, but it’s hard to endure her arguing about things we know and still couldn’t change.”

“What is she arguing about?”

“That we should have found a way to save Carries, of course. That we should have provided the creature with food, and I think she doesn’t quite believe that it would have killed anyone we would have sent into that cell. She is much too focused on the small details and doesn’t see the big picture consequences yet.”

Jack closed his eyes and let his head drop down onto Olivia’s shoulder. “But that’s not even the worst thing that’s happened this week.” The anger he had initially felt had slowly dissipated and left behind a desperation he was not able to talk about with anybody on his team. It was a personal failure none of them would be able to understand.

“After I had reset time and made the decision to stay, I made so many notes about all the things I remembered. Especially about this time period because … I think because I was still mourning this team. Except for Gwen, they had all died so horribly. And even Gwen’s life was ruined by her inclusion in Torchwood. I made excessive notes about all the things that had happened after the destruction of Torchwood London because I didn’t want to risk forgetting anything. – Do you remember the cannibals in Wales? Originally we discovered them this year.”

Olivia hummed. “They were discovered in ‘67. Didn’t you tell me you weren’t able to change much in the early timeline?”

Jack shrugged. “Maybe that was not exactly … I couldn’t change much in my direct environment. Everything I wasn’t part of for most of the time wasn’t so hard to change. There are a lot of things I took care of years ago, that would have put my team in danger now originally.”

“It stands to reason that other threats will arise in the absence of those you have already taken care of.”

“Don’t jinx us!” Jack called out, poking his elbow into her side. “Thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet.”

Olivia chuckled. “What did happen then?”

“I forgot something. And I wonder what else I have forgotten to write down. I should have remembered this damn ghost machine. I should have remembered that a rapist and murderer was walking free in Cardiff that I could have taken care of. It wouldn’t … He had already killed his victim when I came back, but I could have at least brought him to justice years ago. Instead, Owen was obsessed with that guy once more and I didn’t remember and didn’t notice that something was up with him!”

“I thought we had already established that you can’t keep everything from your team that’s ever happened to them,” Olivia muttered. “I remember Nonno telling me that he had reminded you of that fact repeatedly. And we talked about it after the attack in London, and again after your teammate killed herself. It’s just impossible, Jack!”

Jack shook his head. “This is different. This time I didn’t even remember!”

“Was anyone on your team hurt?”

“Not physically. Emotionally … It was a shock for Gwen, and I’m concerned that Owen got so obsessed. I’m not sure if it was the machine or if it all came from him.”

Olivia sighed. “You have to let go of this dream that you can keep all of them safe all of the time. As long as you are chasing that kind of goal, you’ll always be disappointed. – Very soon you won’t even know anymore what the future will hold.”

“That’s still nearly five years from now and those will be very turbulent years.”

“No,” Olivia shook her head. “I think for the most part that time is already here. Your team is bigger than it was last time, isn’t it? And you can count on the law enforcement in Cardiff, where you were alone in your first life. The basic events coming at you may be the same, but you can’t foresee their outcome anymore.”

“I should have foreseen the outcome of today because it was pretty much the same!”

Jack knew she was right, but he feared the consequences of her observation, and therefore he tried to ignore it most of the time. Additionally, this year had already proven twice – three times even counting today – that some of the events he had worked so hard to prevent had still been set in stone. He feared that he would be unable to prevent other things, like the deaths of Toshiko, Owen or Ianto.

“Does that mean you want to just give up now?” Olivia asked harshly.

“No, of course not,” Jack groaned and sat up. A moment later he left the sofa Olivia had replaced the two old armchairs in Angelo’s old office with, and started to pace the length of the room. “I’ve been able to change a lot of things. I should be able to change more. I’ll need to be careful for a couple more months because I can’t risk changing Saxon’s behaviour, but after that…”

“Saxon?”

“The future British Prime Minister,” Jack muttered. “At least he will be for a couple of days. Or a year, depending on how you’ll look at it. – Don’t ask, please. Just … There will come a very dark time soon, but I need you to trust me that in the end, all will be okay.”

“And you can’t stop that?”

Jack shook his head. “That Saxon is here at all proves that I will make the decision to not intervene in that event at all. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go through with it for the longest time. But apparently, I won’t hesitate when the time comes.”

It had been hard to sit back and let the invasion of the Cybermen happen, despite knowing that he should not interfere in the Doctor’s timeline. It was even harder to imagine that he would run after the TARDIS once more, even knowing what it would lead to. Jack had feared he would not be able to do it, and in a way, it was a relief to see Harold Saxon play his game, as horrible as the year that was to come would be.

Olivia crossed her arms. “It’s this Time Lord again you don’t want to cross?”

“Yes. But that won’t be a fight you need to involve yourself in. Just keep your head down and trust me. Don’t do anything to let yourself be captured.”

