Crack!Fic: Inter-Universe Travel Incorporated III (Torchwood)
I can give no acceptable explanation or apologise enough. Originally I said in my defence that I present this as a warning to future writers in that one should never let the plot bunnies afflicted with myxomatosis breed. Never. Shoot them on sight. Unfortunately not only did they breed but they also mutated and then bred again. That's Cap'n Jack's influence for you. I'm sorry, so so sorry (at last – I reached the fandom I can use that in!).
Summary: It's just a jump to the left. A little step to the right. With your hands on your hips, and your characters in a dimension jump fic. Let's do the Time Warp again!
Pairings: Discworld: Polly/Mal, Torchwood: Ianto/Jack.
Warnings: Readers unfamiliar with Discworld might want to read the introductory paragraphs in the first crossover before continuing. Begs the question though, why are you unfamiliar with the best fantasy series around? Go read! This oddity of a tale takes place before "Children of Earth" because a) I wrote it not too long after "Journey's End" and then had to wait until I'd beaten the Firefly one into some kind of shape before posting and b) I haven't seen "Children of Earth" yet as I'm stuck in Ireland. Otherwise nothing really, but it is crack!fic so insanity and forced Narativium inhalation do occur. Oh, and mild swearing.
Disclaimer: Author owns nothing and does not intend to profit from the work. Characters from Monstrous Regiment belong to Terry Pratchett and those from Torchwood/Doctor Who belong to the BBC, who can have my as yet unborn children upon request.
When In Cardiff…
Even wars have to stop in the early hours of the morning, or at least well-planned ones do. None-the-less Mal, shifting to accommodate Polly's latest dream, didn't thank the powers that be for pulling them out of their usual 24/7 schedule and sticking them on the line where military confrontations were programmed for socially acceptable hours. Her gaze slipped from the pocked ceiling to the exhausted face next to hers on the rolled up coat she had donated as a pillow. Stroking the tumbled curls back from the frowning brow she watched it ease once more into peaceful slumber. Polly, more than anyone, deserved a full night's sleep. A chill draft brought her back from her introspection and pulling up Polly's greatcoat from where it had slid in her dream exertions she tucked it in gently around her sleeping form. Let tomorrow take its time.
Settling back down beside her Captain she was just drifting back into a doze when it happened.
"Where's the scanner?!!"
Jack had been right there. Ianto remembered that. Jack walking briskly away from him with that extra special wiggle was something Ianto found himself remembering quite a lot these days. He'd been right there, calling up to Gwen for the resonance scanner and then there'd been an odd flash of blue light and the man had disappeared.
Panicked, but of course not allowing even a smidgeon of concern to show on his calm exterior, he'd run forward to be brought up short by the appearance of a flickering ball of golden sparkles which expanded to cradle a thin figure and then vanished causing whoever it was to drop the 8 ft down the rift shaft and crash at his feet.
The impact onto the grating echoed loudly in the quiet.
That was a thing he still couldn't get used to. The quiet. With just three of them it was surprising how empty and echoing the hub had become. No Owen wandering though, snarking randomly at whatever might be going on. No friendly rattle from Tosh's keyboard reminding them that at least someone was watching out for the inhabitants of Cardiff.
"Ianto? Did Jack trip over the rift power lines again?"
Ianto dragged his mind back to the present. He wasn't sure the scrawny figure spread-eagled before him in muddy breeches and thin undershirt was a threat to the hub, but every experienced instinct was warning him that appearances could be deceiving.
He drew his gun.
Gwen, peering over the railings above took in the tableau. One Ianto with gun. One unsurprising lack of Jack, their leader and often incomprehensible problem. And one entirely unexpected extra, lying perfectly still at the point of Ianto's gun unafraid and gazing around the walls as though estimating the cost of re-papering the hub in flocked wallpaper.
"Oh he'll be back in a bit."
It had been Ianto's intention to deliver the question in a more forceful manner, but the intruder had disarmed him by raising a weary hand to rub at drowsy eyes just as he drew breath. She (he could see it was a she now) looked like she'd only just woken up. She sat up, totally ignoring his gun and rubbed at her hip where the grating had introduced itself so forcefully.
"You got any coffee?"
He was torn. Naturally evil intruders should be kept covered and immediately moved to holding cells, but the girl looked harmless, it was the middle of the night and the basement was cold. If their visitor was, as was likely merely the result of one of Jack's mix-ups then surely she should be treated as a guest and offered the finest coffee Ianto could brew.
Intruder or Guest… Holding Cell or Beverage Production…
The girl solved the problem for him by developing a whole body shiver in the chill air causing Gwen to switch from Stern!Gwen-The-Torchwood-Operative to Police-Liaison-Officer-Gwen and hurry down the stairs grabbing a coat along the way. Pushing down his weapon she took over, wrapping the visitor in the coat and ordering him to get the woman something warm to drink.
