Thursday, 29 May 2014

Fans Fiction Heaven & Nature Sing by Echo Fain part three







Part Three:


When he dreams, he dreams of lost chances and collapsed potential waveforms, the paths not taken, the alternatives, the parallel universes, the temporal dead-ends. He dreams of an Idris who died through the inaction of two young, cocky Time Agents who had no clue they'd just let Jack's son---born two thousand plus odd years in the past---slip through their stupid fingers. He dreams of New Orleans in the Roaring Twenties on Earth, where he'd hired a mulatto woman named Salome to care for his toddling daughter.

He dreams of Idris coming home there, brought back to them by the grace and wits of a fairy godmother with the smile of a pirate. He dreams that Charley was born far away from his homeworld, a baby brought into the universe by two grieving immortals who clung to each other because they'd lost everything else. He dreams of his father, of how the universe had looked to him from within a timeship. He dreams of others like his father, whose hearts are not tied to humanity's well-being. He dreams of a day when he saved a world with the song of his heart. He dreams of how Melody sounded when she laughed in smug contentment, dreams of the feel of her hand folded over his arm as they walked through a London long-lost to the quick footsteps of time.

He dreams of maybes and never-weres and days when the madness roared in his head like the sea in a storm but that storm has a name and that name belongs to a myth, a whisper, a lie.

He dreams of a cyberthetic thing made from a living brain and its attached central nervous system encased in the core of a timeship which looked like a Rawleigh, created to unravel realities through time and space...made to serve in a war of attrition where temporal manipulation was the weapon of choice. He dreams of days when he lived not as Jack's partner but as merely a casual friend, and he'd married another. He dreams that Idris never existed and Ianto never woke up on Olympus II and Jack's child was a daughter named Rose.

He's troubled most by the dreams where Ianto and Idris don't exist. In them, he is Orchid's and John's---their neery, their lover, their husband, their wife. He wakes from those dreams with tears on his face and a sob in his throat and he always wants to go find John Hart, wherever he might be on this gods-forsaken benighted little world.

But the John that is here---if he is still, in fact, here---isn't the brave, wily John he knew, mad as a boxful of cats, his scruffy little hero---it would be years yet before John was ready to meet his younger self and it wouldn't---couldn't---happen here. John, in this timezone, is like the Jack of this timezone---still too young in every way. Here is a John selfish and conceited and emotionally bankrupt, a rogue who helped Gray destroy whole swaths of Cardiff, Wales, and kill two agents from Torchwood. And, oh gods, how he regrets Tosh. And he has nothing to offer either of them---this Jack or this John---that would ever make them look twice.

Lyn hated to dream.

He used to dream of a monster who wore his face. Back then, he would scream in his sleep. He didn't do that anymore. There were no more monsters in his head, haunting him. It seemed that, in the hell of living on 21st century Earth, his own personal demons were outmatched.

***

5 November 2011; Friday; 0423 hours
Cardiff

It seemed like he'd only just managed to get his head down after being out all night on a Weevil hunt with the team. At the edge of deeper sleep, his mobile rang and startled him. Jack grappled for the device and his brows rose in surprise at the ID avatar and name. He clicked Answer.

"Martha Jones-Smith, please say that you've got a bag packed, outside my door right now, ready to run away with me." He glanced at the alarm clock. "At almost four-thirty in the morning."

She laughed. "No, Jack!" She paused, sounding tickled. "Don't tell me that I caught you sleeping. Not Captain Jack Harkness."

He grinned and rubbed his tired eyes. "I never sleep. You know that."

"And you never lie, either. Yeah, I've heard that one, too."

Together, they chuckled for a few more moments and then she went serious. "Jack, I wouldn't call you this early but we've got hotspot activity over Wales. Above the area around Newtown, in Powys."

Jack, in the process of slinging his legs out of bed, stopped and looked around the darkened bedroom---which now bore all the signs of Gwen's decorating skills, something he needed to change. It was very simple and---to be honest---boring, and an obvious sign of her solidly middle class Welsh upbringing. He wasn't interested in the wicker at this point, though. He pictured a road map of Wales in his head and searched it in the blink of an eye.

"Powys?"

"Powys." Martha confirmed.

"Wait...Newtown's...in the middle of nowhere. In the middle of Wales." In just his pants and sitting up on the bed, Jack rubbed at the back of his head and rolled his shoulder on that side; he'd strained it while struggling with the team's last Weevil capture. "And this couldn't wait until the sun came up?"

"I have a map, Jack. I can see where Newtown's at." Martha sounded a little exasperated. "The activity is still in the green range, but it's edging into yellow now. It was indigo last night. That's a big jump in less than...eight hours. That is why you're hearing from me right now. I should've heard about this from you, not the other way around."

He ignored the snarky tone she used. He could imagine the circumstances. Because she hadn't alerted UNIT, they had alerted her. Someone had spotted the fast-growing weak spot where a new temporal fissure seemed to be forming and had probably wondered why Jack and Martha weren't already on the horn. It was Jack's part of the mission, after all.

He'd taken the team out last night for Weevil hunting as a way to build their group coordinating abilities. It had turned out well---no one had been seriously injured and new data had been gathered. They had caught and tagged three, adding the ugly aliens to the map of continuing Weevil activity around the Cardiff area. It served as a way to teach Andy and Rhys how to track and observe patterns of Weevil location and nothing more---they had no place to house their captures, so it was a tag and release program at this point.

Time to move. Jack carried his mobile out into the darkened house, sleep-warmed skin prickling with the chill of early morning. "When did it first show up?"

On bare feet, he went downstairs and headed to the banks of computer equipment in the dining room.

"Yesterday evening. It was very small, but it's spread now. And it's gotten a lot hotter."

"So, I'm supposed to just monitor it and report to you with the data." He turned on the screens and the server as he went around the table, his mind and body coming into focus as he entered the kitchen and, clicking on the light over the sink, began to make coffee. "But without the Hub equipment. It still hasn't arrived."

She didn't respond to the thinly veiled complaint. "If it gets to red, you'll be meeting up with UNIT in Newtown." And she said that as if it was a consolation prize. Then Martha asked. "Why did I have to call to tell you any of this?"

