Title: Also Feeds Strays
Characters/Pairings: Lois, Gwen, River Song, Jack
Spoilers and Warnings: up through CoE
Summary: Torchwood: interdimensional lost and found
Beta: queenfanfiction and fide_et_spe
Author Notes: Written for tw_femficfest. Standalone story not in continuity with anything else I've written.
"You'll be fine," Jack had said, and he'd gathered up everyone else and left Lois there. Alone. She was not checking their location every five minutes, she was not worried sick about what would happen if a call came through while the rest were all an hour away dealing with a downed cruise ship from Nelani Four that was startling cows up north. She was trained and competent, and if Jack thought she could be left here to hold down the fort, Lois intended to hold it so hard it suffocated. Or something.
The newly-rebuilt Tourist Information Office had been upgraded from "dingy and off-putting" to "charming and quaint," with cheery posters and windows covered by curtains done in the Welsh national colours. She'd ordered knickknacks from the Tourist Bureau, which functioned very effectively as fidgets whenever Jack was bored and wandered up here to chat. Without meaning to, she noticed one in her hand now, a little wind-up sheep, and with an effort, she set it down again, watching the tiny legs lumber with a clicking noise.
"Lois, patch me through to the UNIT commander on-site," Jack said suddenly in her ear.
"Of course," she replied smoothly and pulled up the information, plugging the connection directly into the comms. Task complete, she sat at her desk, unable to assist, nothing else to do.
Normally, on a slow day, Jack would let them go home early. (The first time, Gwen had told Lois that "everyone go home early" was code, but that hadn't stopped the two of them from gathering their handbags and leaving.) She couldn't leave, though, not with the team out, and anyway, she'd rather go with Gwen so they could get a drink together at the pub and giggle over what they thought might be happening back at the base. Lois didn't have many friends here in Cardiff, not yet, but Gwen was in that careful place between confidante and mentor, and for now, that was close enough.
One of the monitors activated. Lois frowned. According to the small, blinking light on the corner of her screen, someone was moving around in the Archives.
She was the only one there.
Her stomach clenched. They'd installed the motion detectors in case the Weevils got loose, or they had an unwanted visitor who didn't use the front doors. (While she hadn't met Hart yet, Gwen had informed her this was a good thing.) Lois grabbed her sidearm from where she kept it hidden in the desk.
She touched her ear to tell the others, then dropped the hand. It could be a mouse or something. She'd investigate, then report. In the main part of the new Hub, Myfanwy went about her daily routine, swooping near the ceiling, unbothered by any intruders. Of course, she wouldn't be bothered if she hadn't seen an intruder enter, or if the interloper was one of the other beasts they kept below.
Her pulse raced in her ears as she made her way downstairs. Lois had taken over the feeding of the Weevils, but they still terrified her, and seeing the occasional result of their handiwork spread out on an autopsy table didn't help. Gwen said it would pass. Gwen, Lois had observed, wasn't afraid of anything, or at least of anything alien, and Lois couldn't help but envy her. She might wish she could be a Xena or a Buffy, or even a Scully, but Lois had the bad feeling her life's lot was to be Fainting Woman #2 (with broken ankle).
The first level of the Archives was empty of large lifeforms, Weevil or otherwise. Lois breathed a sigh of relief. Could just be a malfunction in the system. Yes.
On the second level, she found the woman.
"Move away from the shelves," Lois said in her firmest voice.
The woman paused in her work. She sighed. "And I was sure Torchwood was out on other business." She turned, her hands held palm-forward at her ears insouciantly, her mouth upturned in half a smile. Her curly blonde hair was barely tamed by a scrunchy, and her eyes were alight with what appeared to be amusement. "If I surrender, do you promise to frisk me?"
"Who are you and what are you doing here?"
"Can't tell you, sorry."
Lois steadied her hand on her gun, thankful for the comforting feel. "If you won't talk to me, you'll have to talk to the Captain, and I assure you ... "
"Is he still going by 'Jack' these days?"
