Title: Jack Harkness and the Chocolate Factory (1/2)
Prompt: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Characters/Pairing(s): Team Torchwood, canon pairings past and present
Warnings: Character death, Owen dialogue, nudity, potential weight gain
Wordcount: 13,000 (6,000 this part)
Spoilers: Up through "Something Borrowed," mention of background info from CoE. Timeline handwaving regarding dates, much like on the series. My advice is to let it go.
Beta: 51stcenturyfox kicked this puppy into shape and has my deepest thanks
Disclaimer: Auntie Beeb and the Dahl estate own them all.
Summary: Little orange aliens, a man in a purple coat and top hat, and five naughty little children, er, Torchwood operatives. What could possibly go wrong? Written for the reel_torchwood challenge.
Of the many things left unsaid in the tiny community that made up the staff of Torchwood Three, Gwen's current favourite was the Chocolate Routine. Two weeks out of every four, the chocolate supply in the Hub was sorely depleted by Gwen and Tosh. They never spoke of the issue, except on the rare occasions one had to beg supplies off the other, and they certainly never said a word to the men. Nevertheless, like clockwork, the first week of every month found the candy dish in the kitchenette area filled with creamy milk chocolate truffles, and the third week found it overflowing with rich, dark chocolates.
Gwen was never ever asking Ianto how he knew to purchase which candy when.
Early on in her days at Torchwood, Owen had been known to swipe candies from the bowl during the weeks he really oughtn't, no matter how many Hobnobs were left pointedly on his desk. During the brief heady time which Gwen later thought of as Well, That Was Deeply Stupid, Owen would bite her neck while grabbing a chocolate from the dish and he'd rub it across her lips before popping it into his mouth. Offering a messy if delicious kiss, he'd mutter, "If I can't have you this week, I can have this." Sometimes, if she was certain they were alone, she would reach down and bring him off with her hand right there, and sometimes she'd grab another chocolate and wonder what the hell she was doing. And now Owen couldn't eat, and he couldn't have sex, and she always felt his eyes on her as she took a piece from the dish, and she wondered if the envy he felt for the rest of them tasted as bitter and dark.
She'd read once that chocolate tricked the human brain, making it release the same chemicals that were produced by love. She could probably ask Owen or Tosh, either of whom would be more current on the research, but she settled for being amused by Ianto's more practical approach of never allowing Jack's personal stash of sweets to run low.
These thoughts were at the forefront of her mind today as she hurried through her morning ablutions. Shower finished, hair brushed and makeup applied in a quarter of the time it had once taken her, she was grateful to note that for this month, she was finished with her chocolate cravings and could once again fit into her skinny trousers. With a kiss to Rhys that promised a more interesting evening when she returned, she grabbed her keys.
"Got mail," Rhys mumbled, still half asleep.
"What's that, love?"
"On the sofa. Post for you."
"Thanks," she said, and closed the bedroom door. Sure enough, a small stack of envelopes awaited her, most of which Rhys could deal with, honestly. A quick glance found two cards that had arrived late for the wedding, a bill, three adverts already addressed to Gwen Williams, and at the bottom, an envelope with no return address. Gwen checked the time, cursed, and ripped the cards open. One from her auntie, one from a cousin she hadn't seen in years, both tasteful and with a few banknotes tucked inside. She'd add them to the Thank You list. The bill was from their honeymoon. The envelope without a return address was difficult to open, and she gave herself a small papercut as she edged a finger down the side.
Gold caught her eye.
Tosh went through her mail every evening when she got home. Sometimes this meant she was flipping through a newly-arrived magazine at three AM, but she considered the action part of her attempt to be more like other people, normal people. Gwen had a normal life outside of work, at Jack's often creepy insistence, and Tosh chose not to take it personally when he didn't insist she do the same, that any of the rest of them do the same. She'd known Jack long enough to recognise when he was running a private experiment, and she supposed she ought to be grateful that she was in the control group this time.
Part of being normal, or pretending at it, was dealing with her neighbours. Mrs. Smythe had taken an interest in Toshiko, always asking after her, trying to fix her up with what seemed an endless parade of Mrs. Smythe's grandsons (all of whom were at least five years younger than Tosh, no matter how many times she mentioned her age). So when Tosh arrived home late after a night of tracking a Rinarian cruiser through the solar system and out again, thankfully avoiding an incident, to find her mail already collected and a pink-edged note taped to her door to come 'round for tea, she just sighed and chalked it up to the old woman's loneliness. She'd knock Mrs. Smythe up in the morning and mention that her job often involved receiving noxious or dangerous materials at home.
