"Listen, it's easy. Just chat him up, dose his drink, and then vacate the area. Problem solved," Jack said, throwing Gwen the bottle of Retcon pills.
"If it's so easy then why didn't you do it yourself?" Gwen asked, as she caught it. She may be new, but it didn't take much to figure out Owen sniggering into his sleeve wasn't a good sign.
"He's..." Jack hesitated and, for a moment, Gwen thought he looked slightly embarrassed. "He's a difficult case. He's slippery, and observant..."
"Very observant," Tosh added, a bit breathlessly.
Gwen eyed her and smirked. "Oh yeah?" she said. "Just how... observant are we talking about here?" she teased.
Jack sighed and grabbed her shoulders, steering her towards the exit. "He's also well connected," he explained. "His brother is big in MI6, which is why we're trying to do this quietly."
"Again," Owen added, sotto voice.
"I distinctly remember being told we were above the government," said Gwen, tracing the quotation marks in the air.
"Not this part of the government, we aren't," Ianto said. "Brother dearest is a real piece of work."
Jack ignored him. "Just remember – chat, dose, vacate."
"Don't I get back up?" Gwen asked.
"He'll know if you've got back up," Ianto said absentmindedly, as he frowned at the Times folded neatly on his knee to show the crossword. "Oh, and if you have the chance, ask him if he knows what four down, eleven letters is – petrified by deception."
Gwen's eyes narrowed. "This is some sort of hazing, isn't it?" she said, "I'm going to end up being tied to a fountain, amn't I?"
"As if we'd do something like that," said Owen.
"It would be a waste of time and resources," Tosh intoned.
"Heaven forfend," Ianto chipped in.
"Oh God, I think I've just been railroaded by the Marx brothers," Gwen groaned.
"You'll be fine," Jack assured her. "Have fun. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
"That's a bloody short list," Owen muttered.
It took her about two seconds flat to pick him out of the pub's punters. "Hi," she said dropping into the bench across from him.
"Not interested," he said, not looking up from his mobile. His fingers were speeding across the tiny keys at an almost breakneck speed.
"I just said hi," Gwen said dryly.
"I'm expecting someone," he said, in a bored tone of voice. "And you're in their seat." He still hadn't looked up.
"A date?" Gwen hazarded, as her eyes took in the barren table. Who comes into a pub and doesn't order a drink – not even a mineral to be polite?
"Not exactly," he said, "More like the conclusion of a series of events." Her target paused and abruptly looked up. "And you're that conclusion, aren't you?" he said. "You're not what I was expecting – how long were you in the police force?"
Gwen started. "How did you know that."
He gave her a long look. "Did you know that when you're nervous your hand still reaches for the position you used to hook your baton, instead of reaching for that distinctly non-government regulation issue gun holster under your jacket? Less than a month out of uniform, I'd say."
Gwen looked down at her hand hovering at her hip. "Huh."
"Indeed," he said. "Can we move this along? I'm getting bored. I hate being bored."
He leaned back in his seat, and Gwen noted, with a sinking sensation, that without a drink to spike, she needed to come up with a plan B fast.
"Can I get you a drink?" she asked.
"You can," he said, before adding. "The question is may you."
Oh great, that's all she needed. A smart arsed pedant. She ordered two pints of bitter, and summoned up a smile. "I'm Gwen," she said.
He tilted his head. "And that's actually your real name, isn't it? How novel. "
"And you are...?" she prompted. Social niceties obviously weren't his thing.
"Are you really going to pretend you don't already know?" he asked. "So what scene are we going to play out here - you happen to bump into me at my local, then buy me pint, and then...what, exactly?"
Gwen's eyes narrowed. "Probably not what you think is going to happen," she said.
He gave her humourless smile. "Trust me, you will never know what I'm thinking," he said.
"Arrogant bastard, aren't you?"
"That didn't take you long, there might be some hope for you yet," he answered, resting his chin on his hands. Gwen was beginning to feel like a specimen under a microscope. She needed to come up with a distraction fast, something to throw him off track.
"Petrified by deception!" she blurted out.
"Four down, eleven letters," he answered, "I wouldn't have pegged you for a Times reader. If I had to guess, I'd say the Guardian..." He smiled. "Guy in the natty suit, right?"
"Ianto," Gwen said, before mentally kicking herself.
He smiled slowly. "Thank you," he said, "I don't suppose you want to volunteer the other four names while you're at it?"
Gwen tried to not let anything show in her face but it seemed she failed abysmally.
"Ah, three names," he said, "My condolences. I suppose that explains your sudden addition to the group."
"What group?" she said valiantly, as she attempted to look innocent. Their pints arrived, and Gwen paid for them.
"It's not going to work, you know," he said lowly, as soon as the server was gone. "And you must have figured out by now I'm not going to talk."
Gwen took a long gulp of her pint, buying time as she tried to figure him out. He had to be human, right? Because if he was an alien, Jack would have told her, so... a really observant human, and not a mind reading alien...probably.
She was going to kill Jack.
If she didn't kill Sherlock Holmes first.
"Who's that waving at you?" she asked, pointing behind him.
He raised an eyebrow and then, with a long suffering sigh, looked over his shoulder. "Oh dear, I can't see anyone," he said flatly, as she dropped the Retcon pill into his glass.
"Oh, he must have left," she said, as he turned to look back at her.
"Might have something to do with Captain America over there," he said.
"Jack?" she said, checking over her shoulder on impulse.
And now I have another name. Thank you so much." He raised his glass as she scowled at him. "To absent friends," he toasted.
"To arsehole detectives," Gwen said, and smiled as he drank from his glass.
She took a swig from her own.
Three minutes later, Gwen found herself staring blankly at an empty bench across a pub table. She looked around around her. Where was she? She picked up the accents at the next table and hurriedly reached for her phone.
"Jack, why am I in London?" she asked, when he answered..
A sigh came down the line. "You looked away, didn't you?" he asked.
"He used the old switcheroo trick again, eh?" she heard Ianto's voice say. "Maybe you should have warned her about that."
"Jack, Ianto, what the hell is going on?" Gwen demanded.
"Congratulations, you've just been Retconned – again," Jack drawled. "I'm guessing he switched your glasses when you weren't looking."
"Who the hell does that kind of thing in real life?" Gwen asked, as she glared down at her glass. A neatly penned word on the beer mat caught her eye, and she picked it up to look at it. "And does anyone know what pseudomorph means?
"Ah," she heard Ianto say. "I should have guessed."
Jack laughed. "Come home, Gwen," he said. "And I'll tell you a story about two brothers whose mother had a thing for Doctors."