A/N: The second of six stories exploring what Jack did between being left on Satellite Five and Torchwood S1. The Doctor Who episode referenced in this is the 7th Doctor story "The Curse of Fenric." Jack belongs to the BBC etc. Jock, Hugh and the rest are mine.
12th February 1955. Torchwood House, Scotland.
Jack loved standing on the battlements. From up there, he could see for miles, feel the wind whipping at his hair and the exhilarating cold of being up so high. When the mist rolled in, it always felt like being enveloped in cloth, smothering and enclosing and he would retreat back inside. But as soon as the wind came up, driving the fog and rain away, he would climb the stairs again and look out on the bleak landscape.
Today, he was looking for more than just the feeling of being alive. It would rain later, he could tell, and the visibility was already shrinking, so he heard rather than saw the cars approaching. By the time he could make them out, they were almost at the gates, and he had to run to get there first.
Hugh Jones pulled the car to a stop, nodding a greeting to Jack, who was already opening the passenger door.
"Jack!" They both laughed, as they always did, at how silly their greetings sounded, and Jack clasped the outstretched hand, shaking it warmly.
"How was your trip?" he asked, helping the other man with his bags.
"Bumpy. The vans are right behind us. Got some good stuff for you this time."
"Glad to hear it. If I have to convince the staff not to file one more piece of suspicious glass that came from a suspicious window broken by a suspicious vandal, I may have to start breaking bones for them to file instead. Come on inside."
Jack led the way, pausing at the bottom of the stairs. Coming down was a pretty young woman, warmly dressed in jumper and tweed skirt. She smiled when she saw them and Jack gave a half-bow.
"Jock, this is Sarah Franklin. Her family have been caretakers of the house since the time of Queen Victoria herself. Sarah, I believe you've met Major Gordon Goody?"
"Yes, at a reception in London." The girl held out a hand, which Jock took.
"I'm flattered that you remember me, Miss Franklin. I trust Jack doesn't inconvenience you too much."
"Oh, we manage somehow." She glanced at Jack with a smile. "I'm not here very much. This is just a routine checking-up visit."
"Make sure we haven't left finger marks on the silver, things like that," Jack added. "Are you joining us for dinner tonight?"
"No, I'm getting Mal to drive me to the station and then taking the sleeper back to town. Good to have seen you, Major Goody. Jack." With a final nod, she disappeared down a side passage.
"Come on," Jack said, as Jock was still staring at the door. "I'll show you to your room."
Dinner was a relaxed affair, with most of the staff joining in. There were twelve of them round the table as well as the van drivers, all talking earnestly to each other, almost exclusively about work. Jock found himself next to a serious young man, whose primary function seemed to be looking at photographs.
"One day," he was saying, "there ought to be a way to mechanise the process. Have some kind of readings taken from a sample photograph, feed them into the machine and have it do the looking for you. It could save months of work."
Jock nodded in what he hoped were all the right places, trying to keep track as the conversation became increasingly technical. Across the table, he could see Jack laughing with some of the others, a good-looking young man and a striking blonde girl.
They retired to a warm library, where Jack dispensed drinks, cigars and cigarettes as demanded, and generally kept the conversation flowing until, one by one, the others disappeared, leaving him and Jock alone.
"You," Jock said, pointing with his cigar, "did that on purpose."
"Ronnie's got some very interesting ideas. I wanted to make sure that gets back to Torchwood London."
"And make sure I didn't get to meet any of the girls."
"Are you that short of them down south?"
"The country's not. I was talking about me." Jock took a sip of brandy, sinking further into his chair. "I didn't even get the chance to share a drink with Sarah Franklin."
"Now that is definitely your loss." Jack was refilling his glass. By Jock's count, he'd had four glasses of wine with dinner, and that had to be at least his third brandy. But if he was tight, he was hiding it well. Noticing Jock's look, Jack grinned. "I can hold it. Don't worry."
"I worry about you and that gorgeous creature alone in this house on long winter nights. Colonel Harding'd have your hide if he thought-"
"Oh for God's sake, Jock, give it a rest." Jack put the decanter down with a thump. "She's a grown woman and more capable of looking after herself than you are."
"Are you saying that you and she…" Jock trailed off, and Jack shook his head.
"No. What I'm saying is that as long as the work gets done, Torchwood London should mind its own damn business."
"You are our business, Jack." Looking down, Jock swirled the amber liquid, watching the light play across it. "You're doing a good job up here."
"I've been up here over a year now, Jock." Dropping into the chair on the other side of the fireplace, Jack took a long swig of his drink. "One damn year of filing and training and reading and generally doing as I'm told. If I'd known I was signing up for a year of wind, rain and boredom, I'd have let you shoot me."
"You did more with these people in six months than we'd managed in four years. Harding knows that and so do I. You've not been forgotten."
"But I'm not trusted." Jack's voice was flat and emotionless.
"Jack." Trying not to sigh, Jock drained the last of his drink, setting the glass carefully on the side table. "It's not that simple. You know there are…problems…with your record. Do a good job up here, and most of that's going to be forgotten."
"What's the latest problem?" Jack asked, not looking up.
"Harding's found some photographs of you from before your time with the RAF."
"Jack, I'm not talking about months before. I'm talking about from before the Great War. You're there. Don't give me any rubbish about it being an ancestor, a father or some massive co-incidence. It's you, in uniform, in 1909. Looking exactly as you do now."