Lois kept the expression off her face. " ... I assure you that you'll answer."
The woman made a face, part regret, part tiredness, and with a blur of motion, she pulled a weapon Lois hadn't even seen from her belt and shot the gun neatly from Lois's hand with a bolt of energy. Lois jerked back, her hand aching, and now the woman was armed and she was not. She could make it to the door, perhaps, run for cover, run away.
Broken ankle and a meaningless death by the third reel. Right.
Lois stood her ground and pressed the comm in her ear. "Intruder! There's an intruder in the Archives!"
The woman's expression turned even more annoyed, and Lois took a breath, expecting the end. She'd be shot, die down here alone, but the others had been warned. She straightened her back.
"Thanks, I work better with a deadline anyway." She holstered her weapon and turned back to the shelf as Gwen's voice burst into her ear: "Lois! What's going on!"
"This system is bloody indecipherable," the woman said. She didn't look like she was going to shoot again, but Lois didn't dare relax. The woman turned back to her. "Look, if you could lend me a hand, I'll be out of your hair in no time at all."
"I'm not helping you raid our Archives!"
"I'm not raiding. I'm repossessing. You lot picked up something that fell through your Rift. I need it back."
Ah. That actually made a sort of sense. Torchwood: interdimensional lost-and-found, also feeds strays.
Something that was told to her when she was being trained, partially as a passing joke, partially as a warning, came back. "If it's alien, it's ours."
"It's not alien. And it's not yours." She looked around, and let out a breath. "And it's not here." She focused on Lois again. "I have it on the best authority that Torchwood in this time has the largest collection of alien detritus, Rift debris, and paraphernalia relating to the Doctor in the world."
The shadows moved, and Lois saw her opening. Too loudly, she said, "What do you know about the Doctor?"
Her smile turned genuine. "Quite a lot. And you aren't doing the questioning." She patted her side where the weapon was. "Where else can I find items related to the Doctor? Don't make this difficult."
"We won't," said Gwen, with the safety clicking off on her own gun, pointed right at the woman's head. "Are you all right?" she asked Lois.
Lois nodded. "That was fast."
"I was already on my way back. The rest of the team is handling the crash." Lois didn't let her gaze drop to Gwen's belly, huge and swollen and ready to deliver almost any day. Of course once Jack had assessed the minimal threat with UNIT, he'd have offered Gwen the chance to stand down.
"So it's only the two of you?" asked the woman, and Gwen's face fell into concern at the slip.
"More than enough to take care of an intruder. You might make this easier on yourself by explaining how you got in here."
"The same way I'll be getting out." Moving slowly, the woman exposed her wrist, where a leather strap that matched Jack's rested comfortably.
"You can hand that over," said Gwen.
"I really can't."
Lois asked, "Are you a Time Agent?"
The woman turned to her again, appraising. "No. But I do enjoy their toys."
"Move slowly," Gwen said. "I haven't shot anyone today yet." She'd had a line of pain and apprehension running through her body, across her face, almost since the day they'd met, and it tended to surface as fiercely protective anger. There were moments Gwen reminded Lois of that woman in the Terminator films, all fire and steel, and she felt bad for anyone who threatened Gwen's child down the line. They wouldn't live long.
"If I wanted to go, you know I could just vanish. Can we skip the threats and get to the place where you help me find what I'm looking for?"
Gwen's face went dark. "The last time we helped someone with one of those 'toys,' I almost died. Twice. When he came back, two of my friends did die."
"I'm sorry. But you're really making more of this than you need. I've no interest in harming you or your friends. I want to pick up what's mine and get out of here."
"I can't afford to believe you," said Gwen. "Lois, could you … "
The woman whipped her head around again, a light in her eyes as they settled on Lois. "Lois? Not Lois Habiba?"
Lois told herself this was a simple trick. Anyone who could get into the Hub could easily access the employee records as well. "You still haven't given us your name."
