IT WAS A PLEASANT AFTERNOON - Part 2
Jack moved to stand beside Buffy, looking down at the creature as well. "So, training room?" he said with a smirk and a little sideways glance. "You might want to get on that," he joked. He gently took her injured arm in his hand, but he could see the wounds were already beginning to heal. "Good job," he told her. "In all seriousness."
He noticed Gwen and Ianto approaching out of his peripheral vision. He looked at Gwen. "Go keep local law enforcement out of here," he instructed before she could comment on Buffy's performance, the creature or anything else. "Ianto will tell you when you can let them back in." He turned to Ianto. "Get rid of that." Ianto nodded once and headed for the front door to move the SUV around the back and get the supplies he needed from it.
Jack looked at Buffy again and gave her hand a squeeze. "Gwen and Ianto are on now. You're done. Let's get out of here and let them work," he suggested, leading her out of the store, giving Ianto and Gwen each a nod, in turn, as he passed and heading across the street to a small coffee shop. From there, he'd be able to keep an eye on proceedings without being in the middle of them. He bought two coffees and guided Buffy to a table by the window. He sat facing it so he could see the front of the store. He noticed the SUV disappearing around the side of the store and he saw Gwen standing out front talking to a uniformed PC. He took a sip of his coffee before he looked directly at Buffy. "So?" he asked. "Thoughts?"
Buffy ignored her coffee when they sat down, instead reaching for a few napkins to clean trickles of red from her hand. The actual cut was mostly hidden by the sleeve of her coat, and she could feel that it had stopped bleeding (thank god for Slayer healing), but it definitely stung.
"Thoughts?" she repeated, stuffing the stained napkins into her pocket before picking up her own coffee. "I think this job is going to be as hard on my wardrobe as my last one." She held up her injured arm to indicate the slightly shredded leather of her sleeve.
Jack laughed. "Yeah, discuss that with Ianto. He'll feel your pain; you've seen how he dresses. Also, he has a requisition form just for wardrobe-related casualties." Jack grinned. "I don't imagine your last job covered these things... probably for lack of having a Ianto around to look after them."
The coffee wasn't even on the same planet of good as Ianto's, but it didn't taste like shoe, so she'd drink it. "My last job didn't even pay me for the first seven years," Buffy retorted with a good helping of sarcasm. "This one's already starting out better."
Pausing a moment, she looked at him with wide eyes and innocently asked, "And are you sure I can't have Ianto? He keeps moving up that perfect scale."
"That's the only thing I can think of that would get you fired," Jack informed her with a smirk.
He put his coffee cup down. "Actually, you just reminded me of the Prime Minister," he said. "You were privy to the end of our discussion about that. All this alien-fighting and I almost forgot about it for a minute," he said with a chuckle.
"The Prime Minister of Britain was trying to hire my administrator away from me, right in front of my face. Can you believe the gall?" he complained. "He dismissed the head of UNIT when the agenda was done, then said he needed to discuss something else with me and said it was hard to get ahold of me. Then he offered Ianto a job at the PMO. Something about Ianto running circles around his aide when it came to getting me out of meetings and shit. I couldn't pay attention to his exact words at that point because Ianto had already politely turned him down and he was pressing the matter and I was starting to contemplate jumping through the screen to throttle him. I mean, who does that? So Ianto politely and irritatingly unflappably turns him down again and the Prime Minister tells him he drives a hard bargain and offers to double his salary," Jack recounted. "That is just an irresponsible use of tax payers' money," he pointed out testily. "And then he told him to give it some thought. And THEN he announced he was coming here to visit my base. Which, I don't think so, right? But Ianto jumped in and said we'd get back to him on that because he could tell I was about ready to fly to London to retcon the Prime Minister and ship him to an island somewhere." Jack picked up his coffee. "Which I might still do," he grumbled into his cup.