"Because I haven't looked at the monitors since yesterday afternoon." He pushed a clean filter down inside the maker's basket and reached for the bag of coffee on its shelf.

"That's right. You agreed to do the monitoring. So do it."

Jack, coming to a stand-still with an open bag of ground coffee, narrowed his eyes in irritation. He didn't like being called up on the rug and that was what this felt like. As if he was being reprimanded for having other things to accomplish. As if the monitoring was anything more than Kate's sop to his ego. What point was it, him watching the temperature changes over Wales' airspace when it was obvious that UNIT was still going to watch, too?

"I don't have the people to sit around and stare at computer screens all day. The temperature shifts take time to develop. I thought once every twelve hours would be enough."

"But you didn't check them last night." She pointed out in his ear.

And admittedly, if he had, he'd have probably spent the rest of the night here in the house, staring at the monitor as the temperature layers on the map changed colors.

"We were busy last night." Jack spooned the fine grains into the filter and held the sharpness back. Martha was a friend.

"I get how it happened." Her tone turned, became a little sympathetic. "Maybe at this point, because of how fast the temperature's rising at the weak spot, you should check once every hour."

"Will do."

Back in the dining room with his mobile still pressed to his ear, Jack pulled up the monitoring program and watched as the maps formed and, in only a minute, showed him the activity which had UNIT calling him before dawn. There was now a pinpoint dot of orange at the center of the greenish-yellow blob. He mused. "Orange has a temperature range of thirty-five to fifty-two degrees, Celsius. That's very hot for this time of year and it's rising quicker. I'd say you're right. We've got another developing time fissure."

She hummed her agreement.

The color filters illuminated something interesting which caught his eye. The only real change was over Newtown. All the other patches---those over southern England---had stayed the same. He commented. "Kate Stewart said---and we saw the same thing---that the Thatcham Dalek came through a fissure which developed over a period of just hours after the temperatures pushed into the red. This could become a UNIT incursion in the next twelve hours."

"Which is why you and I are looking at it right now. We can't take the risk of waiting if there's any chance of another one coming through." She gave a chuckle, breathy and low. "Still think we don't need you doing this? UNIT really does want you involved. You and I have specialized knowledge of what we could be facing."

"Yeah." Jack shivered and then straightened. He needed to put clothes on, but wanted his coffee first.

He went back to the kitchen and poured a cup, carrying it with him as he climbed the stairs once again.

"Jack..." Martha's voice changed, went curious. "You said you'd found your friend. So what's next on that front?"

He grinned to himself as he put the mobile on speaker and set it down with his mug on the bedside bureau. "I'm trying to convince him that he ought to work for me."

"Do you think he will?"

He slipped into a pair of jeans, shrugging at the question. He held the mobile against his jaw with a naked shoulder. "Can't tell yet. He's still as cagey as ever. Hang on." Putting the phone down on the bureau, Jack pulled a dark green sweatshirt over his head and tugged it into place on his hips. Putting his mobile to his ear again, he asked--curious and hoping she'd tell him the truth. "Where're you working now? Tower of London or Scarman or...?"

"Scarman Estate." She confirmed.

Jack stood still, straightened his back at hearing the truth he'd already suspected. "So, is the Dalek really dead or was that just Kate fobbing me off with the official story?"

"It's definitely dead. I was there when they removed the weapons and opened the armor."

"I didn't believe her." He admitted with an uncomfortable smile.

"I know. I can tell. Jack, not everyone's your enemy."

"You could've fooled me. UNIT was directly involved in what happened two years ago." He picked up his coffee mug from the bureau once again and headed back down to the dining room.

Martha was quiet for a moment. A lot had happened on Earth in the last few years. UNIT had been involved in several ways that sullied their white-hat persona.

"If Kate had known, she would've stepped in on your side."

He stopped in the kitchen to refill the cup he held; shaking his head against her blind faith, he disagreed without actually disagreeing. "I don't like knowing that my friends can be blinkered from within their own organization. That's why Torchwood stepped away from official safeguards in the first place, Martha. Canary Wharf happened because Yvonne Hartman was a nationalist who put military and economic interests above the safety of this world and she was one of our own."

It had taken Canary Wharf for the Crown to recognize that he might have a point about separating Torchwood Cardiff from the core of the organization. It didn't make him feel any better, of course, knowing his doom-saying had been ignored until things went too far. Why did it take the public slaughter of innocents during an invasion by two alien species to convince Earther humans of anything? In the end, all it had done was give him legal autonomy as the head of Torchwood. Most people believed they'd hallucinated the whole thing.

Jack sat down at the lead monitor and, with his mug safely out of elbow reach, pulled the keyboard to himself. Hopefully, he'd have the remaining survivors of the Hub computers back by the end of today. Until then, he had only half the software he needed for what Kate had asked him to do. Not that she was asking for much. Which was why he'd blown it off. He didn't want to play babysitter here.

The colors over Newtown shifted minutely, seeming to climb a degree or two as they edged farther into a deeper yellow. The orange spot at the center didn't shift, stayed the same. Maybe it was time he visited Powys. The world might not have another twenty-four hours before a temporal fissure opened up over central Wales.

"I know that, Jack. And so does UNIT. Kate's gained a lot of ground here in the last two years. What happened to you---to Torchwood, to the children of this planet---was seen as a tragedy. A senseless, evil tragedy. Heads rolled here. And with what happened after, with---"

He scowled, not interested in discussing immortality with Martha Smith-Jones.

He interrupted her, sitting back in the chair until its wheels scooted on the floor. "Doesn't mean I'll let my guard down."

A thought occurred to him. A question. He narrowed his eyes on the small, orange dot on the monitor. Kate Stewart had said the Dalek was dead, that it was scorched badly even inside its armor. That wasn't what usually happened when things came through the Rift, falling out of the sky.

He'd seen something like it recently, hadn't he? A burned ship?

He put his cup down again and reached sideways to the next keyboard and its monitor. He needed...what did he need? Data on what happened in Cardiff's airspace the night Lyn Baskerville had fallen to Earth.