She smiled at Lois again. "But you're so young! What are you, twenty-three? Twenty-four?"
"Enough questions," Gwen said. Her hand hadn't trembled once.
"That would mean you," the woman said, turning back to Gwen, "are mostly likely Gwen Cooper. Am I right?"
"A five minute Google and you expect to impress me?"
"If Lois is here, the Abaddon incident is past, and that nasty business with the 456."
Lois did startle then, as the 456 incident was classified. The populace had believed the story about the virus causing the children to behave oddly, but were less forgiving about the attempted kidnappings. The subsequent riots had left thousands dead or injured, governments had teetered, and then people had moved on, unaware of the truth.
"Not impressed," Gwen said again. "Let's go."
They walked their prisoner - Lois had the feeling that designation was due to the woman's tacit agreement rather than any power they had over her - down to the interrogation room as Gwen updated the others on the situation.
"We'll come right back," Jack said.
"No need. We've got this covered."
"She could be dangerous."
"That never would have occurred to me," Gwen replied. "As I have only been working here one day and am very stupid."
"Sorry." He sounded contrite. "Just be careful."
"We could be back in ten minutes."
"Goodbye, Jack," Gwen said, and Lois heard another voice laugh on the line.
"Are we going to play Good Cop, Bad Cop?" the woman asked. "I have to say I'm partial to the Bad Cops. All those threats, slinging around fake authority, sloshing in testosterone, although I suppose that won't be an issue today." Her voice stayed calm and amused, enjoying her private jokes whatever they were. Gwen settled the woman into the chair, and cuffed her to the seat. "Definitely Bad Cop. I like it."
"Tell me your name," Gwen said.
"Jane Smith," she said, delightedly.
Gwen sighed. "Lois, will you bring us some refreshments?"
Lois nodded and hurried to the kitchenette. She placed a few biscuits on a tray, made up Gwen's herbal tea the way she liked it, then paused over a cup for the woman. They had truth drugs, Retcon, and any number of other pills and potions to encourage her to talk and forget her time here. Gwen hadn't given Lois the signal to use one of them, but she also hadn't said not to do so.
Lois turned on the screen to see the CCTV in the interrogation room.
"You're a time-traveller," Gwen said. "What is your home time? She put on one of her more encouraging smiles. Gwen never could maintain Bad Cop for long.
"Last week," the woman said, leaning forward on her free elbow. "But I do enjoy taking trips to next year so I can find out the winners of the sporting matches."
Safely away from them, Lois could observe impartially. Gwen kept pulling her hair behind her ear and smiling. The woman - Jane? It was as good as anything else to call her - watched her, enchanted, while lying as outrageously as … Lois frowned. Jane lied like everyone else from the 51st century that they had on record, the same small sample of humans who also possessed an advanced body chemistry that 21st century humans found intoxicating. Lois flipped on the air handlers, making sure the air in the room was fresh.
As the fans began to whirr, Jane turned her head. Then she looked at the camera and winked.
Gwen kept asking questions which Jane answered without a shred of truth but with something that, to Lois, looked much like fondness. Time travel. Someone from the future couldn't tell them anything that would muck up the timeline. Jane's expression wasn't smugness but nostalgia, a knowing kindness that wanted to reassure rather than tease. Jane couldn't tell them what was coming, the good or the bad, knowing herself to be a soothsayer whose prophecies didn't dare be spoken aloud.
Lois brushed the screen.
"What is it you need?" Gwen asked. "What are you looking for?"
"It's a book. I need it back."
Lois shivered. She flashed on an item that fell through the Rift last month. Jack had examined it and then ordered it locked in the special Archive. Torchwood's original mission had been to watch out for the Doctor, and artefacts directly relating to this mission were stored separately from the rest. Lois had been told of his real motives with regard to the Doctor, but he had the same motive with every person he'd ever met, so that wasn't much of a surprise. A diary, written in a language not currently spoken on Earth and decorated to look like the TARDIS? That had been earmarked for the special collection the second Jack had seen it, opened it, read the inscription inside the cover.