He looked at Buffy. "Don't tell him you're a Vampire Slayer," he warned. "He might need a new head of security. God knows he can't find his own staff, he has to try to steal mine. He's been Prime Minister for six months, I've talked to him twice and suddenly he thinks what's mine is his. Boy is he in for a surprise when he gets here." He frowned and glanced at Buffy again as his rant ended. "We don't report to him, by the way. You probably heard me mention that. That wasn't hyperbole; we really don't report to him."
Buffy listened to Jack's Rant Part 2 while drinking her not-shoe-y coffee and trying not to smile. Trying really hard not to smile. But a smirk probably snuck in despite her best efforts. When he'd finally finished, she set her cup down and folded her hands on the table.
"One," she started calmly, wearing a very amused smirk, "he already knows who and what I am. Since the NC formed, we've tried keeping up relations with government big shots." Leaning in closer, she looked at the ceiling in exasperation. "I had to go to his birthday function thingy three months ago, and that, mister bossman, was real torture."
Settling back against the chair again, she continued. "And he did offer me the job. My turn down was probably a lot less everything than Ianto's, and the guy turned an embarrassed twelve shades of red. Course, he couldn't do anything about it, because the NC doesn't report to him either," she shared with Jack, mischief in her eyes. "We had to point that out. Along with the whole us saving their butts from apocalypses at least twice a year."
Jack just looked at her for a second. "Who is this asshole?" he said finally, but laughed. Torchwood's autonomy from the government was also a sort of isolation and it was nice to see they weren't the only ones having these issues. Or, it would seem, saving the world from apocalypses. Jack smirked. "When he comes 'round for this visit: If he tries to steal my Coffee God again, you have my permission to kick him in the head." Jack grinned. "Then we'll retcon him and ship him to an island somewhere."
Buffy laughed and gave Jack a big, bright smile. "Deal," she agreed, raising her coffee in a bit of a toasty salute, then turned to look out the window behind her. "The cleanup takes longer than the actual dealing with baddies stuff, huh?" she asked him, having a feeling that was how things generally worked around these parts.
Jack nodded. "Generally. We don't usually stick around for it, though. Normally, we'll go back to the Hub, then Ianto will return and take care of the scene on his own. This situation is too public, though. It needs to be taken care of now." He put his coffee down on the table. "And it's not done when all the alienesque evidence is removed from the scene. We have to go through the chatter that leaves this place - police reports, initial news reports, that kind of thing - and make sure nothing untowards gets out. That's not as hard as it used to be, actually. We still, for all intents and purposes, work in secret, but with all the large-scale alien activity that's been going on around the world lately, people tend to be less fazed by the idea of aliens and a lot of people in Cardiff have a vague idea of what we do and stay out of our way while we do it." He glanced across the street. "I say most, because you get the odd idiot, even in the police force. They must have been recruited after the Police Station Massacre that happened about four months ago." Jack looked at Buffy. "The senior-most officers were murdered by weevils, but the weevils were just being used as weapons. It was part of a coordinated attack on the city. You probably heard about the bombings. Everything else that happened was kept fairly quiet." He glanced down at his coffee. "That's when Tosh and Owen were killed. I told you about that."
Jack made it sound like Ianto did just about all the legwork for Torchwood. Well, he probably did. The Coffee God sounded a bit like Andrew, taking care of just about everything that came up... only less geeky awkwardness and more suave business-guy. It gave her an even higher level of respect for the man - she'd never be able to do the things required for his part of the job.
"Yeah, you did," she confirmed, her voice quiet and gentle. There was a silent pause, the sounds around them even seeming to fall away, and then she said, "I told you about how we created all the mini-Slayers, but I was kinda hazy on the why part. The First wanted to wipe out the entire Slayer line, so there'd be nothing to stand in the way. Potentials and their Watchers were killed, all around the world, and the Watcher's Council was bombed. A few of the Potentials made it to Sunnydale, but we've had to entirely rebuild since then. New rules, new retirement plans..." She flashed him a grin. "Still saving the world on a weekly basis."