"And quickly Ianto, she's obviously freezing!"
He turned away, noticing with a pained glance that it was the Captain's coat that she'd hijacked and was wrapping it around the girl's shoulders. Ok so their visitor was cold, but she also was, when you got down to it, somewhat grimy and that coat was dry clean only.
When he returned with the coffee steaming gently their guest was huddled in the coat, perched at Gwen's workstation as his nominal boss hunted through the recent reports on rift activity. The girl reached out eagerly and noticing the thin wrists poking out of the overly large coat Ianto had a sudden moment of regret that he'd used the "Guests we don't like very much" mug instead of the kinder Snoopy one.
She was a real coffee addict as well and that warmed his heart to her further. Watching her inhale deeply before taking the smallest sip and rolling it around her mouth he hoped it met her satisfaction. The smile that broke out over the tired face was answer enough.
"This is good."
He smiled back in response.
"No really. This is amazing. You have no idea how long it's been since I've had a properly brewed cup of coffee."
She thanked him and he realised she was thanking him for more than the coffee. He had no idea what it was he had provided and by the look in her eyes he thought perhaps he didn't want to know.
Her name was Mal and she was from a flat world in another dimension. Her description sounded vaguely familiar to him but he couldn't think where from. She seemed perfectly au fait with the fact she'd ended up in their world, merely grumbling that usually she didn't fall so far. She wasn't bothered by all their gadgetry and computing hardware either. He got her another cup of coffee, the first hadn't hung around for long, making one for himself and Gwen while he was at it. Their visitor had explained that the portal should re-open shortly sending her back so they should stop worrying. Gwen checked her out on some of the less invasive scanners and the system didn't crop up with anything alarming so they'd had a quick interchange of glances and decided to wait it out for the time being.
Sipping her second cup of coffee with as much appreciation as her first she looked around again at the vast building around them, the many levels and rooms of obviously varying purpose.
"It's quiet here, is there just the two of you on the night shift?"
Ianto and Gwen exchanged glances and he indicated that she would be better at saying it. Gwen sighed and put it as simply as she could.
"We lost some people"
"I'm sorry." Mal's gaze unravelled for a moment, remembering. "It's never fair is it?"
There was a moment of unspoken communication and then she lifted her cup.
"To those who should never have fallen by the wayside, those whom we miss even now."
"To empty spaces." Gwen lifted her mug
"To absent friends" Ianto finished sadly.
"So" Mal turned to look at all the gadgetry and electronics tangled around the hub, "what is it you do here anyway?"
Polly woke with a start at the crash and stared down her crossbow at the tall, some might say handsome, young man sprawled at the end of her pallet.
Mal was gone.
The taste of magic expended lingered in the room and casting her mind back she could recall the vague memory of a worryingly familiar flash of blue light. She sighed, this was seriously inconvenient. She didn't have the time or the manpower to spare for a trip to Ankh Morpork. Rubbing away the frown she focused her annoyance on the disruption smiling cheerily at the end of her bed and cudgelled her tired brain to come up with something to do with him.
"Let me introduce myself, I'm Captain Jack Harkness, at your service." He saluted.
"And which regiment would you be serving with currently 'Captain'?"
"Oh, I'm not attached to anyone, at the moment..."
The man smirked knowingly and she blushed remembering at last that the precise condition of her undress. Damn Him! Reaching out one-handedly she gingerly felt her way across the floor until her fingers met cotton. Dragging the shirt towards her she wiggled into it quickly, managing to hold the crossbow on him at all times.
"Well, 'Captain'." The quote marks fell into place. "I'm Captain Perks of the Borogravian Light Infantry and you're currently in a theatre of war, in a uniform I don't recognise and apparently unable to account for yourself. I'm afraid I'm going to have to put you under arrest until I sort this out. Kilburn? Alnwick! Can you get in here please?"
The door slammed back on its hinges and they rushed in crossbows drawn. Bless the lads, paranoia about Mal and her possibly relapses might be annoying at times, but it did speed up rapid response.
"Alright lads, safety catches on please, it's not a coffee emergency." She waved the points away from her throat toward the gentleman in the corner. Who, surprisingly, seemed completely unfazed by the sharp ends of projectiles pointed at him with extreme prejudice. He relaxed back against the wall, loosening his collar.
"Woah – take your time boys, enough to go round."
The man was grinning! It was obvious he was insane. Polly, reaching for her boots, ruminated that as per usual Mal had managed to find the one insane person in a universe of perfectly normal people and get switched with them. Pulling on her jacket she began to prepare the chewing out she was going to inflict on her lieutenant when she finally got the idiot back, but her deliciously vindictive train of thought was interrupted by an eldritch pulsing of sound that grew into a frighteningly loud grinding reverberation, filling their hide out. What now?