Owen kept a mental list about things he absolutely fucking hated about being dead. The top item on the list changed regularly. During the day, when his coworkers avoided him at lunchtime, he fucking hated that he couldn't eat, and felt what he knew were entirely psychosomatic hunger pangs as the others piled into the boardroom to feast on pizza or Chinese or those wonderful submarine sandwiches from the shop that had opened around the corner right before he'd died. In the early part of the evening, when the girls laughed to each other as they packed up their things to head home, and Jack didn't even bother pretending he was coming back later as he went to get supper with Ianto, Owen fucking hated that he was never going to get laid again. And in the middle of the night, as he worked on his own projects in the empty Hub or sat in the maddening silence of his flat, he fucking hated more than anything else the fact that he couldn't sleep.
So at least he had some variety in what pissed him off.
He'd read every book he owned, even the textbooks. He'd watched all the DVDs. While he could use his laptop to surf the Web, porn sites and chatrooms were both pointless to him now, the news bored him stupid, and his guild mates in the game had all signed off an hour ago. Maybe he'd go back in to work. He'd been researching the similarities of a handful of alien-derived viruses that had come through over the past fifty years. While Torchwood had in the past cured the afflicted by the most expedient means - complete obliteration - Owen was looking for a victory, however small, against Death.
He dropped by his often-neglected postbox on his way to the Hub, stuffing the bills and adverts into his pockets to look at later.
The Book of Love, Chapter 12, Page 57:
A great way to freak out the guy you're dating, especially if he's only just started to admit the two of you are sleeping together, is to poke through the pile of bills and letters under the post slot at his flat and exclaim happily: "Hey look! I'm already getting mail at your place!" If he drops your greatcoat, which he was hanging up for you, and starts hyperventilating, even better.
To treat, apply copious amounts of brandy, a hot bath, and plenty of bed rest. In extreme cases, skip the booze and the bath. The mail can wait until morning.
Tosh arrived last, out of breath from dashing down from the Tourist Office. She had enough time to gasp, "My next door neighbour took my mail. I had to get it this morning. I found this … " before she noticed the other four golden tickets on the boardroom table. One was crumpled - Owen's - and hers completed the collection, smelling as it did vaguely of Mrs. Smythe's favourite tabby. "Oh."
Ianto already had out a scanner, and Tosh took it from him as gently as possible so she could calibrate it.
Jack looked at each of them. "No chance there was a return address on any of the envelopes? No? Didn't think so." He let out a breath. "So we have a security breach."
"How d'you figure?" Owen asked.
"Somebody knows who we are and where we live. This could be a message, a warning."
"Could also be a coincidence," Gwen said. "Has anyone checked to see if other people got the same things? Might be a new ad campaign." She picked up her ticket and put on a showman's drawl, which wasn't dissimilar to Jack's accent: "Come see the new candy factory and spend your money with us."
"Could be," Jack said. "What do we know about this place?"
Ianto said, "Wilkinson's Chocolates. They manufacture a large selection of sweets from candy buttons to individually-wrapped liqueur-filled confections." He looked at the paper in front of him. "Established five years ago, factory and headquarters in Penarth. Three years ago they began manufacturing. Fifth largest producer of candy in Great Britain, three hundred employees on record. But," he added, "a quick search shows that none of the names on the tax records are real people."
"It's a front," said Jack. "But for what?" He glanced at Tosh. "Anything?"
"No residual energies, no unusual DNA traces. Actually, no DNA on it at all except our own from handling them." She passed the device to Owen, who nodded at the result; he was the one most familiar with the team's genetic makeup. Tosh said, "You're shedding skin cells."
"Yeah," Owen said. "Give me another year or two and I'll be the man with no fingerprints. Ten years and I'll have no fingers."
Tosh winced, as she always did when Owen made jokes about his condition, and she tried to hide the wince and failed, as she also always did. No one had ever found a method of bringing people back to life after death, not really, but the fact that Jack kept doing it meant that Tosh spent more time than she cared to admit looking into ways of restarting Owen's heart and making him live again. The other glove had given Suzie breath and a heartbeat; surely they could do the same for Owen if they only could find a way.