It was a hunch.

"Jack, that's why UNIT wants you. Torchwood and UNIT acting as a checks and balance system together will cut down on errors and bad communication." Martha sounded like she might get passionate about it in a moment.

Accessing the server, he smiled unpleasantly to himself. Errors. Bad communication. Martha sounded like Kate now, like she really did belong to UNIT.

He kept the thought to himself.

Jack yawned and scrubbed at his hair again as the second monitor began to populate with a weather map of Cardiff Bay from the ninth and tenth of January, 1997. He could watch the temperature shift over Newtown from one monitor while doing his own research on another anomaly that just might be connected.

He changed the topic, taking another slurp of coffee. "So, is Mickey back yet?"

***

5 November 2011; Friday; 1329 hours
Scarman Estate

Lyn dragged his thumbnail back and forth over the scars on his left shoulder, trying to push at the chips without actually rubbing them directly. Pushing down on them worked sometimes, making the buzz of failing nanotech cease for a few hours, but it wasn't always successful and the twitching sensation made him want to dig into his skin and jerk the things free. Which wouldn't be a good idea. They were integrated into the surrounding nerves, linked to the biochemistry of his body.

He sat shirtless on the bed, his head bowed forward as he worked at soothing the itch of decaying neuro-link connections and contemplated the inside of his eyelids. At least he didn't have to see the drab walls, the drab room, the drab table with its drab chair. He wasn't bored. He didn't think boredom could happen to anyone with an imagination and imagination was something he'd never lacked. He wasn't bored, he was searching. With his psi-gift, he reached outwards and sought the nearest human heart, seeking something which could explain where he was.

Trapped, yeah. Alone, yeah. He'd been both of these things before. Nothing new there. But, other than the uniformed guard who brought him meals and drinks, he had seen no one since Mister Mycroft Holmes' visit. He had an idea of where he was and that his things---his wrecked ship, his tools, his personal effects---were all in this same location. It wasn't something definite that he could see in anyone's heart. No one who had come within range had been thinking of any such thing. But his gut instinct said that UNIT was in charge here and he knew, from his conversation with Jack, that UNIT had gotten their hands on everything Alex Hopkins had filed away, lied about.

It had never made any sense, being stripped of even his personal effects. What did Torchwood think it could accomplish by taking his rings, his glasses, even his cane? Well, admittedly, the cane could be lost. The bay might've claimed it. His spectacles, too, for that matter. But what could it have ever mattered whether he kept his wedding bands or not? It was obvious that they had survived the fire and the crash---he had scars for where they'd sat on his fingers. If they had melted, his bones would've melted. No, the rings had been taken off of him.

Even if Hopkins had recognized the danger behind the cane---its hidden blade---there was little chance that the spectacles would've been deemed a problem. It wasn't as if they would work for any human on Earth. They were made to alleviate the chronobiological eye strain which had caused headaches for as long as he could remember. And in the last century of his life, he hadn't even needed them for that, really. He had continued to wear them only because the prosthetic was part of him, nothing more.

At this point, after nearly fifteen years without them, he wondered if the glasses would feel odd on his face. Provided, of course, that they ever reappeared.

At least the compass rose had not been found on him. He hadn't worn it as he left his family and went out alone as a decoy. He'd put it around Charley's neck and kissed her brow for the last time, giving his young daughter the singular instruction that she was to be a good lass.

So. He was probably in the same location---wherever it was---that had been used to store his things. Gut instinct said he was somewhere in Hampshire, not more than a dozen kilometers from the place where his mother was born. Gut instinct was rarely wrong for him. What if he could get free and somehow slip past the guards who stood nearby, and escape? How far would he get before he found himself being hunted and killed? Probably not very far at all. The mirage filter chip would hide him for a while but not indefinitely. If he managed to get away, he'd have to hide out of sight where technology couldn't reach him and he wasn't sure that UNIT wouldn't have a way to track him by DNA code. The last time he'd dealt with them, they had been working on that sort of thing.

Did he really care if they killed him?

Mister Mycroft Holmes had offered him a way to go home. UNIT had a way to send him away from this nasty, barbaric world where children were physically and psychologically abused into believing sick lies about faith and love and truth and their own nature. He'd always known how culturally primitive humanity was, in this timezone---he had once been made intimately and painfully aware of it in the 18th century---and Ianto's own issues had never left him in doubt of how a 20th century mind could be warped and mis-educated.

The last fourteen---coming up on fifteen, already---years had taught him to despise the so-called modern human. Most of them were brutish and narrow-minded to a point where he felt his skin crawl every time he had to use his empathy to read their hearts.

Mister Holmes, however, was a refreshing breath of cool and calculating logic. One with a well-hidden emotional depth full of strange and lovely sympathy. Holmes understood more about how he felt than anyone else he'd encountered on Earth in this timezone, including Jack. Holmes was very serious about his offer.

He wanted to go home. He needed to go home.

But, if he went home...Jack would be alone here. Again.

How could he go home and face his family, knowing that he'd hurt Jack here and now? A seed of resentment---which had niggled since the crash, since he'd nearly died of his injuries---turned toward the internal heat of his obligations. He wanted to go home, but he had to wonder---again---if his family could understand what he'd been through. He wondered if what he'd sacrificed on this world was worth the love he could have back.

How could he go to them with his face and body destroyed? What if his Jack and his Ianto couldn't look at him without cringing? What if they only allowed his touch out of pity? What if the sight of him frightened Charley, made her cry? What if Idris hated him again? What if they all thought it would've been better for him to die swiftly in the crash rather than to survive this way in their names?

At least here, he'd come to an agreement with himself. He could die alone, in exile. That was fine. And if Jack Harkness---this Jack---was going to visit him every Sunday, that was good. He could live with that. It was better than nothing, yeah?

He had to stay because Jack was his...

Lyn waited for a word that could finish the thought. But nothing came. He contemplated the idea with dismay.

