Title: The Brief December (3/3)
Author: nancybrown
Characters/Pairings: Jack/Ianto (past Jack/everyone), Gwen, Mickey, Martha, Lucy Saxon, Lois, Johnson, Rupesh, OCs (other Whoniverse mentions and cameos)
Rating: PG-13
Words: 13,800 (5900 this part)
Spoilers: CoE (characters only), DW: EoT
Summary: Three stories for a winter night, or, Torchwood in the dark of the year.
Warnings: original characters, no unifying plot, schmoop, angst, (schmangst?), mentions of TYTNW
Beta: fide_et_spe and lawsontl both took a look at this, helped kick it into shape, and have my deepest thanks; remaining mistakes are all mine
Author's Note: Part of an alternate third season where Lois, Johnson, and Rupesh have joined the team. Written for the_longest_night. Parts will be posted leading up to the Winter Solstice.

III. Sing the sad of heart to cheer

December 22nd

Stakeouts were boring. Boring boring boring. They knew the Ad'xtii were hiding something in this warehouse under heavy guard, knew they'd be moving it soon, knew the team had all the exits covered, including the sewers. (They'd drawn straws. Ianto and Rupesh were not happy.) Gwen and Perry had the front. Jack and Johnson waited impatiently at the back, because Jack was sure this was the direction they'd be going.

Johnson's mobile rang. She went to silence it, but Jack shrugged. "Might as well answer."

She nodded. "Go ahead." She paused, face twitching. "Yes." Another pause. "No. Not really." The last words were uncomfortable. "Here." She shoved the phone to Jack. "It's for you."

Jack took it. "Hello?"

"I thought you'd be there," said Alice.

"We're on a stakeout. Did you need something?"

"Are you coming for Christmas? I need to know."

"Oh." Over the last couple of years, he'd made a habit of dropping in for a few minutes, Rift permitting. "I could. Did you have plans?"

"Steven's going to Joe's in the afternoon. You should come by in the morning. What did you get him?"

Jack himself thought nothing wrong with dropping by carrying armfuls of expensive presents, but Alice saw things differently. "I haven't yet. Is there anything he wants?"

"I'll send you his list. He found out about Father Christmas, so don't … "

There was a movement at the warehouse door. "Gotta go," Jack said and closed the phone, tossing it to Johnson. Back to work.

The day went badly. The shootout wasn't unexpected, but the Ad'xtii monarch was caught in the middle. Friendly fire didn't care who it hit, and that hadn't been fun explaining to the rescue team from Ad'x Four who'd shown up afterwards. All told, ten of the twelve Ad'xtii involved in the abduction were killed, along with two humans who'd been working in the warehouse next door. Minor injuries for the team, which Rupesh dealt with, and a long scolding from Gwen, because Jack had given the order to go in when she'd said it would be better to wait.

Long damned day.

Over their late supper, Jack's thoughts finally set aside the mess at the warehouse and returned to Alice. He chewed a bite of steak - he'd successfully broiled their meal, which wasn't much of a victory today but he'd take it - and said, "Remind me that I need to pick up gifts for Alice and Steven."

"You already have gifts for them." Ianto was freshly-showered after the sewer and the fight, and Jack resisted the urge to play with his damp curls. Instead he scratched through his own often unreliable memory.

"I do?"

"Steven had his eye on a new DS to replace the one that broke over the summer. You also bought him new games. Alice's favourite stone is a sapphire so you're giving her a lovely necklace with a solitaire pendant."

"I am?'

"Yes. You might also find something last-minute that you can't resist, but that's up to you." He took a bite of his steak. "You really outdid yourself on this. It's better than the last place we ate at."

"It's the cut. Use good meat and you'll get good results. When did I buy presents?"

"In Scotland. You're also shopped for the team and some of the notable names in your address book."

Jack sat back. "You were busy." Ianto had discretionary use of Jack's accounts, both Torchwood and personal. It was so much easier than trying to handle receipts or figure out how much of the grocery budget was Jack's share. Ianto did the shopping for the team and at home. Jack hadn't realised he'd taken over all the shopping.

"Shutting down the site only took one day. I had time. Would you like to know what you bought them?"


"You found a hand-knitted jumper for Gwen that ought to bring out her eyes. The same place had a lovely scarf for Lois in her favourite colours, and since she forgets to dress for the weather, it'll be practical. You also went with practical for Martha and Tom, and you've ordered them a bassinet for the baby. Letitia loves Pierre Cardin, so you've bought her a bottle and you sent her flowers since I'm sure you didn't send her flowers before. Her parents are each receiving a basket of fresh fruit and muffins, to be delivered once a month for a year."

"That's... They'll like that." A lump passed through his throat and was gone. Fresh food had been a luxury for them all, once.