Gwen continued to look at the ticket. "The invitation is for today at ten o'clock sharp."
Jack said, "See if you can find anyone else who's gotten one of these. You may be right. It might be an advertising scam."
Owen said, "Show up for chocolate, walk out with a time share in Majorca."
"I'll run these through more tests," Tosh said. "Might be something we're not seeing."
"Good idea," said Jack.
"Does this seem familiar to anyone else?" Ianto said. "Five golden tickets to a candy factory?"
Owen said, "You mean that stupid book?"
Gwen and Ianto glared daggers at him. Owen knew the rule that We Do Not Insult The Welsh National Treasures In Front Of The Locals, but he never paid attention to it.
Gwen said, "I was trying not to say anything. It did seem a bit … " She waved her hands.
"Someone has a Wonka fetish," Jack supplied. "Okay, that's a possibility. Make a note and keep an eye out."
"I have a copy of the book upstairs," said Ianto. "At least twice a week, someone asks about it."
Gwen asked, "What do you tell them?"
"That it's a thinly-disguised socialist tract. Charlie, representing the common worker, is handed the keys to the candy store just by being virtuous. Meanwhile, the novel skewers British colonialism by its over the top satire of the happily enslaved Oompa Loompas who do song and dance numbers."
"You need a hobby," said Owen.
Jack made a shooing motion to them all and they got up from the table.
Tosh took a moment to gather the tickets and the scanner while Ianto cleared the coffee mugs and Jack stared into space. As she went out, she heard Jack say, possibly to Ianto, possibly to himself, "Someone is watching us. I want to find out who."
Gwen sat back from her monitor. She'd called, she'd searched, but apparently no one else in the area had received golden tickets, which discounted the notion they were cleverly-placed adverts. She sighed. She was less upset about being wrong and more about how much danger they were in; Jack was right to worry that someone had identified them. As a secret organisation, Torchwood only qualified in that most people thought they were a different secret organisation, anti-terrorist or similar, but the times the job had followed any of them home had spelled trouble for them all.
She rubbed her head and then took her mug to the kitchenette for a refill. Absently, she reached for the candy dish and then froze. She tapped her earpiece. "Ianto?"
"What kind of chocolates do we have?"
There was a pause.
"There you go, dear," said the cashier, a lovely red-haired girl whose name badge said "Caryl (trainee)". Ianto thanked her politely, glad that he hadn't run into one of the usual cashiers at the Tesco Express. On the one hand, he liked that they knew him here, could commiserate when Ianto said he was making a late run because his boss suddenly wanted crisps at ten at night. The other hand was more annoying. Half the staff flirted with him, and the rest treated him like some nephew who needed to be fixed up with nice neighbour girls or Our Sally who started last week at the Italian restaurant on the Quay, just pop by and tell her I told you to say hello, there's a love. It made his visits to the store longer, and buying more interesting supplies for Jack's other late night cravings virtually impossible.
"Bit early for Halloween," Caryl (trainee) said as he gathered his bags of sweets.
"My boss has a sweet tooth." He carried the purchase back to the office and hurried down the passage into the Hub. The others waited in the autopsy bay, and for a moment, Ianto pictured Owen about to carve into a child's piñata to dissect the chocolate guts. He passed bags around to them, and the air was filled with the sounds of plastic ripping, and hard candies bouncing on the table.
Tosh examined a package of truffles with a hand-held scanner while Owen ran his full-sized instrument over the whole pile. Ianto stood back once he'd opened the last bag of hot cinnamon jellybeans. Jack joined him at the railing, and Ianto noticed he'd grabbed a handful of liquorice whips.
"What?" said Jack, taking a bite.
"That could be evidence," Gwen said, and Jack handed her a red whip. Ianto rolled his eyes, and then popped the marshmallow puff he'd palmed. The fudge coating melted, sliding warmly down his throat and leaving his mouth filled with sticky goo.
"There," said Tosh. "Look at this." On her scanner, a tiny waveform beeped at them as she passed it over the sweets.
"Got it," Owen said, and he retuned his equipment. The waveform appeared on the screen in front of them all.
"It's alien candy?" Jack asked. He didn't stop chewing the liquorice.