"Co-incidences happen," Jack mumbled, staring at his drink.
"Not like this. Give Harding time. Give him more of what he needs. Trust us first."
Jack shook his head.
"It's not that simple."
"I know." Pushing himself out of the chair, Jock headed for the door. "I brought some good stuff, this time. Can't wait to see what you make of it." When he got no reply, he shook his head. "I'm sorry. Goodnight, Jack."
He left Jack sitting by the dying fire, watching the flames dance in the reflection on his brandy glass.
The next morning, Jack found Jock in his office, searching through one of the desk drawers.
"Can I help you?"
Startled, Jock slammed the drawer shut, catching his finger.
"Damn it, Jack. Give a chap some warning, would you?"
Jack grinned. "You're the one going through my desk. What are you looking for?"
"A pencil." Jock sat on the chair, examining the end of his finger.
"They should be in the middle drawer. The housekeeper, Mrs Garrow, put some there yesterday." Coming round the desk, Jack pulled the drawer open. "Huh."
"See? Unless something ate them, I'd say you've got a thief."
"Stealing pencils is hardly a big deal. I just don't know why anyone would bother. There's a stationery cupboard just down the corridor."
Jock tilted his head. "And yet Mrs Garrow fills up your supply personally."
"She likes me." Jack pushed the drawer shut with a bang. "Have you had any breakfast?"
The dining room was as informal as the night before, with everyone helping themselves from a long table against the wall and sitting where they wanted. Jock avoided his dinner companion, taking a seat next to one of the other men.
"It's Peter, isn't it?" he asked, helping himself to coffee.
"Peter Kennings." He held out a hand which Jack shook
"Gordon Goody, but most people call me Jock."
"I won't ask."
Jock shook his head laughing. "It's not as entertaining as it sounds, I'm afraid. How long have you worked here?"
Peter thought for a moment, his large brown eyes narrowing. "It must be nearly three years now."
"You pre-date Jack, then."
He nodded. "We all do, except Doug over there." He pointed with his spoon to a thin, serious-looking man across the table.
"How have you found the changes?" Jock asked. "I mean, I know Jack can take a bit of getting used to."
"He's had Mrs Garrow on his side since the day he arrived, and the rest of us go in terror of her." Peter shook his head, smiling. "Seriously, he's brought life to the place. I don't know where he gets so much energy from, but it's made a real difference. You can even see it in Sarah."
Peter nodded. "She's only here a few months of the year, but she always goes away smiling now. She used to seem, well, so sad. This place holds a lot of bad memories for her, I think. It's good to see them banished."
"Bad memories?" Jock reached for the sugar, not looking away from Peter. The young man looked nervous for a moment, glancing round the room. Everyone was deep in conversation or contemplation of their breakfast. When his eyes fell on Jack, Peter paused for a moment and Jock saw something different pass across his face. There goes another one, he thought, giving an encouraging nod when the young man turned back to him.
"I'm not sure how common knowledge it is," he said, lowering his voice. "Her father fell from the battlements during a storm. She was just a bairn, but it's got to have an effect on you, something like that. Most of us think there's something wrong with the place. And Queen Victoria was a regular visitor until 1880 when she just suddenly stopped coming. Something happened, I think. Something to do with the telescope. Anyway, Jack's done a lot for Sarah." He looked down at his plate. "He's done a lot for us all."
Jock looked up, seeing Jack watching them from the other end of the table.
"When you're done interrogating my staff, they're just dying to know what you brought them."
It took well over two hours to unload the boxes from all three vans. Jack took his part in carrying them in, assigning them to different people and finally giving the last box of papers to Peter.
"Let's hope we don't have to come up with too many new categories for these," he said. "We're running out of drawers."
"How are you for space?" Jock asked as the others headed off.
"Pressed as ever. I think we may need to explore taking over the cellars. Sarah won't like it, but I don't see where else we can go."
"They think the world of you, you know," Jock said quietly, as they watched, Ronnie, Peggy and Doug, struggling with a huge box. Ronnie and Peggy were arguing amicably as they manoeuvred it up the stairs, while Doug seemed focussed on his task, frowning as the others bickered.
When Jack gave him a curious look, Jock went on, "Oh yes, I've been interrogating them as thoroughly as they've interrogated me. Peggy made a point of saying what a good job you're doing, while Doug told me about the project you've been helping him with. I didn't know advanced mathematics was your field."
"It's not, really. I just gave him some encouragement." Jack said, crossing his arms. "Is this your way of telling me that I'm invaluable here and you can't afford to move me?"
Jock shrugged. "If I thought it would settle you down, then yes. I was actually trying to be supportive."
"Support me to Harding. That might help settle me down." The last three words were delivered in an imitation of Jock's crisp accent, making him wince.
"We went over this last night."
"Yes we did." Jack shook himself a little, unfolding his arms and turning to Jock. "So where's the really good stuff? There's always something."
"Am I really that predictable?" Seeing Jack's face, Jock went on quickly, "Actually, don't answer that. Jones is bringing the box in from the car now. Let's look at it in your office."
The box was smaller than most of the others. Hugh had opened it and was setting out even smaller boxes on the table.
"Didn't see you at dinner last night, Hugh," Jack said, coming over to look.
"I ate with Mrs Garrow in the kitchen, sir. Did me very well, thank you."
"As you like." Jack rubbed his hands together. "So what did you bring me this time?"
