Author's Note: I am writing this as a second NaNoWriMo novel. It will be very fast, I hope fairly long and probably a bit... chaotic as a result of these. It will also be posted sporadically, at a guess, because I'll be travelling from Cairns to somewhere further South. Wish me luck!
Have you heard the rumours going around? Or even confirmation?They're saying that Ryan's dead, or at least seriously injured at Albion Hospital. It's chaos here, scuttlebutt flying in every direction.
Let me know if you hear anything.
Subject: RE: WTF
They've just called me to tell me that he's been hospitalised and that there's nothing to worry about.
And they just called Worrall at UNIT to tell him that Ryan's dead. Don't know what to believe at the moment, but I do know that I don't believe what they're telling me.
Keep your head down, but make yourself useful.
Subject: RE: RE: WTF
I'll make the tea, shall I?
Still no news, but I've offered to take to the phones in the main office because they're ringing madly. Phone again. Here we go...
Captain Mace of UNIT. Heard of him? Nope, me neither.
Subject: It's true
We just got the confirmation. Everything's gone very quiet.
Since when did Torchwood leaders die in action?
Subject: RE: It's true
That's definitely a shock. I guess we'll know the full story by morning, hopefully. Seems like only yesterday he was an over-enthusiastic departmental runner sent to look after me. That must be over thirty years ago, because it was when Melissa was a baby and Lucia was on maternity leave. He was coming up for retirement, wasn't he?
I don't know about London, but I die in action every other day. Do you think I should apply to head office to get the medal of honour that they give to all personnel who die in the line of duty, protecting Queen and Country from alien threats? (Yeah, I can't remember what it's called.) Surely I've died for them often enough by now.
Got to go, there's Weevils above ground again. Look after yourself.
Subject: Well... uh
They're closing the office except for essential staff for a 'mourning period', also known as 'working out who's in charge'. I've offered to stay here on the phones to fend people off whilst they discuss it; do you think that's the right thing to do?
Have they got in touch with you to ask you to discuss it? I'm guessing they've frozen you out again. Typical.
This place is eerie when it's empty, almost like the whole building is in mourning.
Subject: Answer your damn phone!
They've got me trying to call you now, but I told them that you've had an emergency, so I'll get through to you when I get through to you. Call me as soon as you can, okay?
Glad to hear you're both okay. I've emailed the details of your trains and your hotel reservation. Travel safely, get some sleep on the train, and I'll see you here tomorrow.
Subject: RE: Arrangements
You're a star, and I don't know what I'd do without you. Can I steal you over here to work for me?
And can I invite you to join me in the hotel bar for a couple of drinks? Torchwood will foot the bill. I could do with someone to drink with tonight.
I'll pick you up from the station. I can persuade them that I need to be at the hotel to check you in and make sure you behave.
See you at the station
The Asquith Bar was quiet and relaxed compared to the others. Deep, plush sofas and armchairs clustered around low tables in intimate groups, all upholstered in shades of deep red, vanilla or soft orange. The shelves behind the bar were lines with expensive bottles of whiskey and spirits, with the shelves separated by chalk-board wine lists. The bar itself was wood panneled and topped with glittering black marble from which empty glasses were removed before they could begin to mar the high-shine surface.
Small groups sat in the clusters below expensive paintings, leaning close together so that they could talk in low voices whilst sipping their expensive drinks and watched the time until they had to leave for tonight's social engagement. Jack settled onto the sofa next to Yvonne and picked up the glass she nudged towards him. "Cheers. Thanks for coming."
"I'm being paid to wine and dine you," she smiled and raised her glass to him. "How could I possibly refuse?"
He returned her smile with less enthusiasm and took a sip of his whiskey. It had been standing long enough that the ice had started melting, and cold water softened the crisp bite whilst highlighting the smoky flavour. "Do you want the job?" he asked at last, apropos of nothing.