"You found a sturdy bookcase, thirties-era, at that antique shop on Hope Street for Perry, and a set of novels you think he'll enjoy to start filling it. You weren't sure what to get for Johnson, and settled on a subscription to 'Guns n' Ammo.'" Jack laughed. "And that's why. You don't know Rupesh well enough to know what he'd like, so you settled on a nice Glenlivet reckoning he could find someone to help him drink it."

"You've thought of everything."

"Mostly everything. Mickey is hard to buy for, and I suspect your penchant for the entirely inappropriate will be the deciding factor in what you give him."

Jack let a smile slip over his face as he considered this. "Yes." He swallowed the last of his water. "What did I get for you?" Last year, Jack had bought him a few ties, none of which had made it out of his bedroom.

Ianto went quiet. "You and I aren't much for gifts." Or, Jack thought, they were a bit too good at it. The Great Gift War of '09 had almost ended their relationship.

"Is there anything you want?" He suspected that he failed another boyfriend test with the question, given the look that passed quickly over Ianto's face before vanishing. Had he not been watching, Jack would have missed it.

"No." Probably true. Ianto could buy anything for himself he liked, and only recently had they any time at all to spend enjoying life outside of work.

A weird, uncomfortable silence slid in between them. Jack covered by taking his dishes to the sink. Ianto did the washing up, Jack did the cooking, and this was not a pattern he'd expected to be in, and the part of him that feared loss suddenly told him to flee, find a tall, cold rooftop or a warm, easy body, and just be somewhere else. Not stuck here. Not wondering what was an appropriate Christmas gift for the man he'd moved in with, not wondering if tomorrow he'd have to order his lover to his death.

He turned and there was a question on Ianto's face. Jack had a quick flash of a different path: Gwen in the kitchen chair, wondering why his mood had shifted, and she would ask, and press, demanding an answer until Jack gave one, and maybe they'd have fought about it, and maybe they'd have resolved it with sex, and maybe Jack would have taken the building or the body as an out. All of this came to him in one moment.

Ianto said nothing. Instead, he carried his own plate and glass to the sink, and without asking, he took Jack's hand and led him back to their bedroom.

And Jack got it.

December 24th

" … brings out your eyes," Jack said with a twinkle, as Gwen pressed the jumper against herself happily. She leaned up to drop a quick kiss against his cheek in thanks.

She urged a little box into Ianto's hands, and he gave her an equally small box with her name on it. "Open yours first," Gwen said, and Ianto tried not to rip into the paper. It was just the three of them left in the Hub now, having sent the others home with gifts and two days off contingent on no aliens for Christmas, but Ianto tried to pretend he had a little dignity.

The box inside was plain, and when he opened it, a laugh was pulled out of him from someplace deep inside. The coffee mug was truly awful, one of the mass-printed types he saw in the kitsch shops he'd visited searching for presents for Mica. It would have been perfect for her: a gaudy rainbow and cartoonish unicorn painted clumsily on the side. Jack looked confused, but that just made it funnier.

"Open yours."

Gwen had less use for dignity, and bits of paper hit the floor as she unearthed the tiny brass spinning wheel Ianto had found a month ago.

Her eyes shone as she brought it close to her face. "It really works," he said, "but you have to use very fine thread. For practise."

"Thank you," she said, and flung her arms around his neck. He hugged her back, determined to keep the moisture out of his own eyes.

Jack looked at them both. "I missed something."

"Private joke," Ianto said.

"Oooo! Is it a sexy joke?"

"No," they said together, and no matter how much he asked, neither of them said another word about it.

Gwen had delayed leaving for a reason. Perry would be sharing Christmas Eve dinner at hers, and she did need to get home before he arrived, but the three of them had agreed by quiet consensus to stay behind for an extra hour or so. Gwen pulled down the snap she kept and she brought it to the table. Ianto filled their mugs one more time, using his new one, and filled two more that he'd never allowed himself to discard. Jack sat in silence, his personal griefs more textured and distant than theirs, and filled to the brim long before either of the other two were born.

Last year, they'd spent an hour playing bad Christmas music, and drinking, and Jack had carried his own mistletoe so he could steal kisses from the whole team.

This year, Gwen was misty-eyed, and Ianto was finding it hard to stop the catch in his throat. Her fingers kept playing absently with the little spinning wheel, making a tiny squeak with every turn. Jack told the stories. Jack always told the best stories, even when they knew what happened. The Tale of the Brilliant Woman Who Built a Sonic Device From Bad Plans. The Story of the Brave Little Zombie Doctor. He even found a funny memory about Suzie, from before her madness, and gave them the Totally True Adventure of The Woman Who Took Down a Weevil With Her Spike Heel.

"I should go," Gwen said at last, and she kissed them both and wished them a happy Christmas.

When she was out the door, and Ianto nearly ready to leave himself, Jack said, "I want to finish up a few things here. I'll meet you at home, okay?"

"I could wait," Ianto said, confused.

"Actually, I was hoping I could talk you into a quick trip to the shops. Alice likes me better when I show up with food, so I was thinking a cake or something for tomorrow morning?" His voice went up to make it a question and a request, and if his eyes were shadowed when he asked, well, Ianto could give Jack space after their memorial service.