“You told me I should be prepared to go into hiding at a moment’s notice. Is this the reason for that?”

Jack nodded. “This is one part of the reason. The other is that I want you to have a safe place when the Miracle starts. – And talking about that, I believe you had an exciting week as well.”

Olivia stared at him for a long moment. “I don’t like it when you try to distract me!”

Jack huffed. “I really want to know how the latest meeting with your mother went!”

“Meeting? Is that what you want to call this whole farce of a court case?” Olivia laughed. “It was the last time I had to see her. Aunt Emma’s and my mother’s complaints were finally dismissed and I’m free to execute Nonno’s will. They aren’t getting a single piece of his inheritance as was his wish. My siblings and Emma’s children are getting their part, and the rest can finally be distributed between Matteo and me.”

“I’m sorry they put you through this,” Jack murmured. He sat back down beside her and took her hands in his. “I know how disappointed Angelo was over the fact that both his daughters had turned out to be such…”

“Bitches?” Olivia supplied.

Jack grinned. “He would have never used such a word!”

Olivia chuckled. “No. I think he would have reverted to Italian, but the sentiment would have been very much the same!”

It had taken them more than a year to reach the point where they could talk about Angelo without one of them bursting into tears over their shared memories. It had finally started to feel light-hearted and good to remember Angelo, and Jack basked in the feeling of being able to share such memories of him with someone. It was not as easy during his less frequent meetings with Matteo, but that was due to the long time Matteo had spent living so far away from his father.

“And you are planning to never see her again?” Jack asked.

Olivia nodded. “I told them both in the courtroom that I had no interest in keeping any contact with them. It won’t be so much of a change really. I’m not sorry to see them go. I’m just sad that except for Julia all my siblings are falling in line with her. And I suspect the only reason Julia isn’t, is that she was thrown out of that family due to her sexuality.”

“You aren’t close to her either, are you?”

Jack remembered very well Angelo complaining about his failed attempts to reconnect with Sofia’s youngest child after he had learned that his daughter had rejected her. Sofia and her husband had to have told their children very dark tales about Angelo after he had taken custody of Olivia, and those memories had tainted the relationship between Julia and Angelo until the end of his life.

Olivia huffed. “I don’t need any of them, really! I have Matteo and you, that’s all the family that’s left worth knowing. I think, after everything will be said and done, after this Miracle we are waiting for, I’ll move to New Zealand to be with Matteo and his family. And speaking of them, you’ll have a second grandchild in a couple of months!”

“What?” Jack blinked, flabbergasted.

He had dreaded the year when Steven would have been born, torn between the hope he would be born again and the hope that it would not happen. Melissa had lived through that year undisturbed, had not even been in any kind of serious relationship, and Jack had been relieved because Steven being born again would have been a very bad omen. Melissa was so different from the woman Alice had been, that it would have needed a serious intervention from whatever force was directing time to create Steven again. Jack had feared that Steven being born would be a sign the 456 would still return despite everything he had risked to stop them.

Jack had barely had any time to let that anxiety go before Angelo had given him a letter from Matteo containing pictures and a video of Melissa’s wedding, and just a little more than a year later Melissa had given birth to a beautiful little girl. Jack was glad that at this time he had been able to be overwhelmed by happiness for his daughter. At least in this he seemed to have been able to change everything for the better. Melissa’s marriage was a happy one judging by Matteo’s tales, and Jack knew despite his surprise that they had wanted this second child for a long time now.

“It will be a boy this time,” Olivia said. “And as far as I know they want to name him Jack, after Melissa’s dad. I wasn’t aware she knew your name.”

Jack shook his head. “Just that, not more. Jack is common enough, could even just be a nickname, and Lucia and I had decided to give her at least a little glimpse of myself. I wrote her letters for that very reason.”

“That I knew.” Olivia was smiling. “She has gathered them in an album and is very careful that they are preserved.”

***

Jack crossed his arms and leaned in his office doorway as he watched Ianto and Toshiko go systematically through the main area of the Hub to take care of any disorder and trash that had accumulated during the day. It was a task each of them took care of for a week at a time before it was transferred to the next person in line. Shortly after Suzie’s death Toshiko and Ianto had teamed up, sharing the responsibilities during their two weeks, and they were by far the most effective in keeping the Hub clean and orderly.

Jack was worried about Ianto and the Cyberman in their basement, but he had no idea how to broach the subject with him. It made him anxious that there had been so many things he had been unable to prevent since One had fallen, and he feared Ianto would make the same mistake as he had in Jack’s first life. Tanizaki had had much less material to study this time since Jack had been much more rigorous in his attempts to destroy everything the Cyberman had left behind, but he had established himself as some kind of expert nevertheless.