"That's what all this 'New Council' business is about, huh?" he commented. "I kinda th..." He stopped when Ianto's voice came over the comm system. He was ready to leave. Jack saw the SUV pulling back around the front of the store, outside the police lines. Gwen was already stepping towards it. Jack looked at Buffy. "Time to go," he said simply, standing up. He pointed towards his ear, even though he knew she couldn't see the device concealed there. "You'll get one of these by the end of the day, too," he said with a wink and lead her outside. He opened the door for Buffy to get into the back, next to Gwen, before climbing into the front passenger seat himself. He gave Ianto a mischievous grin. "Do you think you can finish processing Buffy's paperwork before there's another crisis, or what?"
Ianto gave him a look, but there was just the slightest hint of an amused smile on his face as he returned his eyes to the road.
Gwen turned to Buffy with a concerned look as the blonde woman settled into her seat and asked, "Are you alright? We saw it bite you but-"
"I'm fine," Buffy interrupted, giving her a half-genuine smile, the melancholy of the previous conversation still clinging to the edges of her mood. "Slayer healing, it's already stopped bleeding. Two days, tops, and I'll be good as new."
Gwen didn't look convinced, as evidenced by her glance down at Buffy's mangled coat sleeve.
Ianto parked the SUV, but didn't join them in heading back to the Hub. He still had to take care of the alien corpse in the boot. Jack could hear the rustle of plastic from behind the car as they walked away from it. He didn't pay much attention to where Gwen and Buffy headed once they were back inside. They'd be on hand if something happened. Otherwise, if they needed to unwind for a couple minutes after all the commotion, he didn't begrudge them that. He headed up to his office.
Buffy had walked with Gwen into the 'lobby' of the Hub, then watched the woman who was technically her superior (and boy was that a weird thought) head over to her own funky computer terminal and start typing up what looked like some sort of report. Yuck. She did not envy her in the slightest, and really hoped she didn't have to do anything of that torture anytime soon. She'd much rather get bitten by something again. Speaking of which...
Going down into the medical area of the Hub, which she figured was where Owen used to spend much of his time (based on what Jack had told her), and grabbed a few things before plopping down on the stone steps and peeling off her jacket. Which hurt a lot, because dried blood had created a sort of seal between the lining of the coat and the injury. It kinda felt like she was waxing a scab, which just led to more blood on her jeans and more stuff to clean up with the sterile supplies.
"Looks painful," Ianto told Buffy, not really realizing that she might not be used to the quiet way he tended to move around the Hub. It had been a while since any of them had been truly startled by his seemingly sudden appearance. He dropped the alien corpse, in its bodybag, onto the autopsy table with a heavy thud. They didn't routinely autopsy aliens these days - not without a medic on duty - and they were well aware of how this one had died, but it still had to be catalogued for the alien database and then shipped down to the morgue for cold storage. The medical bay was still where that was done. The duty had simply now fallen to Ianto, who had always done the first half of it - retrieving the body from the scene - anyway. Ianto turned towards Buffy with his hands on his hips. "Need any help?" he offered, his burden now, literally, off his shoulders.
Buffy hadn't been paying attention; it was the first time in a long while that someone had been able to sneak up on her. She tried not to let it show, but it really rattled her. The desk job had not been her friend, and she was going to have to really work at it to get back to where she'd been before - back to the place where a fledgling wouldn't have a chance of killing her. Because all it took was one bad night...
Tossing a bloody wad of gauze on the little metal tray she'd borrowed, she glanced up at Ianto with a small, almost hesitant smile, another first in quite some time. "Help would be nice, thanks," she said in a less confident voice than what she'd spoken in earlier. "I'm not really good with the bandaging. I can reset a dislocated shoulder with the best of 'em, but always was a little messy with the rest of it."