"It's a chess set, sir." Hugh opened one of the small boxes, lifting out a pawn. Giving Jock a puzzled look, Jack took the piece, holding it up to the light.
"And what's so special about this chess set?"
Hugh glanced at Jock, who nodded for him to explain.
"It was found in a village near Maiden's Point in Northumbria."
Jack looked up sharply. "Maiden's Point?" he repeated, picking up another chessman. "That sounds familiar."
"The ULTIMA affair," Jock reminded him. "You've got some pieces of the computer here."
"He was there." Still gripping the chess men, Jack slowly sank into one of the chairs round the table. "He used these."
"Yes," Jock said softly, "he did. We're not entirely sure of the circumstances, but our witnesses say this chess set was important in the resolution of the problem. There's nothing magical or mystical or transdimensional about them. Jones just thought you might like them, that's all," he finished, rather awkwardly.
Jack nodded, his throat tight. It wouldn't have been him, Jack was fairly sure about that. And it had been over twelve years since they'd served whatever important purpose he'd wanted them for. But sitting, gripping these small pieces of wood, Jack felt he'd moved another tiny step along the way. Swallowing hard, he returned the chess men to their box and looked up at Hugh Jones.
"Any time, sir." With a nod to Jock, Hugh left as silently as he always did. It took Jack a moment to recover himself, trying to push back all the confusion that the simple gift had brought to the surface. It was suddenly suffocating, the sensation of loss and bitterness that filled his mind, driving out all other thoughts. He shook his head, trying to clear it, all too aware of Jock's worried look.
"You alright, Jack?"
"Fine." The word came out as a whisper, and he got to his feet in a rush. The movement helped, the adrenaline driving away the overwhelming feeling of abandonment. Jock caught his arm.
"You don't look it."
"Really, it's just," Jack paused, looking back at the chess set.
Jock nodded, understanding. "I know. Sorry and all that."
Without thinking, Jack covered Jock's hand with his.
"Thanks," he said, only becoming aware after a moment of Jock's tense expression. The amusement was enough to rid him of the last of the despair, and he gave a little squeeze before letting go, grinning as Jock took a step backwards, straightening his tie.
Coughing a little, Jock glanced at his watch, ostentatiously surprised by the time.
"Well," he said, "shall we go and see how the others are getting on?"
Three days later, Jock was gaining a new appreciation for Jack's patience. Falling into a chair at the end of another mind-numbing day of sorting, cataloguing and filing, he was grateful to have adopted the local habit of casual dress. Trying to do all this in suit jacket and tie would have been stifling.
He accepted with thanks the glass that Jack gave him, watching as the other man took a seat opposite.
"You barely look tired," he noted.
Jack shrugged. "It's a good impression."
"Do you sleep at all?"
"When I can."
"Only, my room's next door to yours and I'm a light sleeper. I haven't heard you come in once since we've been here."
"I move quietly." Jack took a sip of drink. "You were right, it is good stuff that you brought us. I think Doug may actually have smiled, and the last time he did that, the earth split in two with shock."
"He does seem a rather serious young man."
"He's got his reasons to be private."
Jock looked up sharply, catching something in the tone of Jack's voice.
"Please don't tell me what I think you're telling me."
"Oh come on, not that again. You people are obsessed." Jack pointed his now empty glass across the room. "How many more Turings is it going to take before you sort yourselves out?"
Jock shifted in his seat. "Even so, Jack. This is not a conversation we can have. These are not things I can know if I've got to make a report to Harding. You know that."
"Yeah, I know." Jack tipped his head back, resting it on the chair. "You'll be going home tomorrow. It'll all go quiet again."
"Soon, perhaps, maybe you can…well…" Jock trailed off under Jack's withering stare.
"Do you want to equivocate that a bit more for me? Cos I don't want to get any false hopes up here."
This time, Jock stayed quiet.
"It'll be dinner soon," Jack said at last. "I'll go see if Mrs Garrow's got any more coal for the fire."
When he didn't return after ten minutes, Jock went hunting for him. He found several of the staff in the hallway, exchanging worried looks and holding whispered conversations.
"What's going on?" he asked the gathering in general. Doug turned towards him, his pale face almost white.
"The coal's gone and the cellar's empty. There's some in our rooms, but the rest has vanished. There's stuff missing from the kitchen too"
"We're in the middle of nowhere," Jock protested. "It's not like the boy next door's been round and pinched it. Where's Jack?"
"He and Hugh have gone looking," Peter told him. "Though what they're reckoning to find, I've no idea."
Before Jock could reply, the front door opened, blowing in an icy chill along with the rain. With it came Jack and Hugh, both soaked to the skin. Jack accepted Peter's help with his coat, shaking his wet hair and scattering drops across the hall. Hugh took both coats away, and Jock saw something pass between the two men. Hugh nodded and disappeared down the corridor to the kitchen.
"There's no sign of any cars or intruders. Nothing at all." Jack looked round the group. "I've got Mrs Garrow putting us some food together. We'll eat in the library tonight. It's a smaller room, easier to heat. I want you men to all bunk in together, same for the girls." He held up his hands to stall the tide of protests. "Until we know what's going on, I don't want anyone going off alone. Peggy's in the kitchen with Mrs Garrow and she'll share with her. Jock, you and Hugh will have to share. We'll eat now and turn in early, so go get the rooms set up. Peter, Jock, you're with me."