He had no claim to Jack Harkness here, now. He'd promised himself he'd never be so stupid as to think in those terms ever again. This wasn't his timezone, this wasn't his world. These were not his people. And while their safety was important to him because of their placement within the continuation of a timeline, he owed them nothing. Not a single damn thing. He'd paid his fucking dues. He'd bled and burned for Jack, for Ianto, for the children who bore his name and-or his DNA. But this Jack wasn't his Jack and he owed the younger Jack nothing but his good-will and respect.

He certainly did not owe this Jack the rest of his bloody life.

Best stop thinking in those terms, Lyn thought. He could care, but he didn't have the right to care too much. The emotional rocks he had been navigating were actually icebergs with the bulk of each one hidden beneath the surface. The ground beneath his feet was revealed to be water and it felt like drowning.

Damn. What sort of fuckery was this, that he couldn't even defend himself against his own heart?

Not that he ever had.

Lyn hunched in on himself, drawing his bare feet up into a tailor's position, and wrapped both hands over the back of his head, fingers sliding through his thin, greying hair. He could watch more videos, look at pictures, listen to music. He could ask for a book. He could write love letters. He could compose music---the lines on the notepaper they'd brought him would work for that. He could write a spurious confession---the kind that John would've penned in this situation, full of insane lies and humor---and offer it to the soldier who brought the food. It would be amusing for a few minutes. Something to smile for. But there was nothing he wanted.

He could spend the rest of his life in this room. He could be dragged out and shot at any moment. And he didn't care. Why should he? His life meant nothing here.

Well, not nothing. Jack would care.

He couldn't go home without making this Jack lonely again. And he recognized that loneliness---he'd hated Jack, when they first met, because of the stony coldness which he could see within the immortal. That coldness had been born of a need for emotional self-protection. Years, decades, and centuries of being alone and locked away in his own heart had made Jack into something less than human. And that coldness had existed even while Jack was being flirty and lusty. The warmth overlaying the cold had disgusted him, turned his stomach---to him, it had looked like nothing but a manipulative mask.

It was one of the things he'd done which he was genuinely proud of. He'd helped Jack change his path.

This Jack was wounded, lonely, and in need of a friend who grasped the bigger picture. And he shouldn't do it---staying to help Jack might alter the man and change their timeline. But he couldn't be selfish, either. How many times had he been forced to stand by and watch as innocents were destroyed in the name of temporal continuity? Just because it had already happened and needed to happen, for the sake of a known outcome? How many times had he cringed and hated himself for that, knowing that the Doctor would be disappointed and furious with him for it? He'd spent years lying to his mister, knowing that his Jack---the one he loved, the one he'd married---would be so angry and hurt at how much of a bastard he could be when he took up his spurs and gloves and rode out as the Queen's man.

Jack's path was not a fixed thing. It could change, but maybe this was just a little deviation in a timeline which looked like it might be different already. Which meant that nothing mattered because none of it would happen and he was at a temporal dead-end. What did it matter, if Jack's time on Earth was eased and made happier?

He couldn't go home. Not yet.

Inside, where he kept the love of his family alive, a part of him began to hurt.

The lock chunked. The door opened. He didn't bother looking up. The door closed again.

The faint hint of her perfume was soft. Lily of the valley, if he wasn't mistaken. A sheaf of papers dropped to the bed at his side. She sat down in the chair and gave a tiny sigh, her voice thoughtful. "I think he's serious about Cardiff. I've done my best to keep the tone very real to how you feel about him. He doesn't seem to suspect a thing."

Lyn raised his head now and stared at Anthea, who smiled at him with her sympathetic dimples.

"You've been hijacking the signal on my phone, texting Jack." His voice sounded flat to even him.

She nodded. "Would you rather he thought you were missing?"

He growled at her and reached for the pages. After a brief look-through, he chuffed a breath of annoyance. "I'd rather you didn't call him pet names. It's not like that between him and me. I don't call him cariad here."

It was bad enough that this girl could read his mind, could see some details of his past. But she'd used the knowledge to talk with Jack Harkness, to keep Jack unaware of what was happening. Worse yet, he could see why it would be necessary. Why her actions---ordered by Mister Holmes, no doubt---were the correct ones. Jack didn't need to be involved.

"He's jealous of your friend Alfie."

"Go away, please. I find your presence to be repugnant. The fact that you've enjoyed leading my friend on under my name doesn't warm my heart to you." He dropped the pages onto the bed once again and leaned back on the concrete block wall. The cold of it made his bones ache, but at least it was something to feel.

"You might want to reconsider." She crossed her legs elegantly, cocked her head to the side. Her long brown hair looked like it was made of silk. "You know that he's expecting to see you on Sunday. What happens when he arrives and you're not playing Beethoven in the park?"

"What happens when he finds out I've been kidnapped by MI6, you mean?" Lyn chuckled sourly. "Let's see if we can get me on board and out of here before Jack Harkness decides he needs to be the thorn in your boss' side, yeah? You tell Mister Holmes that I'd like to see him. When he's able to give me a few minutes of his time."

***

5 November 2011; Friday; 1512 hours
Cardiff

Gwen was watching the orange dot turn to red on the monitor which showed the current temperatures over Newtown in comparison with the rest of Powys. At her feet, Anwen played with a square plastic tub full of green plastic army men and Legos, Andy Davidson's recent addition to the makeshift Hub's childcare detritus.

His second in command's green eyes were narrowed in concern. She shifted in the chair to look at him as he went by her, preparing to put his earpiece in. She frowned as she reached to gather two brown foot-murdering toys from where they'd fallen out of Anwen's reach. "Jack, are you sure you don't want me to go with you? Rhys could take her for the rest of today."

He stopped to look at the radiating shades of orange and yellow that covered the small parcel of land marked as Newtown. He shook his head. "No, but I'll stay in contact. If this goes big, I might need you to come in. If---" And he didn't finish. He didn't need to. She finished for him.

"If another Dalek comes through." She agreed and sniffed, swiveling the chair away from him to look at the screen again. The young Welshwoman wore her shoulder-length dark hair in a ponytail. "It only took Thatcham a day to go from red to temporal fissure. This time tomorrow, maybe."

If it took that long.

UNIT had informed him that they would be in Newtown at nineteen hundred hours. Kate would be there. So would Martha.