Gentleman Jack seemed about to say something, but she had no time for his drivel. If Muntab had got something even intelligence hadn't been able to warn them about this was not going to be a good day.
"You. Shut up. Kilburn, keep an eye on weirdo here, if it moves - shoot it. Alnwick, you're with me. Let's go see what today's inexplicable conundrum is."
Scrabbling up the dugout tunnel she wondered where "inexplicable conundrum" had come from. Was Mal's vocabulary finally rubbing off on her? She must be more tired than she'd thought. She sighed acknowledging that this was not a great time for Mal to go missing. As she reached the opening she locked that though back down again, concentrating instead on the whispered reports from the outer guard.
The noise had stopped and whatever it was hadn't made any attacking moves. Yet. Squinting out into the darkness she tried to separate out the shadows that they expected to be there and new, worrying, clumps of darkness. Was there even anything out there?
"What the duchess is that?!!"
Polly, wincing, firmly unclamped Alnwick's hand from her arm and made a note to talk to the girl about the pros and cons of maintaining a masquerade even in the most stressful situations. Looking where the girl was pointing, Polly had to admit she had no idea. It was a smallish wooden structure, the size of a hut, possibly blue but colours were hard to make out in the darkness. She was about to turn to confer with the guard when the door opened and a skinny man stepped out.
The next moments were filled with shouted whispers, excited gestures and eventually – Polly realising there was no other way – a concerted rush across the open ground to grab the man and drag him back into the dugout.
"What was all that about?"
"What kind of idiot just stands up in a shelling zone?!!"
Polly swallowed the desire to shake the man senseless, instead taking out her ire on the newest patch of mud now adorning her breeches.
"Oh that's me. The Doctor. Pleased to meet you."
His out stretched hand hung there for a moment.
"We've not got any wounded. Not yet anyway." Polly's smile held a riddle the TARDIS couldn't translate for him. "And we've our own Igor."
"Igor?" He seemed confused. "What's one of… never mind. I'm not here for that. I've come to pick someone up. Have you seen a guy – about this high…?"
"Much too friendly in an over sexualised manner?"
"That's him." His face broke into a relieved smile. "Just let me know where he's run off to and I'll be out of your hair."
"We've got him under guard." She led the way, down the narrow tunnel. "But you can't have him; we need him to get the other back."
She felt him draw breath to refute her statement and pausing before the door was pleased to see Alnwick had drawn her crossbow once again and was ready behind him.
"He's in here. Mind telling us what all this is about?"
The man ignored her, instead pushing open the door and striding into the room. Ignoring the crossbows now divided equally in their aim at him and the previous arrival (Polly knew their crossbows needed upgrading, but folk could at least attempt to look intimidated) he went straight over to him and grabbed at his wrist.
"What did I tell you about unauthorised travel?"
"I swear it's nothing to do with me Doctor. There I was, minding my own business. When out of nowhere I was just grabbed and deposited here."
"And here is where he's staying until I can get him swapped back for my…" she remembered the presence of her subordinates and altered the end of her sentence "for my Lieutenant."
They didn't even look at her, preferring instead to gabble nonsense about the space time continuum and something about balls made of timey-whimey. Polly mused whether shooting them for Being Bloody Annoying After Waking Up A Captain By Stealing Her Girlfriend fell under the articles of war. She was sure she'd seen it in the small print somewhere. Eventually there came a gap in the babbling and Polly, experience with all too many Ruperts coming to her aid, jumped in.
"Enough! It's simplicity itself really. Mal goes wherever, one of you idiots ends up here in exchange, we all potter down a wizard friend I have, he re-opens the portal and everyone switches back. It's most likely some fool playing silly buggers but there you are."
They both stared at her.
"Now, usually we'd attempt the transfer immediately but it's going to be a bit busy tomorrow in this part of the line so you'll have to keep your head down here for the next 24 hours. But then after that, gods willing, we'll see what we can do to get you home."
"Oh we can't wait that long."
"And why not?" She turned to the Doctor who had so casually dropped the bombshell. "What's wrong with his world? She addressed Captain Jack "they've got coffee there haven't they?"
"Oh yes. Our coffee boy is the best!"
"Then what's the problem?"
The Doctor babbled something about timelines, about how this idiot who enjoyed sitting on the ends of people pallets while they slept was in fact a conundrum who messed up the fabric of space and time and had to be stopped. Polly thought she could have told him that. He was adamant that the man had to go and had to go now. Polly thought she could be pretty adamant too.
"You take him, you take me too. You're not leaving me here without any way of getting Mal home."
He looked at her for a long moment and then nodded.
"Then we'll have to go quickly." She turned to Kilburn and asked "how long do we have before the barrage goes in?"
"That won't be an issue." With that the brown suited man smiled and indicated she should lead the way.