He had no idea if Ianto was even in contact with that man, but in the last few weeks he had been less open with Jack about Lisa, had been a little bit more withdrawn from the whole team again. Jack was not the only one who had noticed it, and while Karen had come to ask him about it, Toshiko had started to push herself at Ianto more. No one really questioned Ianto’s behaviour; everyone but Gwen probably assumed he had reached the next stage of his grief and just tried to adjust their own behaviour to help him through it.

Jack was sure it was nothing of the sort, but instead the growing desperation that Ianto was unable to find anything that could help Lisa. He tried over and over again to explain to Ianto that his search was in vain, had tried to make him see the being he was caring for was not Lisa any more, had not been his fiancée since London, but nothing seemed to get through to him.

After Toshiko and Ianto had finished with their task, Ianto vanished back into the deeper levels of the Hub, presumably to work on transferring the files to their new archive, but Jack suspected he had done barely any work on that since Gwen had joined the team two weeks ago at least. Jack had used some of his time to watch him covertly when Ianto was down there, and whenever he had done that, Ianto had spent most of his time in the room with the Cyberman instead of the archive.

Jack let him go and gave Toshiko a little bit of time to settle down at her workstation before he went to her. They were the only ones in the Hub as Gwen, Owen and Karen were currently chasing after a Rift alert and checking out whether it had brought them anything. Jack pushed Karen’s chair to Toshiko’s desk so that he could sit down beside her.

He eyed her thoughtfully. “Could you get anything out of Ianto?”

Toshiko turned to him with a deep sigh. “Even if I had, I wouldn’t betray his confidence. We are all worried about him, but whomever manages to win his trust will have to tread very lightly with it. I think Ianto is working through more than just the attack, more even than losing the woman he loved in such a horrible way.”

Jack nodded slowly. He wished he could tell someone about the Cyberman in their basement, but right now that would only mean betraying Ianto’s trust, and Tosh was right, that was not something he could risk at the moment. “I don’t know how to help him. And I don’t want to lose anyone else.”

Toshiko smiled and laid a hand on his. “We won’t lose him. He has already gotten better, and we all know what he is going through is not a linear process. I’m not surprised that a new team member is throwing him off again, especially as Gwen is sometimes not very careful with the things she says.”

“I asked Karen to talk to her about London, to explain to her what kind of trauma Ianto still has to deal with. But I’m not sure Gwen will be able to understand that as much as we do.” Jack shrugged. “She is still very … naive about our kind of work despite her horrible first day.”

“It was a hard lesson to learn for all of us,” Toshiko murmured. “But I can understand why you hired her. She could become a good agent if she stops measuring every one of us by her own scale. – I noticed you are holding yourself back a lot with her.”

Jack shrugged. “I know the kind of woman she is. Please kick me in the shin if I ever start flirting with her, would you? I know I’m not good at keeping certain boundaries that are less personal and more imposed upon us by the current society we live in, but I also know that Gwen would not be able to comprehend that there is nothing serious about my flirting with anyone.”

Toshiko laughed. “I’ll copy this section of audio and video out of our security system, just so that I can remind you that you asked for it!”

“I won’t forget it.”

“You think Gwen would assume you were actually coming on to her?”

Jack nodded. “And she is the kind of woman … I know how she looks at me. I’m sure that she loves her boyfriend, but I’m not so sure she would let it stop her from chasing after someone else she finds interesting. And I already … I made that kind of mistake once with a woman like Gwen. I wouldn’t have cared really, if she and her boyfriend had an open relationship. But that wasn’t the case then and I’m pretty sure it’s not the case now. I find the current norm much too irritating to step into any kind of existing relationship.”

“And you have your eye on Ianto more than on anyone else anyway.”

Jack reared back. “What?”

Toshiko smiled. “Estelle has noticed as well, but the others are completely blind to it, I think.”

“No,” Jack shook his head. “That is not … I’m worried about him, that’s all.”

And it was for the moment, but he could understand why his habit of watching Ianto could be interpreted in another way. He wanted to win Ianto’s friendship, and he was worried about the young man, but that was the extent of his emotions. That didn’t mean that Jack was unaware that that could change basically at any moment. He had fallen for Ianto once after all, over time and when their relationship had already been quite complicated, and Jack had learned with Lucia and Angelo how easy it would be for him to fall in love again with the same person. He was glad that it had not happened yet because he was aware of how inappropriate that would be.

“If you say so,” Toshiko’s raised eyebrows spoke volumes about her scepticism.

“He isn’t at a place where he could handle such interest anyway,” Jack muttered. “But Ianto isn’t even the reason I came to speak with you.”

Toshiko cocked her head. “Sure.”

“I want you to hack the Archangel network.”

Toshiko blinked, clearly thrown by his sudden change of topic. “You want me to do what?”

“The satellite network that Harold Saxon managed to launch in record time. I suspect foul play, and I want you to hack it.”

Toshiko blew out a puff of air. “That is a hell of a task. And illegal even for us.”