He intended to call Martha once he left the house. She needed to hear what he'd found; he had already saved the data to his mobile and intended to send it to her before UNIT reached Newtown with lorries and soldiers.

Torchwood, such as it was, would wait here in Cardiff. Their missing equipment was meant to show up early this evening, brought back to them by handsome boys in red berets. He would miss it but maybe the puzzle of the temporal fissures would get solved in the next few days.

He'd already told Gwen Cooper his suspicions about the data from 1997. He'd shown her how the spike above Cardiff Bay, even with technology gaps in the temperature measurements, matched the ones they'd been observing over southern England. How it resembled the rising temperature patterns currently hovering over the narrow valley where Newtown nestled.

She'd asked him what he thought it meant.

He knew what it meant. The answer wasn't comforting at all.

She addressed that topic again as he slid into his greatcoat. "Jack...if this has to do with your friend...we might need to take him into custody. For his own protection. Before UNIT does. Should we do that before you tell Martha what you think is happening?"

Jack stopped moving, stood still in his coat, and thought about it.

Robert Youngston's interviews with Lyn while the alien human was drugged for pain and trauma had revealed a few terrifying bits of information about what waited in the future. Lyn had been involved in what sounded like part of a time war; his aging, damaged friend had fought Daleks.

And with the pattern of heat change over Cardiff Bay in early January 1997? When compared side by side to what they were seeing over Newtown---and given the evidence of what had happened in Thatcham---the similarities couldn't be ignored. It looked like Lyn had come through a temporal fissure like the one Gwen had found over Thatcham. Like the one they were currently monitoring.

If Lyn was informed of what was happening, what would the man do?

He couldn't be sure.

"I don't know." He admitted. "Honestly, Gwen...I don't. But I think she needs to know. It's an angle that we need to examine and since Lyn's ship is at Scarman, maybe there's something she can do to either prove or disprove my theory."

There was another reason, of course. If it did become necessary to bring the other alien human in for protection, Martha could present the situation to Lyn Baskerville as a scientist. For now, he hoped they wouldn't have to do that. He couldn't see it having a good effect on his attempts to woo Lyn into working for Torchwood.

Gwen pointed at the epicenter of the second monitor's map, which showed the layers of temperature data for Lyn's first night on Earth. She tapped where the color was darkest. "At the fissure point, it reached more than ninety degrees, Celsius. The storm that hit Cardiff Bay afterwards was like a tropical hurricane. In January. How did he survive that when similar temperatures killed the Thatcham Dalek?"

Jack Harkness was still thinking about it when he slid into the Rover's driver seat.

He didn't get a chance to phone Martha. As he passed the signs for Whitchurch on the A470, his mobile buzzed at him from the inside pocket of his coat.

A glance made him laugh. It wasn't Martha. It was a text from Lyn.

'Visit this Sunday?'

He let up off the accelerator and eyeballed traffic before tapping in a response. 'Yes. If you still want.'

He hoped he could. If there was a temporal fissure in Newtown, he might be a little busy, depending on what came through it and how involved he could get. Kate Stewart had the final word on that.

'I do.' It was accompanied by a smiley face.

Jack chuckled in earnest now.

He brought up something he'd been considering. Something he'd done a little research into. 'Thought about music. The request.'

'And?' Was the swift answer.

Ahead, there was a line of lorries and cars, all moving entirely too slow. Jack grunted displeasure as he realized that, at this time of day, the traffic was probably going to stay clogged for a while. It was four in the afternoon.

He'd started out early with a purpose; to be in Newtown before UNIT arrived. At this pace, he might still make it and as long as he didn't tail-gate, he could split his attention between his smartphone and the vehicles around him. He merged into the crowd and kept his foot poised over the brake.

Not paying full attention was a bad idea, but what was life without a little risk? He'd been playing things too safe for his tastes recently.

A little more assured, he thumbed a single word. 'Shenandoah.'

'Not Beethoven? Elgar?' He could almost imagine Lyn grinning, his ruined mouth and cheeks stretching.

Once he'd gotten over the initial shock of seeing his friend without the cloth over his lower face, he found it didn't bother him to picture the scarred blond's features. He liked the thought that he and Lyn could have what passed for a normal friendship.

'Not really.'

'You barbarian.' Lyn chided.

Jack laughed, answering. 'You love it.'

'You know I do.' Another grinning smiley face.

Were they flirting now?

'So do I. Just making sure you're ok.' Was that too far? Would Lyn think he was being nosy?

He held onto the phone with his right hand against the steering wheel and waited.

Several minutes passed before the response buzzed his palm.

'Sweet of you, but unnecessary.'

'I know.'

Ten minutes passed. Jack frowned at the vehicle in front of him. It was a Hicks Logistics flatbed lorry, hauling a forklift. Dayglo orange straps flapped tightly in the wind. He thought about what he might be doing in a few hours. What he might be doing before midnight.

He needed to talk to Martha. Soon. For a moment, he considered dialing Lyn. What he had to say would take too much concentration to tap in with his thumb. He could tell Lyn what was happening. It wasn't as if Lyn was an ordinary member of society and Gwen's concerns were returning to niggle at him.

Lyn might be in danger, if the temporal fissures had anything to do with the lanky scientist. Maybe Gwen had a point. Maybe Lyn should know before he talked with Martha.

UNIT had rules about that sort of thing. So did Torchwood.

Jack's finger stuttered over the buttons as he looked up and pulled the steering wheel to the left, to keep the Rover off the driver-side quarterpanel of a red Honda.

'Too busy for phone call?'

'Still at work.'

It could wait. He'd talk to Martha. Get her opinion but do it privately. Then they could decide whether Lyn needed to be brought in for his own safety.

Then, he tapped in another message, pushing at Lyn.

'Torchwood needs you.'

When the response came, he wondered at the emotion that could be shown with just words on a screen. 'There you go, making things awkward again.'

'We could make it work.' He pressed the buttons harder than he needed to, determined.

Someone honked behind him. He waved the mobile and gave in, pulling the Rover off the road. He put it in park and waited. He studied the sky. It looked like rain.