"…and that's how flour explodes." Mal waved her coffee cup in demonstration. Gwen, the wheels running slower, opened her mouth to ask a question when storytime was interrupted by the clatter of machinery as the hub door opened. Mal tilted her head on one side as though listening to something other than the wheel turning back, though what she could hear over that Gwen had no idea. Whatever it was caused the corners of her mouth to twitch for a moment into the smallest smile of relief.
The machinery clattered one last time and came to rest. Before their gaze, Jack ducked into the hub, followed by a slim figure in uniform.
"JACK!" Ianto almost dropped the tray in his hurry to cross the floor.
Mal smiled into her coffee cup and took another sip.
Polly, sidestepping the tableau, broke into a tired grin as she crossed the gap more sedately to the object of her journey. Halting at the foot of the steps with one foot on the first riser she looked up to where Mal was perched on the edge of the workstation.
Mal held out her free hand and when Polly placed hers into it, pulled the girl up and in, Polly slipping an arm around the thin waist.
"Nice coat." Polly's voice rose muffled from somewhere around her shoulder.
"Aint it though." She looked across at the Torchwood team, now grouped together looking back at them. "Needs taking in mind."
Jack coughed enquiringly at Gwen.
"She was cold!"
Mal tuned them out again, lifting Polly's chin so she could look into those calm eyes. She frowned, sensing something was different, something not quite right. Holding Pol at arms length for a detailed examination she realised that the uniform she'd seen only a few hours ago in tatters and ingrained with mud was now clean and ironed. Polly's hair was washed and fell lightly to her shoulders once again. Mal's heart, slow beating as it was stopped dead.
Polly, feeling the tension looked up to see the fear blossom in her eyes.
"No Mal, No. Not that. It hasn't started yet." She smiled, Mal's special smile. "I couldn't go without my most experienced lieutenant now could I?"
Shoulders slumping in relief, Mal put down the coffee cup to wrap Polly in both arms, holding on tightly for a long minute before easing her grip to tangle a hand in that light hair as desperate lips met. Ianto caught himself staring and quickly looked away busying himself with collecting loose papers. Nearby Gwen found something very important to show Jack. Eventually, satisfied at last that Polly was indeed real, Mal lifted her head to reach once again for the coffee cup, settling Polly within the curve of one arm.
"So how come you're here? Did the Wizards found a way to send you over after all?"
"Long story" Polly scrunched up her nose. "I'll tell you it on the way home. His friend is gonna give us a lift. Popped up within minutes of him crossing over – apparently he isn't allowed to wander alternate universes."
Mal lifted her head and received the most salacious wink from an unrepentant Jack.
"I can see why" she commented dryly.
Polly grinned and nudged her. "C'mon. We've got things to do."
Mal sighed, drained the cup and gazed into it mournfully. Hoisting herself off the table wandered over to where the Torchwood team were hovering, attempting to look busy. Walking up to Ianto she placed the cup regretfully into his hands.
"You have my deepest gratitude Ianto Jones. That was an amazing cup of coffee. Which means more than I can say to me on this morning of all mornings."
Turning to Jack she thanked him politely for the loan of his coat and, with an additional grateful smile to Gwen, shrugged out of it reluctantly. Stroking it one last time as it lay over her arm she sighed and handed it over. Her gaze wandered around the huge chamber before settling on Polly, standing by the exit. The girl held out a hand and walking over Mal slipped hers in simply, the gesture echoing the years of practice.
Waiting for the door to swing back they both turned and looked back at the Torchwood team, still standing where they had left them. There was an uncomfortable silence, Gwen called out another goodbye, unsure of what to say. They both seemed to reach a decision and saluted smartly. Jack returned it with one of his most crisp efforts, and then they were gone. Picking up the coat from where their visitor had gently replaced it, Jack ran his fingers over where hers had lingered. Ianto looking down at the coffee cup in his hand found himself quietly wishing them luck.
"They'll need it"
Gwen looked at him in enquiry.
"They've got some kind of war going on." Jack paused, remembering another war in another country where boys crouched frightened in muddy trenches waiting for the dawn and the signal.
"I should have let her keep the coat."
Walking across the Roald Dahl Plass, Mal shivered. Polly dropped her hand for a moment to take her arm instead and huddle closer.
"Come on misery guts, it's warm inside and they'll lend you a coat."
"I am not a misery guts!" Mal scowled but didn't move away from the warmth offered. "It's just that I miss my warm and stylish outer garment – which if I recall correctly I lent to someone not too far from here as a pillow who then forgot to bring it with them!"
Their voices faded as they made their way to a large blue box squatted, looking out of place in the square. The remains of the argument came drifting back on the breeze
"Does this mean this time I don't have to come back nekkid?"
"Don't the fans of this show want nekkid?"
Polly laughed. "Apparently they live for it, but from what our new friends were telling me, they get enough fan service within the show, so this time you get to keep your breeches."