He set off down the corridor without looking back. Jock trailed after him, getting no help at all from Peter, who was also hurrying to keep up with Jack's stride. As they turned the corner, Jock heard the jingle of keys, and saw Jack opening a door that he hadn't noticed before.
"What's that?" he asked.
"Armoury," Peter told him, still watching Jack. "What are we going to do, Jack?"
"Protect ourselves." Jack led the way into a small, dark room, little more than a large cupboard. The shelves around the walls were full of wooden boxes of all sizes, from which Jack selected three, putting them on a small table by the door. "Peter, you've had the most practice with these. I want you to find Peggy and Megan, show them how to use them. I want one in each dorm tonight."
The weapons he produced were shaped like normal guns, but Jock knew better. He'd only seen them on file at Torchwood London, and had only read the report of what they could do.
"Jack, don't you think you're over-reacting?" he asked, eying the pistol nervously.
"Not yet I'm not." Jack produced a rather smaller gun from another box, handing it to Jock. "Take this. I want us to be ready for anything. Go on, Peter. Find the girls."
When they were alone, Jock turned to Jack.
"I really think this is a bit much. You don't even know what's going on. And why has Peter had more practice than the others?"
"Extra tuition. And no, I don't know what's going on, but do you think that's a good reason for not being ready?" Jack opened the last and smallest box, producing something that was much more familiar to Jock. It was a Webley, the typical service revolver. Jock had seen plenty of them since the war. Jack loaded it quickly, putting it in its holster, and attaching it to his belt. Only then did he look at Jock properly.
"I've got things disappearing, people having nightmares – Megan, Doug and Mary and they're just the ones I know about," he added, seeing that Jock was about to ask. "I also happen to be in a building that's chock-full of alien artefacts and information. In this kind of situation, I don't think it's possible to overreact, do you?" When he got no reply, he nodded, apparently satisfied. "Good. Now let me show you how to use this."
In contrast to usual, dinner was a quiet meal, and Jack could almost taste the tension in the air. He was vaguely aware of Jock to his right, talking softly to some of the women, trying to offer what reassurance was available. Jack's attention was on Doug, who was talking about his dreams.
"There were so many things there, creatures or people or something like that. And they were screaming at me, shouting for me to give them something, but I didn't know what."
"It's alright." Jack put a hand on Doug's arm, trying to get him to calm down. "Just tell me what they looked like. What they felt like."
"They were cold," Doug said at once. "Like fog. They were sort of shaped like people, only not quite, like they didn't know what they were supposed to look like. They kept reaching towards me and I kept running away, trying not to let them touch me. They wanted me for something." His voice was rising in pitch, drawing curious stares from the others.
"It was just a dream, Doug." Jack leant towards the other man, trying to get him to look into his eyes. "Just a dream. It's not important."
"Don't lie to me!" Doug jumped to his feet, making everyone turn towards him. "Don't lie to us, Jack! Tell us what's happening!" He knocked his chair over as he moved backwards. "There's something here, isn't there? Tell us what to do!"
Jack waited for a moment, watching as Doug's hysteria subsided. Then he got went over, putting a hand on Doug's shoulder, soothing him.
"Yes, I think there's something here. I don't know what it is and I don't know what it wants, but I'm going to find out. That goes for all of you." He looked round the group, meeting the wide, frightened eyes that were turned towards him. "You have to trust me." Turning back to Doug, he put a hand under the young man's chin, forcing him to look up. "Trust me. It's going to be fine."
Jock sought Jack out over coffee.
"That was quite the display," he said. "Is he always like that?"
"Sometimes. He's a bit highly strung, that's all." When Jock continued his questioning stare, Jack sighed. "He was in London during the Blitz. The house came down on top of him and his mother. He was trapped with her dead body for nearly twelve hours. They had to drag him out, screaming."
"My God." Jock shuddered.
"He's brilliant. One of our best analysts. He just needs a bit of looking after, that's all." Jack put his coffee cup down, and checked everyone was settled. "Stay with them for me, Jock. Hugh and I are going to have another look round."
"Of course." Jock put a hand on Jack's arm, squeezing gently. "You're doing a good job, Jack."
Jack nodded and headed for the door, drawing Hugh into his wake as he went.
It was pointless to try and search outside again, Jack knew. The wind and the rain were coming down so strongly that any evidence would be washed away, and all they were likely to get for their trouble was a soaking. Instead, he led Hugh through the empty corridors of the house, peering into open doorways and turning on all the lights he could find.
"Bit of a waste, isn't it, sir?" Hugh asked, watching as Jack turned up one of the old gas lamps.
"A lot can hide in the dark, Hugh. I'm making it harder for them."
"What do you think's hiding?" Hugh asked and Jack shrugged. He'd been asking himself the same question all night without reaching a conclusion.
"There's something here, I can feel it. There's a psychic edge to it, though." Jack frowned, an irrelevance suddenly becoming significant. "Earlier on, when you gave me that chess set? I felt something; something more than I should have felt."
"That's a little cryptic, sir, if you don't mind my saying so."
"It's bit cryptic to me." Jack ran his hand along the oak panelling, as though he could pick up answers from the walls. "I just know what I felt."
"What was that?"
Jack paused. Before he could put words round the thought, there was a soft, fluttering noise that seemed to fill the air. Hugh looked at him and Jack shook his head, drawing his gun. They moved slowly down the corridor, eyes moving from floor to ceiling and back again. It sounded as though someone had let a bat into the house, and right at that moment, Jack would have been grateful for something so benign.