"I don't think so," Tosh said. "All the ingredients appear to be normal." She pressed something on her scanner. "But there is alien DNA on it."
Gwen spat her liquorice into her hand. Jack paused in chewing his, then deliberately swallowed. "Huh," he said.
"Epithelial cells," said Owen. "Aliens handled these sweets."
Jack said, "The factory's in Penarth?" Ianto nodded. The address was printed on the golden tickets. "Load up the weapons." To emphasise his statement, he took another bite of the liquorice.
Owen sat shotgun as Jack drove them towards the factory. Ianto had brought his copy of the fucking chocolate factory book. It had that "read over and over since childhood" look of wear to the pages, even if Owen hadn't already grabbed it to see his name at the top of the front leaf in a much younger Ianto's shaky handwriting.
"Give us the highlights," Jack said.
Tosh said, "The story is about five naughty little children who get taught lessons by Willy Wonka the candyman. We all know this."
"Four naughty little children," Ianto said, "and one good little boy."
"Right," said Owen. "Four brats and a prat."
"It's a lovely story," Gwen said. "My gran used to read it to me."
Owen said, "It's disturbing is what it is. A weird man with a massive Peter Pan complex offers candy to little kids to come inside his house, and then he tortures them for his own amusement."
"Okay," Jack said, ignoring him. "Five kids, five of us. I'm noticing a pattern. Give us the details on the kids."
Ianto read, "'Augustus Gloop, a greedy boy.'"
Owen said, "That's the fat German kid. Likes his puddings a bit too much." He glanced into the back seat at Ianto. "That'll be you with your food obsession."
"I am not the fat German kid."
"Go on," said Jack.
"'Veruca Salt, a girl who is spoiled by her parents.'"
The car was just quiet enough at that moment, surprised into a silence by Owen's lack of commentary, that they could hear Tosh say softly, "That'll be Princess." She realised too late that she'd been heard and Owen watched in the mirror as she covered her mouth with her hand.
"What was that?" Gwen asked, sharply sweet. Ianto's face had composed itself into a very incriminating stillness that didn't fool Owen for a minute.
"Nothing," Tosh said meekly.
Ianto read loudly, "'Violet Beauregarde, a girl who chews gum all day long.' Doesn't sound like anyone we know. 'Mike Teavee, a boy who does nothing but watch television.'"
"That's me," Owen said. "Love that CCTV drama." Pause for effect, watch for the guilty flicker of eyes as the two of them had a silent argument over who was supposed to delete the footage, and … Score.
"'And Charlie Bucket, the hero.'"
"Shut UP, Owen."
Jack said, "So, helpful only not really. Could be things about us, probably isn't." He parked the SUV in front of the imposing gates. "Wilkinson" was spelt out in wrought iron. The sensors in the SUV began spitting out multiple alien signatures. "Everybody see that?"
Tosh said, "I'm counting over a thousand life signs in there."
Gwen's face went still. "How much ammo did we bring?"
"Not that much," said Jack.
"We brought C4," Ianto said. "I think we could take out the building and most of the grounds."
Jack turned around. "That's a lot of C4."
"You said to be prepared."
Jack looked all the way into the back of the SUV. "Nobody shoot at the car."
"That won't set it off," Tosh said, as they got out.
"Nope," said Jack, "but if it manages to hit the petrol tank, we're looking at the new location of the Penarth docks."
Gwen handed Owen, Jack and Ianto their tickets, but held Tosh's back. "Princess?" she said in that same sweet voice she'd used in the car.
Tosh blushed, and said quietly, "It's really nothing."
Jack folded his arms. "Just share with the rest of the class so we can go on with walking into this death trap."
"It was a nickname," Ianto said to Gwen. "When you first started."
Tosh said, "We dropped it a long time ago."
Owen raised his arms and backed away, while Jack kept his "I'm in charge of this bullshit and staying the hell out of it" face.
"Sorry," Ianto said, and Tosh mumbled the same.
Owen didn't recall the two of them ever whispering about Gwen where he could hear, but then he'd been obsessed with getting into her knickers, so they probably wouldn't have shared with him. Anyway, after Jack had buggered off, and the team had briefly struggled to see who'd fill his place, Tosh and Ianto had both said flat out they'd follow Gwen's orders over Owen's, so clearly they'd put on their big girl panties and gotten the fuck over it.