There was a hole developing in the traffic ahead. Someone else had pulled off to the shoulder and this was loosening the knot of moving vehicles full of frustrated drivers. A look around told him that he could probably get back into the mess with a little effort and aggravation. There were gaps now.

He sighed. He hated traffic.

The new bubble of text, when it finally buzzed, said. 'Do you understand that I'm protecting your future?'

Well, there was that factor, of course. His brows knotted together as he argued his side. 'Do you understand that I'm trying to give you one?'

Lyn might never say yes at this rate but at least the other man wasn't giving him an emphatic no.

'Ask me again on Sunday.'

As he pulled back out into the traffic, Jack smiled to himself and dialed Martha's mobile.

***

5 November 2011; Thursday; 1745 hours
Scarman Estate

No signal, no new messages.

But now he understood why.

Over the days he'd been alone in this little room, he had written about the last fourteen years in his field journal. It was something he might have once told Charley or Idris as a bedtime tale. Most of the time, however, he looked at videos and pictures and listened to music.

Right now, a hologram video played. Sitting at the table, he smiled at the sight of a half-naked Idris running to Jack's arms; of Jack's open grin as he lifted their small, sturdy lad for a hug. There was no sound, but he didn't need any. He remembered this particular day and could hear the echoes of their voices in his heart. Jack had been away from home---a trip off-world to handle a matter of Eye's security in conjunction with the imperial military's base on the mining world of Orion II.ii---and he'd taken Idris to the village.

It had been verdant green, late summer. He'd gone out from his parents' house in just a pair of jeans and Idris had worn the same. Together, barechested and barefooted, they'd headed down to the village. When they'd come across Jack climbing the hill, walking along the lane at a sedate pace, his heart had soared at the older man's expression of happiness. He'd pulled out the MSU4---this same one---and recorded Idris running down the stone path and straight into a hug from their returning hero.

Lyn picked at the food on his tray, preferring to watch the videos that played out in three-dimensional high definition. The food was on par with a four-star Earth hotel but it meant nothing to him. There were endless hours of video to watch. There was no one to distract him and he ate only enough to quell the pain in his stomach.

The next hologram was of Orchid and John kissing. He was also there, in the images. He stood just beyond the newly-wed couple, beaming in appreciation of the moment. Jack had recorded this one. Orchid looked like a Terran princess, conforming to human gender expression in twenty pounds of silk and lace, but there was no mistaking the masculine lift of her jaw as she pulled John's face close to her throat. 

The dark curls and branchings of nunwyowi---surface capillaries in the brow which revealed both heightened emotion and the physiological point of a Soulaxi's reproductive cycle---reminded him of how closely they'd cut it, planning for the ceremony. The capillaries became very pronounced in the days before the Soulaxi's heat cycle reached its climax; Orchid had wanted to spend the entire heat alone with John, on their honeymoon, and he'd agreed. 

Orchid's thick red hair was caught up under a cap of silver wire and pearls from the seas of Eye; the pearls had been tinted to reflect the deep green of her eyes. The black horn nubs were visible, though, and so were her pointed ears. She looked dainty, like a fairy or an elf from the old stories.

John was handsome in a morning suit, greying and scarred and lean. His John. The man who'd made his mission possible. Without John Hart, he would never have succeeded. All those years, he'd hidden the truth from Jack; John was the one he'd confided in and, even then, he had kept the most important things a secret. 

They'd been so good together, the Soulaxi princeling and her human alleycat.

He had done his duty to them both as their winsyuhd, arranging everything. In the maze, at the center of the labyrinth, before the cedar trees of Danu, he had stood as their patron and best man and cherished the knowledge that, with Orchid, John would be happy. A happy John didn't go looking for trouble.

He missed them both.

Orchid Xithias had died protecting him on the battlefield of Regent's Park. He'd carried her back to the barricades so lost in his own grief that he hadn't bothered to hide his movements. He'd ended up in a dark corner of the darkened, barricaded shop, huddled in grim-faced John's arms as he cried, leaving Ianto on his own to deal with the fragile remains of their Soulaxi mechanical engineer.

John had refused to hear his apologies, had shown him a heart which held no regrets.

So much pain, so much anger---for their sakes, for the sake of his homeworld. He'd laid his anger aside after the fall of Eye, but he still hadn't forgiven himself for the terror and death he had brought to his family's doorstep.

The last time he'd seen his loved ones---as he was preparing to run, giving them time to escape their pursuers---Charley was only three years old. Comparing his personal timeline to hers, she would be a young woman now. He wondered how she looked. Were her eyes still the same color as his, or had they taken on some blue? Was her hair still the color of corn silk? Ianto had said---back then---that she looked a fair bit like a blonde version of his sister Rhiannon. 

He'd liked the sound of that.

He'd had only three years with them after fleeing the Eye of Orion. It seemed, as always, monumentally unfair that he'd spent so much time working for their sakes only to die alone and lost and far from home. 

Even for his crimes, it felt extreme, and then came along someone like Mister Holmes---who was telling the truth about his tools and equipment. He could go back to his family, be with them...if he was willing to leave this timezone's Jack Harkness to suffer in loneliness.

The holidays were coming again. He always felt bad at this time of year. 

Now he had fresh reasons to despise himself.

How much did UNIT have on him here? Would they link him to the Doctor? If so, what might that mean?

At the moment, given what they did seem to have on him, he wasn't going anywhere ever again. What anyone thought of his disappearance---even Jack---wasn't important. He had little control over the situation. If he gave his captors what they wanted, it could go one of three bad ways---he wouldn't be released, he wouldn't be given his equipment, or the use of his knowledge would change the future of humanity just enough to prevent the circumstances which had placed him at the center of a maelstrom, creating a temporal paradox. An unpredictable one.

He didn't move when the heavy door opened. He held his fork just above the cutlet he'd only toyed with and watched chubby little Charley toddle across a metal deck, going from Ianto's protective arms to Jack's open embrace as Idris leaned into view, hanging over his shoulder. 

Mister Holmes waited until the door was closed to speak. "She's a beautiful child. Yours? Of course she is. A posthumous gift from two men who believed they would never see you again."