As they turned the corner, Jack heard Hugh swear under his breath. This corridor led only to the staircase to the upper bedrooms, with a single lamp on a side table for light. At first, looking towards the window at the end of the corridor, Jack thought the wind must have died away and the fog had come up again, then he realised that what he'd taken for mist was actually closer, in the house with them.
He took a step towards it, ignoring the warning noise that Hugh made. It wasn't mist, he could see now; it was more like rising dust, swirling particles moved by a wind that he couldn't feel. They whirled and spun in the air, rising to head height and coalescing, forming a denser cloud. Jack took another step forwards, reaching out a hand towards it. The dust cloud moved towards him, becoming more solid by the second.
"Sir?" Hugh's voice was strained. "Jack?"
"It's alright." Jack held out his hand, palm towards the cloud. There was a moment of stillness, the sound of fluttering dying away as the haze of particles seemed to stop in mid-air. Then the sound rose again, louder than before, and the cloud moved towards Jack again, engulfing his hand. It was a column now, as tall and broad as him. He felt the same overwhelming sensation that he'd had before, the feeling of all his emotions being dragged to the surface of his mind and held there. The sensation was exhilarating and crushing and unbearable and he didn't want it to stop.
Then there was an excruciating pain in his hand, driving the feelings away and replacing them with heat and agony. Gasping, he pulled his hand out of the cloud, staggering back a few steps and falling against Hugh.
"What the hell just happened?" One arm wrapped around Jack's waist, Hugh was looking from him to the end of the corridor. Following his gaze, Jack realised that the pillar had collapsed, leaving a pile of dust on the floor. The pain in his hand was subsiding, as was the aftershock of the mental assault, and he braced himself against Hugh's shoulder, managing to push himself upright again. Hugh let him go, taking a few steps forwards and leaning over to look at the remains, while Jack examined his hand. There were dozens of tiny red marks on it, as though something had stuck pins in him, hard. It had almost felt like that too.
Hugh was prodding the pile of dust with the end of his gun.
"It's just dust," he said at last, sounding vaguely disappointed.
"I'll send Mrs Garrow up with a broom then, shall I?" Jack said absently, turning his hand over slowly. In his wide experience, he'd been prodded and poked and stabbed and shot and all the things in between and he was having trouble placing exactly what this had felt like. The pain had been terrible for that brief moment and his fingers still ached.
One of the pin-pricks in the centre of his palm was larger than the others and a single drop of blood was working its way down towards his wrist. Bringing it to his mouth, almost absently, he remembered what the sensation had reminded him of. There'd been that trip to, well, he couldn't remember exactly where, but there had been a hell of a lot of injections and the medics hadn't all been as careful or as well trained as they might have been. He hadn't been able to sit down properly for days. This had been like getting all those shots, and more, in a single agonising moment.
He glanced up to see Hugh giving him a concerned look.
"Come on," he said, holstering his gun again and giving the pile of dust a last look. "Let's get back to the others. And, Hugh, don't mention this to them, ok?"
Jack, Hugh and Jock sat up late after the rest of the staff had gone to their beds, taking the remaining coal with them.
"If we're still like this in the morning," Jack said, "we'll have to go down to the village for the nights. This place will freeze and us along with it."
"What do you think it is?" Hugh asked. The three men were sitting close round the fire together, sharing the last of the heat from the fading coals. Huddled in a tartan rug, sitting on the floor at Jack's feet, Hugh looked rather like a student come to learn from the master. Jack just wished he had an answer for him.
"I've no idea. We've had four alerts since I've been here, but each one was down to a piece of alien tech. This time, I don't think that's the answer. It hasn't really attacked anyone." He waved Hugh's objections away. "What happened earlier didn't feel like a serious attack, more like a reconnaissance. It could have done a lot worse than put a few holes in my hand. So all we know so far is that it's fairly weak and likes to steal odds and ends. It's taken pencils, coal, milk, matches and the steak that should have been tomorrow night's dinner. If you can tell me what links all those together, I'd love to hear it."
"It's not about food," Jock mused, "and they're not all organic things, not if the matches aren't just mislaid."
"The matches and the pencils have both got wood in them," Hugh pointed out. "That's organic."
With a glance at the clock, Jack shook his head. "If either of you have strange dreams tonight, I want to know about it. There's something going on at the psychic level as well here, I'm sure of it."
"Well, I guess we'd better turn in," said Jock, also looking at the clock. "Are you coming, Jack? You were the one who said none of us should be alone."
"I said none of you should be alone." Jack gave Jock a half-smile. "But someone's got to keep an eye on the place. I'll wake you if anything happens."
"Jack-" Any protests were cut short by Jack's serious expression.
"I can holler pretty loud when I need to. Go on. You're no use to me exhausted." He waited until they were at the door, before calling to them. "Fellas? You might want to sleep in something you don't mind wearing in public. We could be in for a lively night."
Jack sat by the fire as it finally died and the cold crept around the edges of the room again. Wrapped in his coat as well as the blanket Mrs Garrow had insisted he take, he could only feel it against his cheeks and exposed hands. Inside, he was on fire. There was something here, he was sure of it. He couldn't locate it or define it yet, but he knew it was there, pressing at the edges of his awareness. His psi-training was way out of date, and had never been his strongest area anyway, but he knew a probe when he felt one. He had some lingering doubts about what he was about to do, but still couldn't come up with any better ideas.