Ianto crouched in front of where she sat on the stairs and carefully took over where she'd left off, quietly cleaning and bandaging the wound. When he'd finished, he picked up the tray of discarded gauze as he stood. "I'll get you the form to have your coat replaced," he told her as he walked across the small room and dumped the tray's contents into a bin marked with a biohazard symbol.
Buffy flexed her arm a bit, testing the bandage, then gave him a full, genuine smile. "Thanks," she said, standing and picking up the aforementioned coat. It had been a favorite. She really should have known better than to wear it to work. "Slaying was always majorly hard on the wardrobe. I washed blood out of more outfits and lost more favorite pairs of shoes to demon goo than I like to remember. Kinda nice to have something be a little familiar," she joked, hoping to get at least a hint of amusement out of the man.
Ianto wiped off the tray with a sterilizing solution and put it back where it belonged before turning to look at Buffy. "Well, I don't think you'll find that there'll be a shortage of blood or goo around here," he told her as he unzipped the body bag and took a PDA-type of device out of his pocket. "The drycleaner has stopped looking shocked at the stains I routinely have to ask them to get out of Jack's coat." He started keying information about the alien into the device. "On the other hand, it sounds like slaying was the main part of Slaying. We don't combat these sorts of creatures every day. Sometimes we just have to recover artefacts or trace unusual energy patterns or..." He shrugged. "Well, we do lots of different things. Might break up the monotony of kicking things in the head from time to time."
She shrugged with one shoulder, leaning against the wall and holding her coat in front of her. "Slaying was a lot of it, but we got some weird stuff that was a bit more than kicking in the headness," she said, but not in a dismissive way. "There was always lots of research involved when a Big Bad showed up, trying to find a way to stop it from its dastardly plans. I've had to deal with a demon who made the entire town burst into song, a genuine hell god with terrible fashion sense, and Dracula himself."
She paused for a moment, then grinned. "Oh yeah! I was supposed to tell you. When Jack and I were stuck in the hotel from hell, we talked about those 51st Century Pheromones of his, and he got kinda offended when I told him one of the main reasons I found him attractive was because he had a thrall just like Dracula."
His eyes snapped up from the corpse and he just kind of looked at Buffy for a second, looking back down again as he smiled a small but genuinely charmed smile. "A thrall?" he echoed. "I suppose that's true," he said with a hint of amusement in his voice. Like Dracula. He'd have to remember that later. He punched something further into the PDA before looking at Buffy again. "So you have some experience with research, then?" he confirmed. "We do a lot of it." He gave a thoughtful half-shrug. "I say 'we'. It's usually me. Gwen does a bit." He put the PDA in his pocket and gestured between the body and the vault in the wall. "Want to see how this works?" he asked. "I'm going to send it down to the alien morgue. Then I have to go downstairs and assign it a vault." He pulled a trolley over and slid the alien's body onto it as he spoke.
"Ooh, neat," Buffy said, tossing her mangled coat so it landed to hang on the metal railing. "I'm always up for a fun learning experience involving dead things," she joked with a little smile. People had always assumed she was an airhead and only good for being the muscle of the team because she found the book work boring, but some things she enjoyed. Anything involving physical action really, and things that kept her away from libraries.
"As for research, yeah, I've had more than a few crash courses," she continued. "Wasn't always top of the class when it came to the stuff in demonic languages, that's my sister's schtick, but as long as we're not looking through dusty old books, I might actually be a bit helpful in that department."
Ianto opened one of the doors in the wall of the medical bay and pulled out the drawer, sliding the corpse onto it before pushing it back inside. He looked at Buffy as she finished talking. "Neat?" he questioned. "Not usually how people describe... well, any of my work, really," he told her with a wry smile. He pushed a couple of buttons on a nearby computer terminal. "This is going to send it down to the morgue. I believe you've been down there already? It's this way," he said as he lead her up out of the medical bay and down the stairs to the lower levels.