She left the tea.
When she reached the interrogation room, she hesitated on the last stair. Was this the right thing to do? She could be handing over a dangerous wealth of information to an unknown enemy.
Not-Jane turned her attention to Lois. "Thanks," she said, eyes on the journal.
Gwen's eyes opened wide. "Lois?"
"Tell me the inscription," Lois said, watching the woman. "The one in the front of the book."
"You can't read that."
"Ah." Unexpectedly, the woman coloured slightly. But then, everyone did when Jack read their diaries. "It says, 'For River, to keep the spoilers safe.'"
"Jack skimmed through. He said it's all about the Doctor."
"Well, it would be, wouldn't it?" The colour was still in her cheeks. "Knowing the Captain, I'm sure he read the good parts."
Lois didn't know and wouldn't speculate.
Gwen on the other hand, would. "I'm sure. This is yours?"
"I don't have a claim cheque for it, but yes."
"Jack will have to confirm that when he returns."
"Jack can't meet me yet. That's why I came now." She placed her hands in front of her. Lois blinked. She'd been in cuffs, hadn't she? Like some talented thief, she'd slipped out of her bindings as easily as Lois would slip off a shoe. But a criminal would have run. Jane, or maybe River, sat in her chair, waiting for them to speak.
"Take it," Lois said, as Gwen said, "What happens next?"
Lois stilled her hand, even as she was reaching out.
"Seems a fair trade," Gwen said, her eyes on the blue book. "We'll give you the diary. You tell us what's coming."
"I really can't do that."
"We are always behind," Gwen said, and in her eyes were too many losses. Not everyone she'd loved could be miraculously returned from the dead. Lois watched her hand edge over her abdomen, read the worry in the hunch of her shoulders: what would become of her, of her child, of them all. "Give us something to work with, something to fight with."
"Ask the Captain about time travel. If you know a terrible event is about to befall you, what you do to avoid it just as often brings it about. If you know something wonderful will happen, the anticipation could obliterate everything you love. That's why the Doctor is who he is. He knows how to tinker with history without damaging it. Most of the time."
Gwen said, "And you don't?"
"I'm just an enthusiastic amateur. I'd hate to destroy the universe twice. Once I could blame on circumstance. Twice is just embarrassing."
"Jane … "
"Please!" Gwen was desperate, and her face pulled in a sharp twinge as she gasped. Lois sudden knew without a doubt that the baby was coming.
River tilted her head, possibly reading the same thing. Then her fond smile came back. "I can promise you this. There are amazing days ahead." Lois stepped over, placed the book on the table. River covered it with one hand. "Thank you."
"Will you come back?"
"You'll see me again." Whether it was threat, prophecy, or outright lie, Lois didn't know. The woman blinked out of sight with a flash, the empty chair clattering in her wake.
Lois let out a breath. "That was strange."
"That's Torchwood," said Gwen. "Twelve strange things before tea every day." She winced again.
Gwen was faraway, and she was whispering something under her breath, maybe a prayer, maybe a promise Then her eyes came back to Lois. "Let everyone know I won't be in tomorrow. I'll call Rhys."
They headed up the stairs together, Lois offering a strong arm for Gwen to hold.
"What should we put in the report?"
"A simple case of lost property. You're sure it was hers?"
"I'm sure that's what the inscription said." As they reached the top landing, Gwen paused for breath, and Lois asked timidly, "What if I was wrong? I could have just handed over secrets about the Doctor to someone dangerous."
"Think about it this way. Perhaps you were always meant to."
That didn't make Lois feel any better. "Gwen … "
"I think my water just broke. I'll worry about the future tomorrow. Amazing days, yeah?" Her face was taut with pain, but her eyes were relaxed. Whatever she'd needed to hear, she'd taken it from River's words. That was enough for now.
Lois took her arm again. "Yeah."