He supposed he shouldn't have been surprised. A place like this would have ghosts practically built into the stones. What did surprise him was how long it had taken one to surface. Sarah knew about them of course, which was why she hated spending too much time here. For someone whose ancestry was at the heart of the castle, the ghosts would have felt all too present.
Settling back, he tried to latch onto what he'd felt earlier, to recreate the sensations in his mind. He pictured the chess men, held in a hand that he didn't know, but would have given anything to touch. He'd been left with no souvenirs from his time in the TARDIS, nothing physical that he could hold. He clenched his still-sore fist, trying to imagine what he would have taken.
His mind was wandering, and he forced it back to the subject at hand, trying to conjure the face in his mind. Instead, the one that came first was Rose, smiling up at him as they danced on the roof of his spaceship, with bombs dropping all around them. The sound of explosions was replaced with that of the TARDIS dematerialising and he felt the sudden, sickening feeling he'd had at that moment. True, he was alive and apparently unharmed, but the moment of abandonment still hung heavy in his mind, as did the question.
Why did you leave me?
Jack felt his stomach clench with that sudden fear again, the momentary, uncharacteristic refusal to accept what he could see in front of him. He dropped his head, squeezing his eyes against the tears. He didn't have a problem with crying, not when there was good cause, but he was too angry for that. The feelings were rushing faster now, overwhelming and crushing him. Falling from his seat, he dropped to his hands and knees on the floor, unable to stop his fists from clenching again, pounding the carpet. The tears came and he couldn't stop them as the face came into focus in his mind. He wanted to howl, scream, do something break the impassive calm of the eyes that finally met his.
It was that contact that snapped Jack back into reality. Momentarily disoriented, he staggered to his feet, brushing the tears from his cheeks. It was close now, he knew it, drawing on the strength of emotion that he'd fed it to tempt it out.
Then he heard the scream.
Taking the stairs two at a time, he nearly ran into Hugh on the landing.
"This way," Hugh said, producing a gun from under his jacket as they ran.
There was only one door at this end of the passage, and Jack stopped to check that Hugh was ready before he kicked it in. All was silent inside. Moving together, the two men crept slowly into the room.
The bedroom was dark, curtains closed against the howling gale outside. Lit by the dim glow from the corridor, Jack could make out a shape on the bed. It looked like someone had decided to disobey him after all. He also recognised something else in the room: the smell.
Apparently Hugh recognised it as well.
"He's dead, sir."
"I hope so." Jack was closer now, able to make out the torn flesh and blood smeared across the sheets. "It's – it was Doug." The face was still intact, sitting atop what seemed now to be a horrific parody of a human body. Jack felt sick, more from guilt than the sight or smell. He'd told the kid to trust him. It didn't matter that the circumstances were beyond his control, he'd still broken a promise. Telling himself that he'd deal with that later, Jack forced himself to look at the scene properly. To look at Doug properly.
Something had cut him open, exposing organs and bones, which still glistened in the low light. There was blood soaking into the sheets; they'd got more from Doug than they had from him. He took a step closer to the bed, a horrible suspicion rising in his mind as he leaned over the ruined body.
Doug's heart was missing.
"Jack?" That was Jock, standing in the doorway of the room.
"Keep everyone away," Jack called. "Get them out of here."
"Tell them to put their clothes on if they haven't already, get them into the vans and get them out of here. Hugh, see that they all go. Take them down to the village. Now."
"Jack, what's going on?" Jock asked, stepping aside to let Hugh past.
"It's trying to build itself a human." Jack was still staring down at the body as Jock came into the room, face pale in the half-light.
"What are you talking about?"
"It's trying to build itself a human," Jack repeated, holstering his gun. "The pencils, the coal, they're carbon. It can get all the water it needs from outside. Matches and steak; sulphur and protein. The milk's the calcium. It's trying to build itself a human, but it doesn't understand how. So it came to learn. It tried to take blood from me earlier on, but it wasn't strong enough. It needed more flesh so it took his heart. It must have been having too much trouble trying to construct one for itself so it just took him apart." He drew the sheet back over the ghastly tableau. "And I gave it the strength to do it."
"My God." Jock turned away, swallowing hard. "What is it?"
"I don't know. But this place is thick with ghosts. Maybe one of them got clever."
"Ghosts?" Jock couldn't keep the disbelief from his voice. "You're not telling me that you, of all people, believe in ghosts."
"In a place like this, it'd be hard not to." Jack propelled Jock out of the room, closing the door behind them. "I'm not talking about people in period costume, looking like they're covered in flour, wandering about the place going 'boo'. I'm talking about the emotional echoes of hundreds of years. And for most of them, this was not a healthy place to live."
"Sarah Franklin's father." Jock remembered Peter's words over breakfast. "He fell from the battlements."
"Is that what you were told?" Jack hurried back downstairs now, herding Jock into the hallway and exchanging his coat for a heavy waterproof. "Sarah told me that, and more." He finally looked the other man in the eye. "He jumped. He stood up there, and he jumped, leaving his wife and daughter to look after themselves. And he wasn't the first. Can you imagine what that does to the emotional resonance of a place like this?" Jack was moving again, helping Jock into an overcoat as he talked.
"All those echoes, all those wasted souls. For so long, this was just an archive, a quiet little place where Torchwood likes to dump things. Then I show up, breathe a bit of life into the place. All that activity bleeds back into the walls, the bricks and mortar that this place is made of. It woke them up. I did this, Jock."