Bloody Robert Youngston and his bloody recordings had revealed Charley's existence.

Bloody Anthea and her prying had provided the details of his daughter's parentage, the part that even this timezone's Jack Harkness didn't know.

Lyn grit his back teeth and made his face into a blank mask. Replacing the fork on the tray, he reached for the small disc-like MSU4 and pressed stop. Instantly, the dazzling colors of his world were banished like a djinn.

It was time to play politics. 

He hated politics. He always had.

He would have to be careful; these people didn't know or trust him in the ways that Her Majesty had, on Eye. But, he had ideas and now, seeing the exposed heart of the man who visited him, he got some backing for his ideas.

Mister Holmes was on edge. There was truth in the offer---his tools were being held by UNIT and with the right manipulations, this man would get them back for him. The offer was genuine. But there was a hitch, now, and it was a big one.

Someone at UNIT was putting pressure on Mister Holmes to bring him aboard and quickly, but he couldn't quite see the details in the Englishman's emotional output. Mister Holmes was worried about the matter of the Rawleigh and the alien equipment. Oh, breaking the verbal contract between them wouldn't bother Mister Holmes, of course, but now...now, there was an uncontrollable element at play. Lyn Baskerville himself.

Someone at UNIT had put two and two together and come up with the right answer. Someone had told Holmes that he was a dangerous genius with the ability to use this world's paltry technology against them. Someone---the person in charge?---had told Holmes that making their alien guest disappear wasn't really an option. But there was a threat of it, of xenobiologists.

His real name was there, in Holmes' emotional output. Like words on a paper page.

Mister Holmes had come to the worrisome conclusion that he was neither mad or stupid. Mister Holmes had reviewed Anthea's report on what her telepathy had revealed, matched it up with Torchwood's files, and had decided that Lyn Baskerville might be more than capable of ripping the world apart if thwarted. Which was just what UNIT thought, too.

Yet, somehow...the offer of his tools was no longer secure because of UNIT.

Mmm. That was interesting.

But, his visitor's worry was steadied with an iron mental grip.

"Would you care for tea?" Genteel. Solemn. So fucking British.

He straightened his spine, didn't look around. "Given the nature of what you're here to discuss? Something stronger, perhaps."

Mister Holmes spoke to someone outside the door. The footsteps had faded before the other man addressed him again.

"I dislike being blunt, Mister Baskerville, but there is a serious matter at hand which may need your unique perspective."

After being held in a windowless room for the better part of a week, he wasn't exactly a pleased ear. "So?" Lyn shifted now to glance over his shoulder. "Maybe I shouldn't get involved. Maybe getting involved will change what's meant to happen."

The footsteps returned. The door opened and a bottle appeared, followed by two highball glasses.

He waited until the poshy had poured out and was stationed on the bed's side, his immaculate suit a dark heathery grey wool that had to be worth thousands of pounds, maybe more than Lyn's yearly salary at the museum.

He tried again. "I'm not going to do anything that could jeopardize the timeline as I know it. But, let's just say, for argument's sake, that I refused you again. Despite the fact that I'm meant to be seeing Jack on Sunday, as your assistant has pointed out. What sort of outcome are we facing?"

The scotch was very good.

They looked at each other and Lyn observed the wan skin and patchy appearance of a man who hadn't slept well in recent days but whom had done a decent job of repairing the damage to maintain the smooth, cold exterior's appearance. He sipped his drink and waited as Mycroft Holmes cleared his throat, looked down at the glass he held, and explained in a somber tone.

"I am informed that two of the premier authorities on xenobiology are exceedingly eager to make your acquaintance. You would spend the rest of your life in a secure research facility. You are a guest of the nation but you have no rights while you are viewed as a potential threat to the planet's safety."

His body, in postmortem, would provide the xenobiologists a decade or more of fun after he was humanely killed. When he stopped answering questions or stopped being useful, his life would be finished. 

His silence was taken as reason to continue.

"With some caveats and requests attached, I am authorized to return the equipment which was taken from you at the time of your unexpected arrival. I am also able to extend the offer of a medical procedure which will repair the damage done to your body. UNIT has a surgeon at Saint Bart's Hospital, in London, who has become very skilled in the use of nanogene technology. Your face and body can be repaired. Your family never need to know that you suffered such terrible pain in their names."

Mister Holmes knew exactly the right thing to say. He would never want his Jack to see how long he'd been stranded here or how he'd been damaged by his injuries. He might, if he let the walls down in his head, have trouble hiding it from Ianto or Idris, but Jack shouldn't have to know it just by looking at him.

But, he didn't think he could leave. Not yet.

And Mister Holmes wasn't sure of the caveats involved. UNIT was at the helm and someone in UNIT wanted Lyn Baskerville on board for a project that was currently giving the paramilitary force's scientific branch a bit of trouble. They didn't want him on this planet but they needed his help.

Well. He had an idea and it might soothe some ruffled feathers. Not because he gave a damn how this poshy made out in his political games. That didn't even enter into the equation. No. For now, he needed to stay in this timezone. Jack, here and for now, needed him. He never could say no to his best friend, not for very long anyway. Even lying to protect his duties as the Queen's man had only served a temporary function. Yes, it was very dangerous to be Jack's friend in this place, but he couldn't bear the thought of abandoning the immortal to the needless isolation which came from being the true outsider.

He understood why Jack had visited him every Sunday in Flat Holm. It was the same reason for why the blue-eyed hero had insisted on finding him in London. For why Jack couldn't've just walked out of his bedsit after giving him the photograph. Jack had seen his reaction and was no fool. The younger version of his mister seemed to recognize desperate loneliness.

Jack needed him here because, no matter who else was in his life, Jack was alone. He was on Earth to protect it of his own choice. No one had made him return. But loneliness sometimes felt like a black fog. Jack wasn't the same as every other man---not here, not anywhere. And while Jack might flirt and toss his exotic pheromones like a cat in heat, there was a distance between the immortal ex-Time Agent and everyone else.

Everyone but him. 