They walked into the grand Victorian morgue with its rows of deceptively antique-looking lockers that actually housed extremely advanced cryogenic technology. Level upon level of identical rooms sat on top of each other in the bowels of the Hub, each dedicated to a different category of corpse. Ianto pulled a metal trolley over to the side of the room and opened a door in the wall. He pulled the drawer out and heaved the creature's corpse onto the trolley to transport it over to the vaults that lined the main wall. He took the PDA out of his pocket and checked it for the vault number he'd assigned to it. 934. He opened vault 934, pulled out the drawer and lifted its lid. He looked at Buffy. "Cryogenic chamber," he explained. He lifted the alien into the chamber, closed the lid and set the controls before sliding it into the wall and shutting the door. He punched something into the PDA. "All done," he told her. "Any questions?"
Buffy blinked at the door in the wall, taking in the process, then shook her head. "All those years of daily strolls in cemeteries must really be paying off right now," she commented, looking around at the sheer number of doors lining the wall. "So would have been squicked by all the dead things in this place if it weren't for the prior experience." She gave Ianto a quick glance before her gaze returned to the the drawer where the alien she had killed now rested. "I'm definitely never going in there," she muttered quietly, the humor gone from her expression.
"That's between you and Jack," Ianto replied cryptically. "He's been known to make exceptions to the rules." He pushed the trolley back against the wall so it was out of the way, then lead Buffy out of the morgue and back through the hallways of the Hub's lower levels.
"Seems you and Jack did a lot of chatting while he was gone," Ianto commented conversationally as they walked.
"Well, he was the most interesting person around at the time," Buffy replied with a little smirk. "And the thrall didn't hurt any. But really, after we figured out we both had weird stuff jobs in common, kinda made sense that we stick together," she explained with a shrug. "It took forever for the Big Bad to show so I could kick its ass, and there's only so much boring luxury I can take, so we passed the time by talking." Smiling softly, she told Ianto in a gentle voice, "His favorite subject was his team, especially you. He was really worried about you guys being on your own."
Ianto didn't say anything right away. It didn't surprise him that Jack had been worried about them on their own. They were short-handed even with him there and he'd been taken so suddenly. It did surprise him, a little, that Jack had talked about him more than Gwen, but he wasn't going to say that to the new girl, even if she did know more about them than he was entirely comfortable with at this stage in their acquaintance. Instead, he turned to the topic of their extratemporal prison. Jack had been short on specifics. "Boring luxury?" he asked.
Rolling her eyes at the topic of the conversation, she elaborated with a smile, "We were stuck in this huge luxury hotel, we're talking twelve stars, everything provided for us, but only these creepy waiters and a concierge who didn't answer questions and disappeared when you went looking for them. Sounds like heaven until you get to the part where we couldn't leave and didn't exactly sign up for the vacation package." She had to admit though, that had been one comfortable bed, and oh the bathroom had been a thing of beauty.
Ianto nodded. "Jack didn't really... go into that," he said carefully. "He just said that people had been imprisoned there from all over time and space." He glanced over at her. "How did you get out, in the end?"
Crossing her arms, Buffy frowned a little as she tried to figure out how to word it. "We started noticing that there were little things wrong with the hotel," she started slowly. "People going missing, things being there that weren't supposed to be... The stuff started adding up and... we went searching, eventually found the portal out of there." She cringed apologetically. "Sorry, it was really kinda complicated and I'm not the best storyteller. That's more the Watcher than Slayer deal."
He nodded. Well, it was more than he'd known before. They reached the main part of the Hub and he went to his station, taking a couple papers out of the drawer. He handed them to Buffy. "The forms for your coat," he told her. "And I'll be by to pick up your mug in a couple minutes. It's about time for another round of coffee."
"Thanks," she said as she took the forms, holding them carefully so she didn't crinkle them. It had always bothered her when people had crinkled paper's she'd had to work with, because really, did people have no regard for the paper-pushers who kept things running? Well, she hadn't before she'd become one herself, however glorified a position it had been.