"You're being melodramatic." But Jock couldn't hide the fear in his eyes.
Jack flung open the door, raising a hand to protect his face from the wind and rain. As Jock followed him out the door, he pulled it shut behind them.
"Maybe it's not just one," he yelled above the driving storm. "Maybe they've all got together and decided it's time to come back. Maybe being trapped together has given them a kind of low sentience. Whatever it is, we're not going to be able to stop it here and now."
Even above the wind, Jack could hear the panic in Jock's voice. Following the trembling finger, he looked up to the tops of the walls. There were figures up there, darker outlines against the black sky. Despite the rain, the moon cast a dim glow, showing movement along the walkways.
Jock staggered closer, grabbing Jack's arm.
"Are they our people?" he asked, pushing back his hood.
"I don't know." Jack turned his head so that the two men were nose to nose. Jock's eyes were wide and frightened. "We need to go find out."
Nodding, Jock followed as Jack led the way to the main tower. They took the spiral staircase two steps at a time, emerging at last into the fiercer wind on the battlements. Some of the dark forms dissipated as they appeared, others drew back, as though waiting to see what would happen.
"They're just," Jock hesitated, and Jack finished the thought for him.
"They're ghosts, Jock." Jack was looking from side to side, blinking against the driving rain, trying to keep his hair out of his eyes. "They're trying to come back, but they're just echoes of memories." He raised his voice further, trying to be heard over the elements. "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! But there's nothing here for you. Not any more."
"Yes, there is."
Both men turned, seeing something moving towards them. It was more solid than the other shapes, more real somehow and Jock gasped as the face became recognisable. It was Peter, his eyes wide and blank, walking slowly and purposefully towards them. Jack took a step forwards, steadying Jock as his foot slipped on the wet stones.
"They're using him," he said quietly, then louder, "Let him go. You can't use him to come back. It can't be done."
"Yes, it can." Peter was still coming, walking as though they were on a city street, rather than a narrow ledge fifty feet up in the middle of a driving storm. "We can use him. We can use you. We can use the others who come."
"No-one else will come. Not now." Jack took a step towards Peter, who stopped. "I told the others to go and never come back. Never. It's over."
"No." Peter's voice was fading now, his face still a blank mask. "No."
The words seemed to be on the wind, carried on the storm itself.
With a final scream, Peter launched himself at Jack, hands lunging for his throat.
"Jock, get out of here!" Jack was struggling to stay upright, hands gripping Peter's wrists. "Make sure the others are ok."
"You have to." Jack broke off as Peter forced him back a step. "Otherwise they'll use you to come for the rest of them. Go. Please." Twisting in the choking grip, Jack met Jock's eye. "Go," he mouthed, then pushed back, throwing Peter off balance. The cold hands that had been around his neck lost their grip, and they both staggered a little, trying to get their balance back. Jack knew his pistol was still in its holster at his waist and he resisted the urge to draw it. Peter would still be in there, somewhere, and he wasn't going to shoot one of his own staff. For one thing, it was bad management.
Instead, he took the initiative, launching himself at the smaller man so that they both fell, tumbling along the walkway. Peter screamed, pounding at Jack, who was trying to get a secure grip on an arm or a sleeve, anything to give him some advantage. He lost the race. Peter's hands locked round Jack's wrists, and he started to drag them both upright again with surprising strength. They stumbled against the battlements, only the low wall preventing their fall. Glancing down, Jack could see Jock finally making his way out of the front gate, pausing to look back up at the fight silhouetted against the sky. For a horrible moment, he thought his friend was going to try to come back and help.
The moment was all that Peter needed. Getting a fistful of Jack's coat, he tried to tip him over the edge, down into the ditch below. Jack held on, one hand on Peter's arm, the other braced against the stone work.
"Alright!" he yelled. "Alright! Use me instead. Let him go, and use me." Despite himself, and the danger, he grinned. "I've got a lot more to offer you than he has."
There was a frozen moment, where the sounds of the storm and the rain seemed to fade a little, retreating as Jack looked into Peter's face. He could see the indecision there.
"Come on," he said, "you know this is a better deal, for all of you."
Peter's expression faded again, returning to the blank mask. He and Jack were still holding onto each other, their fierce grips the only thing preventing Jack from falling.
"Done," Peter said, and Jack felt the hold on his arm start to loosen.
Then he felt the ghosts. They'd been all around him, the whole time he'd been at the castle, pressing at the edges of his awareness. Now they came into focus. He could feel the energy swirling and dancing, forcing its way in. He tried not to fight it, shifting the hand beneath him, feeling it tremble as Peter let go and it supported all of his weight. The ghosts were inside him now, he could feel them pushing, consuming, trying to suffocate him as they invaded his mind.
Peter's voice came from a very long way away as Jack's vision blurred. He knew from the confused, human tone that the other man would be alright. Sounds were fading now, too, as access to his senses was blocked. Soon he wouldn't be able to feel the cold or the wet or anything, ever again.
He needed to act now.
With a final effort, he turned to Peter.
"Tell the Doctor, it's alright," he said, and let go.
There had been pain. More than he'd expected, actually. There had been a rushing sensation, then an explosion of pain, bright agony flaring, before fading into black.