"If we're done," Jack said, and Gwen gave Tosh her ticket. Their names were printed on the tickets, and Tosh hadn't found anything unusual about the inks or the paper. Still, and despite the weird lack of sensation in his hands, Owen felt a tingle of excitement as he clutched his ticket and the five of them approached the gate.
Tosh was still fighting down her blush as she pointed her scanner at the gate. It had been a stupid nickname, all nicknames were stupid, that was the point. When Ianto had started, his nickname had been "the twelve year old." Suzie had coined it, and Tosh and Owen had only dropped it from their private conversation when they'd finally caught onto him and Jack. Owen's nickname was "the tosser," again via Suzie. They all had any number of nicknames for Jack, including "Himself," "His Majesty," "His Nibs," and the less commonly applied but always useful: "Oh for fuck's sake, our idiot boss." Nicknames were there to blow off steam, nothing more. Tosh was sure hers was some variation on "uptight geek" and she didn't intend to ever find out.
Jack checked his watch. "It's time."
"Your watch is forty-five seconds fast," Ianto said.
"It is. I checked it once."
Owen said, "Find a different hobby."
A church in the near distance began to toll the hour, and Tosh would have bet money that it was exactly forty-five seconds after Jack's watch ticked over.
BONG … BONG … BONG
The door of the factory creaked open, and a figure dressed in purple with a large plum-coloured top hat emerged, leaning on a cane. He approached them slowly, using the cane to make his way like an old man. Tosh examined him with her scanner. As he reached the gate with a sudden somersault, her scanner finished its readings.
"Welcome, good day, and hello!" said the little man.
"He's a hologram," Tosh said. As if to prove her point, the image flickered.
"So I am, lovely lady," said the holoWonka amiably. "Now if you will please hand me your tickets. Thank you!"
Tosh stepped behind Jack. Partially, this was because he was their boss and so she would follow his lead, but Tosh would admit to herself that it was also because Jack was essentially a tank and she was happy to let him take the first round of whatever was thrown at them.
Jack produced his ticket with a flourish. "One golden ticket. Let me in."
HoloWonka reached for the ticket. His fingers passed through it but another appeared in his hand, and he peered at the holographic ticket closely. "Ah! Captain Jack Harkness! Welcome to my factory. Come in!" He handed the ticket back and placed it where Jack was still holding his.
"Just me," Jack said with a smile. "They'll wait outside."
"I'm afraid not," said HoloWonka. "Today and today only, the five members of Torchwood Three get to tour my factory."
"Then I guess we don't go in."
Something about the way he said, "Today only," tickled at her brain. Sixth of May. What about it?
"No, you must go in! We've been expecting you!" HoloWonka grinned widely and snatched their tickets from them, or appeared to do so. Tosh felt a jolt in her fingers when he "took" hers. Strange. No energy spikes on her equipment, though. Psychological in nature, or something they couldn't trace?
The gates swung open without a noise. Jack stayed put. "What's inside?"
"A magical chocolate factory. Several hundred aliens. A transdimensional gateway. Really, anything you can imagine, Captain."
"I can imagine quite a lot."
"Then come in."
"Not my people. I'm not endangering them for your little game."
The HoloWonka sighed. He glanced at them, then grasped one of the golden tickets in his hand and handed it back to Ianto. As Ianto instinctively went to take the "ticket," HoloWonka grabbed his hand and Ianto disappeared with a "THWIP" sound, caused by the air rushing to fill the vacuum created by his sudden absence.
Jack's gun was out and pointed at HoloWonka's head as he tapped his ear. "Ianto!" Tosh tapped her own, got nothing but static. Their comms were down. Jack switched the safety off his Webley. "Where is he?"
HoloWonka laughed. "Inside, of course."
"Bring him back right now or … "
"Or what, Captain? Are you actually threatening a hologram, or are you just displaying that for show?" HoloWonka did a little jig. "Perhaps you'd prefer to blow up the factory with your friend inside?"