"And, uhm," she started, pausing and glancing between the papers and him, finally settling on that handsome face, "thanks for showing me how some of this place works. I appreciate it." She wouldn't have gotten the offer before. Even after all the years she'd spent growing up, trying to prove that she could be more than what everyone saw her as, it had never had much effect with the people closest to her. But now she was at Torchwood and being given a fresh start. It was a chance for her to grow, get out from under the thumb of her friends and a destiny she'd been battling with for over a decade. She was beyond grateful to Jack for the opportunity, and to Gwen and Ianto for not immediately shoving her away.
He looked at her for a moment. This was the second time in the last half hour that she'd looked less than confident... nervous, even. When she'd arrived, she'd exuded the same kind of confidence as Jack and he wondered if these little lapses in that were as rare as they were with Jack. He offered her a wry half-smile. "Any time you feel like being bored half to death, I'll be happy to walk you through whatever I'm doing at the moment," he assured her.
She grinned at his answer and nodded happily, every trace of anything but brightness gone from her expression and attitude. "Deal!" she said, then turned to head back to her own station. Looking over her shoulder, she informed him, "And I'm already planning that shrine! Every Coffee God should have one."
He stopped and turned, stepping over to her station and picking up her mug, almost as a pretense for the visit. "That is an exaggeration," he told her in a controlled voice that was meant to hide the fact that this whole 'Coffee God' thing had him slightly flustered. "One that I'm certain Jack is responsible for," he added, trying to ignore the fact that he was flushing slightly. "Probably brought on by a combination of your odd imprisonment and his caffeine addiction." Ianto looked at his watch. "Speaking of which... I'd best get on that. So." He turned to go back to his own station, then turned to look back at Buffy. He held up her mug "Same again or do you have a request?"
Buffy decided that he was adorable when he was all flustered like that, and some mischievous part of her wanted to make it her mission to keep him that way. Maybe it'd become her pastime when they weren't off dealing with alien mojo... Just something to keep things interesting, of course. She doubted that Jack would mind.
"Definitely the same," she answered, grin still in place, if a bit more amused now. "Whatever magic you worked before was amazing, best thing I've ever tasted, and you go through a lot of coffee when hopping time zones to deal with Slayer business."
"Right. Probably," he stammered, rolling his eyes inwardly at himself. New Girl probably thought he was socially retarded already. The thing was, he knew his coffee was good. He worked hard to make it that way. He just wasn't used to the effusive praise. He wandered over to Gwen's station, answering her smile with a nod as he picked up her mug, then went into Jack's office to get his.
Jack looked up with a warm smile when he saw Ianto come into the room. "How're things going?" Jack asked. "Corpse taken care of?"
"Yep," Ianto answered, plucking Jack's mug from amongst the clutter on his desk. "Buffy gave me a hand."
Jack raised his eyebrows. "How did you coerce her into that?" he asked.
Ianto shrugged. "Didn't have to. She was interested." His eyes skimmed over the papers covering Jack's workspace. "You're way behind," he pointed out.
Jack waved it off. "So you're getting along?"
"With Buffy?" Ianto confirmed. Jack nodded. Ianto answered with a half-shrug. "Guess so." He studied Jack for a moment. "What did you tell her about me?" he asked, but there was no frustration or accusation in his tone this time.
Jack cocked his head a bit suspiciously. "Why? What did she say?"
"Nothing in particular."
Jack was the one to shrug this time. "Just normal conversational stuff."
"She knows about us." It was more of a statement than a question.
That was all Ianto really wanted to know. It did make things easier if everyone knew. It was certainly much easier than when it had been a secret. He looked back down at Jack's desk. "Are you finished with any of those?" he asked.
Jack picked up a pile to his right and handed them wordlessly to Ianto. Ianto gave him a nod and headed out of the office and back across to his station to make the coffee.