He drifted in nothingness, aware of the ache of his body, but detached from it. He was cradled in light, surrounded and swathed in the warmth. His mind was blissfully empty, full of overwhelming peace and rest.
There was a rushing, and he struggled in the embrace of the light, feeling it slip away from him. He wanted to cry out, reach out, take hold of anything that would keep him here.
With a gasp, Captain Jack Harkness began to breathe again.
"Easy, old man." Someone put a hand on his shoulder, pushing him back down onto a soft surface. He recognised the voice, and its reassuring tone allowed him to slip back for a moment into the welcoming dark.
He awoke again, more gently this time and more aware of the room around him.
"You're safe, though God knows how." Jock still had his hand on Jack's shoulder, as though unwilling to let go. "You fell from the battlements, broke your neck. You were dead."
Without thinking, Jack reached up a hand towards his head, noticing the unblemished skin of his palm as he did so.
"It's healed." Jock's voice was restrained, as though talking to a child. "It's all healed, Jack. You're fine. Not a scratch on you."
Finally able to focus, Jack looked into the face above him. There were dark circles under Jock's eyes and his expression wavered between relief and confusion.
"Don't ask me," Jack said, pushing away the hand and sitting up. "Cos I'm damned if I know." He swung his legs off the bed. There was no dizziness, no pain, nothing to indicate that he'd plunged to his death hours before. He turned to Jock. "I really don't know, Jock. You've got to believe me."
"You were dead, Jack," his friend repeated. "Hugh and the others came back from the village around dawn, once the storm had died down. I helped them carry you in. Mrs Garrow is hysterical, and Mary can't stop crying. Peter shut himself in his room and won't talk to anyone. What the hell happened up there?"
"I've got to see them," Jack headed for the door, but Jock got there first, barring the way.
"You'll send the rest of them into hysterics too. You were dead, Jack."
"You know, it doesn't get less true the more you say it."
"Can you even begin to understand what it'll do to them if you back out there? No-one could survive a fall like that and here you are, looking like you've just been for a pleasant stroll across the moors!" Jock was nearly shouting, and he stopped, swallowing hard. When he spoke again, it was in a more normal tone of voice. "I've spoken to Harding. He wants you in London, as soon as possible. We're going to disperse the staff. Some of them want to go anyway; others can have new posts across the country."
"Jock," Jack began, stopping at the look on the other man's face.
"This is not up for negotiation, Jack. This is what is going to happen." Taking a deep breath, Jock went on, "The place will be closed down as an active Torchwood site. Torchwood London will be the new Torchwood One. We'll just use this place as a safe archive, for papers and non-active artefacts. You'll travel to London with Hugh and myself later today. No-one will see you."
Mind still reeling, Jack retreated to the bed, sitting down hard. He was barely listening as Jock outlined the rest of the cover-up. Mrs Garrow would go back to her family in Inverness, Peter would go to a new Torchwood office in Glasgow. The staff would be given the choice of joining other Torchwood offices around the country or being helped into different employment. No-one would ever see Jack again and none of this would go on file, anywhere. Torchwood was good at things like that.
Jack put his head in his hands.
"Please, Jock. You've got to believe me. I didn't know this would happen. I thought I was going to die."
"You did." Jock's voice was hard. "And now you're better. And I think, somewhere in there, you know why." Before Jack could form an answer, Jock had turned back to the door. "We'll be leaving in a couple of hours. Gather up anything you want to bring."
"I want the chess set." The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. For a long moment, Jock stood still, staring at the panelled wood of the door. Then he nodded.
"I'll have Hugh put it in the car. Be ready to leave, Jack."
It was nearly three hours before the door opened again. It had taken Jack less than thirty minutes to put his few things together, and he'd spent most of the rest of the time staring out of the window across the bleak Scottish landscape.
He didn't turn when the door opened, not looking round until he heard his name.
"Peter." Jack started to his feet, hurrying over to draw the other man into the room and close the door. "You shouldn't be here."
"I had to come. I knew you weren't dead. They told me you weren't dead." Peter's eyes were wide and staring and his face hadn't lost the pallor of the night before.
"Who told you? Not Jock."
"No. They told me." Peter shivered, looking round the room. "They're still here."
"They always will be." Jack led the frightened young man to the bed, sitting him down and crouching on the floor in front of him. "But you're going to be alright. They'll let you leave now."
"I know. They said…" Peter stopped, as though listening to something beyond Jack's hearing. "They said that you had too much life in you. There wasn't room for them."
"Too much life?" Jack sat back on his heels, some of what he'd been thinking about for the last three hours coming together. "What else did they say?"
"They said thank you." Peter looked down at Jack, then reached out and put a hand on his cheek. "They said that you shared your life with them. That, that it was enough for them for now. They said thank you."
Not knowing what to say, Jack nodded, leaning into the hand against his face. Then he stood, helping Peter to his feet.
"You need to go back to your room. Jock'll hit the roof if he finds you here."
"They're sending me to Glasgow."
"Do you think we'll meet again?"
"I don't know," Jack said honestly. "But you'll do good work there, Peter. I just know it."
Peter turned in the doorway, smiling over his shoulder.
"You too, Jack. The thank you is also from me."
Then he was gone too, and when Jock arrived ten minutes later to outline how they were going to slip out of the back door, Jack was ready to leave.
A/N: 'Turings' in this story is a reference to Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science. He was convicted of "acts of gross indecency" in 1952 and died in 1954 after eating an apple laced with cyanide.