He felt pulled in two. Go home to his Jack and the life they shared or stay here for the younger Jack's sake. 

There was no way to predict the impact which Jack's return might have on the timeline. It seemed that things were stabilized and not in danger of unraveling or altering his memories...but that could change with just the wrong word.

He could always go home later, when Mister Holmes was very sure that the offer would not be rescinded by UNIT. 

But. His face. The scars on his body and hands.

What would happen if he allowed UNIT to repair his ruined flesh?

This timezone's Jack would have clear memories of a familiar face to carry away from Earth when he finally left again. That probably wasn't a good idea. Not yet.

He broke the silence with a sigh as he lifted the scotch to his lips. "Hold on to both of those offers. Tell UNIT that I want it, but there's something I have to do here on Earth before I can leave. I don't know how it'll work out, but...I need to give Jack time, Mister Holmes, and I think it's more important to handle the matter of Torchwood itself...don't you?"

His visitor, in the harsh overhead light, raised a brow. "Placed within Torchwood, you would be infinitely more useful to the Crown."

It struck him as the funniest thing he could remember hearing in the long years since John's death. Lyn laughed, clutched the glass between the fingers of his left hand in an effort to hold on to it as the muscles went wobbly. "How appropriate. That's just how I got involved with Torchwood in the first place."

Mister Holmes gave him an ugly little smirk that was meant to be a smile and failed.

Avoiding the sharp blue eyes watching him, he glanced at the table beside his chair. There was his tray, with the meal he couldn't eat. There was his MSU4, his field journal and a new pen, a sheaf of lined notepaper that had been provided for him. His amusement faded as he swallowed the last of his scotch and let it burn a path to his belly where the snakes roiled.

"This isn't my usual cuppa." He admitted quietly, more to himself than to the well-dressed gentleman who waited in silence for something which could not be rushed. 

"What, pray tell, is?"

"Temporal manipulation technology, planetary shield systems, resurrecting dead men." He managed a bitter smile of his own, chuffed a sigh as he rubbed at his twisted lower face. After days of restless sleep and videos and endless thinking, he was emotionally exhausted. "I'll work with UNIT, if that's what you need, but there's a limit on what I can offer. The future of this nation might depend on my actions here, Mister Holmes."

The solemn Englishman bent forward and refilled his glass. "Consider it noted. You will receive a generous stipend. UNIT pays its consultants well, as does the Crown. You must, of course, understand that you cannot expect to meet your true employer."

"I don't expect it." He took a sip of the amber alcohol and shrugged. "Your queen's not nearly as hands-on as mine."

"What would you say the biggest difference is?" It was conversational, challenging in a tone that could almost be friendly.

Lyn thought of the unique woman he'd murdered out of necessity. She'd been converted by the Daleks before his blade had taken her head---but in his heart, he knew he'd killed his regent. It was, after all, what his people and the Empire believed of him.

And he found the right words after a long minute of silent consideration. "If my employer was serious about making an impression? She wouldn't have sent you. I'd have woken up to find her sitting in my room with a gun across her knee. Kinda like you with your phone, yeah? Just the sort of thing Jack might do, too. My Elizabeth was..." He paused, corrected himself. "Will be one of the strongest regents this kingdom can produce. She'll take us through the farthest reaches of perilous space to a new homeworld. Her reign will become legend, like something from the days of Victoria herself."

That she was also the last regent of this kingdom---to the best of his knowledge---was something he didn't intend to reveal. He'd already confessed to her death. He had no problem with telling this man---this man, of all men---about what the future of the nation held. What did it matter if Mister Mycroft Holmes knew something reassuring about the country he served? Maybe it would help, the knowledge of British tenacity and continuity.

"Indeed." A tiny brittle smile. "If you won't immediately accept UNIT's offered reward for services rendered, then what will you accept from us?"

"Torchwood." He matched the smile, shifted his weight in the chair to alleviate the pressure on his right thigh-bone, which still ached and pinged at the change in the season's weather. It felt like cold rain today. "Give Jack his Hub and the funds he needs to protect this world without being directly tied to UNIT. Give him some autonomy. Let him pick his own people---his team keeps him humble. And I need Sundays off."

"Why would you stay, Mister Baskerville, when you can leave with the gratitude of a nation and its Queen?" The way Mister Holmes held his glass, it was as if the thing was made of cut diamond. It rolled in a circle at the end of one large hand. The room's light gave the immaculately styled hair, with its deeply receding line, highlights of fire.

He hadn't had scotch in a few years; it was going to his head but he enunciated his words carefully. This nearly erased what was left of his accent. "I've had those things before. It doesn't matter---gratitude is temporary. But he's alone, Mister Holmes, and let's face it, after what happened to his grandson and Ianto Jones, I'm the closest thing he has to family here. As long as I feel like I'm doing more good than harm, I'll stay. For him."

He was well aware that he'd just put a bull's eye on Jack. To force his hand, the government only needed to put pressure on the one person whom he gave any kind of a long-term damn for. Didn't matter that he'd played brave before, saying he didn't care about Jack's pain---they'd both known it was a lie, even as he said it. The information wasn't new; Mister Holmes had already suspected as much.

"Your loyalty is touching, but I suspect you'll change your mind."

"You're probably right. You think I should take the offer and get off-world as soon as possible."

"I've been informed that you present a problem that we---as a species---are not prepared to confront. As useful as you might prove to be, the dangers are greater still. There are powers involved who would prefer that you left us to our own evolution. For, as you put it, temporal continuity."

Mmm. It wasn't just Holmes that thought so. Someone in UNIT was behind this.

"You are the cleverest human I've met here on Earth." Lyn lifted his glass in a mocking toast.

"Then let me be the first on Earth to congratulate you on your successful return into service. No matter how temporary." Mister Mycroft Holmes raised a brow at him, one side of his mouth curled up in another dark smile. "Welcome back."


*****





1 comment:

  1. Brilliant continuation - trying my best to keep up with these new and unfolding events, and gods do I miss being able to read the original series of stories with Lyn, Jack, Ianto and Idris ...... .. but so pleased you're keeping this saga going :)

    ReplyDelete