Jack shrugged. “But I know you can do it without being detected. I’m pretty sure I’ve managed to give you everything to build a top of the art hacker paradise over the past years.”

“You have, but I wasn’t aware you had ulterior motives,” Toshiko frowned. “That’s not something I can do just on the side. I’m not even sure if I can do it alone. What do you think I’ll find?”

“Nothing good,” Jack muttered. “I find it highly suspicious how fast the satellites were built and launched. And most providers are hosted through those satellites now. Why should they do that? What is Saxon planning with this network? How did he get the budget to push such a big project through in not even six months?”

Toshiko frowned. “I think most of those questions wouldn’t be answered by hacking Archangel, but by hacking Saxon’s personal and official devices and accounts.”

“No,” Jack shook his head. “The risk is higher for you to be detected there.”

They needed to stay off Saxon’s radar as much as possible, but the Archangel network wouldn’t vanish with him after the paradox was reset. It had led to problems in his other life when no one was able to get access to it, and in the end UNIT had shot down all fifteen satellites. But reverting to the old satellites had not been easy, and in retrospect, Jack was sure that had played right into the hands of the Three Families later on.

He wanted to get access to and ultimately control of those satellites. They could turn out to be useful, and maybe they would provide them with some kind of proof of Saxon’s nefarious plans to help lessen the political blow after the end of the paradox. The deaths of the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain on the same day had not been easily weathered, and had damaged the relationship between the countries for years.

“But if it is evidence, you want…”

Jack shook his head again. “We can’t go against him too openly. Not right now. He has gained too much political influence in a very short time. I think he has the capability to be a threat to us at the moment. I … I don’t know, I just have a feeling we need to be prepared for something.”

“Like the catastrophe you were talking about?”

“Yes. No, not that exactly. If I’m not mistaken, that is still a couple of years out. I just have a bad feeling about this man, that’s all. And he is running for Prime Minister, so he could become a very big problem shortly.”

Toshiko sighed. “He creeps me out, too. I don’t know what it is. Everyone else seems very taken with him.”

“Will you take a look at the programming of the Archangel network?”

“Of course, I will, even if I didn’t agree with you about Saxon!” Toshiko rolled her eyes. “But let me start with getting the plans of those satellites, I think that could be much more informative than the network on its own.”

“Whatever you think is the best way,” Jack nodded. “Do you need any help?”

Toshiko eyed him sceptically. “Have you learned to hack since we last spoke?”

“I’m not completely lost with the current software,” Jack said affronted. “I have kept my knowledge up to date!”

He had done so this time much more carefully than in the other timeline. He had immersed himself in the development of technology, because he had learned a hard lesson about the big difference between how they worked now and how they would work in the future where he had learned to hack. The Time Agency had given him a crash course in the technology of the time he was sent to, but he had never been sent to this time, and even then, he had mostly relied on his Vortex Manipulator. His knowledge had often failed him with current technology, expecting much more advanced software than he was confronted with.

“If this has any kind of priority, the best you can do is keep other work away from me. Ianto is pretty good at hacking and he has learned a lot about our mainframe in the last few weeks. He could take over some of my more basic work. That would keep him out of the basement as well. I think he has started to hide down there again.”

Jack grinned. “That’s a fabulous idea! The archive isn’t so important that he can’t spend at least half of his working hours up here with other tasks.”

“At least half,” Toshiko agreed. “I know we are all already helping him, but maybe we should step in even more. Make a project for all of us out of it with Ianto in the lead. He has a lot of experience with organising an archive, but it’s just too much work for one person. He’ll get lost in there if we don’t take care of him.”

Jack nodded. “I’ll talk with Karen about how we can manage that. None of us exactly has a lot of free time. We are overworked all the time.”

Toshiko raised her eyebrows. “You could just hire more people?”

“Maybe when Ianto and Gwen have settled in a little bit more. You said yourself that maybe Gwen’s inclusion is what led to Ianto drawing back again.”

It was something he did plan to do after the year under the control of the Master was over. Until then, they would have to get by with the team as it was because they already had two more people than before. He didn’t want to risk Saxon taking other measures to get them out of the way besides just sending them to the Himalayas to chase a fake Yeti, and if the team grew much bigger not all of them would go.

Jack already knew that he would need to leave orders behind to follow Saxon’s orders. The team as it currently stood would not so easily fall for that trap as his team in the other life had. Their cohesion and trust in each other were much better because Jack was not keeping such big secrets from them, and at least Toshiko and Owen were not shouldering the burden of their past alone. Soon hopefully the same would be true for Ianto.


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Bythia

I've been writing since I was able to put the letters on paper, and if the stories of my family are to be trusted, I told stories long before that. Starting to write in English has been an adventure, but I found that I crave the environment Rough Trade and Quantum Bang are creating.

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