Jack's jaw moved in a way that made Tosh nervous. Jack hadn't been promoted to his position for his managerial skills, or his strategic skills, or his planning skills, or actually, for any reason Toshiko had ever been able to glean other than he was the last man standing when Alex Hopkins had murdered the rest of Torchwood Cardiff. Dead men's shoes, filled by someone who had once been just as terrible as John Hart and was only on the side of the angels by current choice. Jack could always go bad, and wasn't known for making the best choices even when he was trying to be good. He thought with his heart and points south of there; he was impulsive and reckless. Not for the first time, Tosh feared that her association with him was going to get her killed. He needed minders to keep him sane. And one of the two minders he kept on the team was now missing.
The other said, "If we all go with you, will you swear not to harm Ianto?"
HoloWonka waved his arm. "Not a hair on his head, dear lady."
A song burst from Jack's pocket, and he fumbled the gun slightly as he grabbed for his mobile. "Ianto? Where are you?"
Relieved, Tosh could just make out the voice on the other side if not the words. Jack kept his gun trained, however ineffectually, on their host. HoloWonka snapped his fingers and the voice stopped.
"Annoying devices," said HoloWonka. "People today, they talk talk talk on their telephones and never say anything to each other."
Jack closed the mobile. "You're lucky he got through."
HoloWonka made a dismissive noise. "I don't see why. Did you say, 'I'm so glad you're alive and not vaporised?' Did you ask, 'Are you missing any limbs?' Of course not. Useless toys, the important things still don't get spoken. Never in time."
A goose stepped on Tosh's grave, and she shivered.
HoloWonka's face broke out in a wide grin. "So let's go! We have so much time and so little to do!"
Gwen took Jack's arm, and he finally holstered his weapon. "We'll find him," she said.
"I'm waiting!" said HoloWonka, and his voice was filled with glee.
They went through the gates.
Owen kept watch around them as the fucking hologram led them into the austere factory through a vomitously green door. He had not planned on spending his day running around a candy factory. The only worse thing would have been golden invitations to a sex toy manufacturer. Nothing like being reminded - as they walked through a checkerboard hallway with bright posters of the various products the company made - of all the things he was never going to do again.
"Here we go!" said the fucking hologram, leading them into a narrow space with a tiny door at the end. Owen seconded Jack's desire to shoot the bloody purple lightshow freak, for as much good as it'd do.
As they squeezed one by one through the small entrance, Tosh cried out. Instantly, Jack was back through, grabbing her twitching hands. Her scanner had sparked and shorted out. Owen pushed Jack aside and checked the burns on her hands while Gwen covered them in case this was prelude to an ambush.
"It's not bad," Owen said. He kept a small kit in his pocket for quick fixes, and sprayed a fine mist of antiseptic painkiller over Tosh's reddened palms. "First degree, it'll sting for another minute and you'll be fine." He held the backs of her hands for another several seconds until he felt her relax. Owen hated to do things like this, holding her hand or similar, hated the idea that he was leading her on in any way, especially now. But the decayed remains of his bedside manner reminded him that comforting his patients was important as well, and he knew that this was a comfort to her, and whatever else, Tosh was his friend.
"Better," she said, and he let go, and he didn't miss the drop in her shoulders as he did.
"What was that?" Jack demanded.
The fucking hologram waved his cane. "Your devices don't work inside our factory. They'll interfere with our equipment. We've added some extra-dimensional space to have more room without that messy land purchase and tax problem. Some companies expand up, some companies dig down, we go … elsewhere."
The wall suddenly flipped open in front of them, and Gwen gasped beside him as they took in the room: at least ten storeys high to a ceiling painted blue with white clouds, and a meadow stretching out for at least half a mile before them. But the factory outside had only been two storeys tall and was much smaller than the Stadium.
Tosh said, incredulously, "It's … "
" … bigger on the inside," Jack finished for her. "I lived in a place like this for a while. You get used to it. Don't ask and don't think about how or why it works because you're not ready for the math yet." Tosh looked like she was about to argue and Jack raised his hand. "I mean it."
"Where are we?" Gwen asked, still clearly confused.
The fucking hologram said, "We're still inside the factory. We've just borrowed some extra space from places no one was using it."
"The spot behind the sofa where you can't reach but isn't flush against the wall, and empty bits from the middle of the desert, and the dark places between the stars. No one's using them, so we grab a bit from here and there and stuff it into our factory when we need room to expand, like you'd use a bit of scrap lace and muslin to add a longer hem to a little girl's dress as she grows."
Tosh stared. "That makes no sense. You can't just borrow space from somewhere else."