Yvonne narrowed her eyes and swirled her wine in her glass. Long, well manicured fingers held it as steady as her gaze at him. Whilst he waited for an answer she brought it to her lips and left a lipstick mark on the rim, then rested the glass against her knee. "Why me?"
"Why not you?" he shrugged. "You have the ambition and drive to take it, the self awareness to cope with it, and the intelligence to take it forwards. They never take from the top ranks for the new directors."
"Okay," she nodded and looked down into her wine. "Still... why me?"
He chuckled, showing dimples and laughter lines. "Because I trust you, and I think you're good enough to do it."
She took another slow sip of her wine, letting the flavours roll over her tongue and loosen her thought processes. He watched and waited patiently for her, as only he could wait. Oh, she'd known him to get bored waiting for her to order a meal, or on that shopping trip she'd dragged him on when she got her promotion to admin that had culminated, prematurely, with a speed-boat ride up the Thames and ice cream; but when it mattered, his patience was like hot fudge sauce: slow, soft, warm, and impossible to deny. "I can't deny that it's an appealing prospect," she conceded, and he nodded his concurrence. "And my position is such that this is the only chance I'm going to get for the directorship, although I could attain greater power if Magnus got the directorship and I got the Head of Field Responses."
"You'd get the weapons," Jack agreed. "But the research department is going to be increasingly important and valuable, and it'll start wielding more financial power if the next conference approves some of the developments they've been working on."
"You make a good point." She watched light glittering on the chandelier above Jack's head, warm golds and oranges against the cold blue-silver crystal. "But that's a lot of responsibility."
"So is driving," he pointed out. "But not many people pay attention to their responsibilities unless you put a flag one them, preferably make them dance. Naked."
She laughed. "Jack, I don't know what to do with you."
"Tell me you'll be my CO," he suggested. "I could do with an ally, and Cardiff is too important for me to leave."
"Oh, here we go," she sighed, rolling her eyes and chuckling. "How bad is it at the moment?"
"Same as usual," he shrugged it off. "Ryan hated my guts, shrank the budget when it was down to just me and wouldn't increase it when I found Suzie. I can't afford to take on anyone else and maintain our network and systems at current levels, and I can't reduce them without putting people at risk. But unless I hire more people..."
"I didn't realise it was so bad," she admitted. "What did you do to annoy him?"
Jack pouted, which wasn't as effective as he'd probably hoped. "This is Ryan. Pissing him off requires meeting him on a bad day. Running one of the other offices and not being entirely... Well, I'm interesting to Torchwood and occasionally non-compliant with the rules and regulations."
"I wasn't aware you actually knew what rules and regulations are," she told him scornfully. "You make them up as you go along and everyone knows it. There'd be none of that on my watch."
"You can try. I'll ignore you if you try to enforce them," he warned her. "Rules don't work when the game is changing daily."
She shook her head and waved her glass at him. "There has to be structure to the rule breaking, at least."
"Of course there is. But no one has yet been prepared to meet me on it." He studied his now empty glass and gestured to the bar with it. "I need a refill. Do you want another glass whilst I'm up?"
"Thanks." She checked her glass and smiled winningly. "Bring the bottle?"
He laughed and got up to head across to the bar, leaving her to consider what he'd said. Torchwood needed leadership that had development and continuation in mind. They needed to push forwards on research and shore up the defence teams. Large areas of the country needed to be covered by fast response teams, and the offices in old parts of the empire needed to be abandoned as unmanned research stations or redeveloped, depending on their usefulness. She'd be lying if she said she'd never thought about it, about what she would do if she were in charge. She'd be lying if she said she didn't think she'd do it well.
Jack collected his glass and a bottle of wine from the bar and wound his way between the furniture to return to her. She shifted back on the sofa to make more room for him and held out her glass for him to refill it. "Someone's been thinking," he commented.
"I do it occasionally; you might like to try it." She smirked at him and raised her glass. "Cheers."
"To the future director of Torchwood?" Jack asked.
She licked her lips and nodded. "To the future director of Torchwood."
Jack sat down and touched their glasses together. "Good luck, sweetheart."