Jack took her shoulder. "I told you not to ask."
"And everything is edible!" said the fucking hologram, remembering whatever script the arsehole who'd programmed it had written.
"Don't eat anything," said Jack.
"No problem here," Owen said.
The fucking hologram said, "But you can!" He bent down and snapped off a piece of grass, which like the tickets then appeared to be in his hand. He popped the grass into his mouth and chewed noisily. "Sugar straws!" He bounded over to a tree and broke off a small bit of bark. "Bark chocolate, very tasty. I'm sure the ladies would like to try."
Gwen said, "I'm sure we wouldn't."
"Poisoning isn't our thing," said Tosh.
The fucking hologram slumped. "Fine. I show you a wondrous world and you think I'm going to hurt you."
Jack said, "You kidnapped Ianto. We're not here because we trust you."
"Picky, picky." He pointed with his cane. "This way!" He led them past a grove of trees made of hard toffee and topped with candyfloss, a garden of yellow buttercups filled with sweet nectar (he told them; no one sampled), and another garden of tiny biscuits frosted and shaped like multi-coloured daisies.
Owen heard splashing noises, and as they crested a small hill picked out with giant candy flowers and mounded sugar mushrooms, he saw a disturbingly brown river chuckling through the room that was a meadow, surging over rocks to a small waterfall and out the far wall. "Mate, you need to get your sewage system under control."
Gwen stopped dead and sniffed. Tosh got this expression of entranced joy over her face and even Jack looked thoughtful.
Owen said, "What?" Sometimes he missed his sense of smell.
Gwen said, "That's coffee."
"Chocolate coffee liqueur," said the fucking hologram. "We use it to fill the hazelnut truffles. One of our biggest sellers." He pouted. "See, this was the place where your Mr. Jones was supposed to be stopped. He was going to fall in, there'd be a dramatic attempt at a rescue, he'd still be captured but you'd have had the pleasure of trying to save him." That was to Jack, unsurprisingly. "But you people won't play along." He took a sidelong look at Gwen. "I don't suppose I could convince you to jump in? It took ages to get the river flowing at just the right speed, we nearly drowned at least five Wolzos before we managed to get the suction in the hidden pipes just right."
"No," Gwen said, very definitely.
"Oh well. Expenses. What can you do?" He stepped lightly across the coffee stream at a narrow point. "This way!"
Jack held out his arm before any of them could cross. "You just said you wanted to drown one of us here. This is a trick."
The fucking hologram glared at him. "She doesn't like you very much," he said.
The fucking hologram grinned. "So we'll use the bridge instead." He led them downstream slightly to a sturdy-looking bridge, which Jack insisted on testing thoroughly before they crossed. Owen still felt more nervous than he wanted to admit even though the stream appeared to be only a foot deep and barely twice that wide. He shared a look with Jack, hoping their fearless leader had caught onto the part where the fucking hologram had intended to grab Ianto all along. Owen hated the fucking book, but he remembered that only one of the children had come out unscathed at the end. There would be more traps.
Because he was worried, and because he hated showing it, he muttered, "Toldja he was the fat German kid."
"Can it," Jack said.
Tosh nudged Owen and pointed. He followed her gaze to see tiny figures watching them from the taller grasses at the edge of the room. The little orange aliens moved as though they had extra joints, fluidly, like the real form of that alien bird Tosh had screwed, only much smaller, just higher than Owen's knee.
"What the fuck are those things?"
"The Wolzos are shy of strangers," said the fucking hologram. "They work here, run most of the place. They don't need sleep, and they live to serve."
Owen remembered Ianto's rant about the fucking book, and Jack said, "They're slaves."
"No. They are here by choice and circumstance. She found them … " The fucking hologram broke off, and then grinned again. "They prepared a song and dance routine for the aftermath of Mr. Jones' disappearance. I don't suppose you'd like to hear it?"
"We would not," said Jack, and for a man who had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the last century's worth of show tunes - the things you learned hanging out with someone else who didn't sleep and who was easily bored - that was brutal. It was also too late. Already Owen was hearing the strains of that fucking song from that fucking movie in his head, and there was no way to dislodge it, except ... No. He wasn't that desperate yet.
"Fine," said the fucking hologram grumpily, and he led them through another door. Shame, really. Owen had been looking forward to the psychedelic boat ride.