"Fine." He'd be fighting the last-minute shoppers over the dregs, but he was already thinking of a bakery that might still be open that did wonderful cakes and breads. He gave Jack's hand a squeeze. "How long will you be?"

"Not long." That same darkness edged his eyes although his voice was light. Ianto would be happy to kiss the hurt away, but this was work even if no-one else was there.

Jack waited until Ianto's car had pulled out of the car park. When the tail lights were no longer on the CCTV closest to the Hub, he let out a breath.

Rupesh didn't celebrate Christmas, but was going to spend the day with his brother and his sister. Lois had taken a train to London to see her family. Johnson was somewhere, doing something, and as long as Jack didn't find her at Alice's in the morning, he'd be happy. Gwen was taking Perry into her home tonight because she thought no-one ought to be alone at Christmas. Jack himself had a full day scheduled tomorrow courtesy of Alice and Rhiannon, who were both starting to treat Jack and Ianto as a unit. Jack was resistant to the notion, to the label, to all the trappings, because he'd been there before and not once had he come out without a broken heart. Yet when he was done here at the Hub, he was going home, and that one word answered the question of why everyone they knew thought the labels were appropriate after all.

His phone rang. Ianto always did act a bit psychic, didn't he? Jack answered with, "I said I'd be home soon, dear."

"So glad to hear it, darling," drawled the voice on the other end. The sudden ice in Jack's veins froze him even before the name 'John Hart' slotted into place in his brain.

He yanked the phone from his ear, but the Caller ID didn't read Ianto's mobile as he'd first thought. "What do you want?"

"Just calling to wish you the Merriest fucking Christmas you've ever had." The slur was more apparent now. John was drunk.

"Where are you?"

He could picture John's slow blink, gathering his surroundings. "Somewhere warm. I got you a present."

The cold was back. "Who?"

A loud laugh pierced his ear and Jack pulled away again. "Good one! I can't tell you. It's a secret!" He was trying to whisper, and failed.

John was somewhere warm, and in an altered state. He might or might not have a prisoner. Tom ought to be back from getting Lucy settled, but Jack was calling as soon as he was free. Either could be in danger, and whatever his conflicted emotions might be for Lucy, she didn't deserve to be in the clutches of Jack's former partner. He always broke his toys.

"Are you looking for a trade?"

"No! Nononono. I want a job."


"You have a nice little club, couple of openings. Let me play." He pulled out the "ay" into a long moan.

"I need to know that whoever you've got is safe."


"Have you hurt your prisoner?" Much?

John laughed again. "I don't have a prisoner. But we could get one if you want. D'you remember that magistrate we … "

"I remember," said Jack, who unfortunately did. "You want a job?"

"Thank you for the offer and I accept."

"We're not hiring. Goodbye, John."

"You didn't say Merry Christmas!"

"You told me your planet outlawed all holidays. You don't celebrate Christmas."

"Hey," John said, his accept thickening to the patter of his own backwater homeworld, "when you outlaw Saint Bob-bob's Day, only outlaws have Bob-bobs! We were rebels."

Jack paused again. His own world had a version of Saint Bob-bob's Day. His parents hadn't been religious. Their little family had only kept Jul and Sol, and those casually. But his mother had remarried, after, and her new husband and wife wheedled her into observing the saintly days and the feasts with them.

"Happy Christmas," he said. "And a ballsy Bob-bob's day," he added in Standard.

"Thank you," John preened, and Jack rang off.

Days were days, and holidays were holidays, even if they weren't the right ones. Gray had always loved Jul, loved lighting the candles and singing the songs.

And Jack had lingered here for a reason.

His steps found him at the cold storage section of the morgue, as he'd known they would, and his hands moved over the sensors in the stasis chamber, keeping silent watch over the sleeper within. Jack tried to remember Gray during the good times, the happy moments, had a flash of a little curly-haired boy riding Father's shoulders with the candle-lighter in his hand. But instead, his memories were filled with his step-parents, and with his mother, keeping days that seemed random to him, to pray, to chant, to fast. They'd offered up their devotion and his mother's new-found (or newly-bestowed) piety to show contrition to whatever angry goddess had robbed their home of so many lives. Jul had become a time for mourning and contemplation, and Jack had had enough of both, and said he was leaving, and he had gone.

He placed a hand on Gray's compartment. "Hey," he said, and then his voice cracked. When the mess had first been cleared, and his friends laid to rest, he'd come down here and tried talking out his apologies, tried shouting out his anger. The months had passed and Gray slept on, would sleep until Jack woke him or the world ended, and there was no gift to give him, no candle to let him light against the dark of the year. Jack had failed him, as he failed everyone who trusted him.

He sat down, back against the cold wall. Mourning. Contemplation. Maybe they'd been right.

His phone beeped with a new text message, probably Ianto asking what kind of cake to buy. Jack almost left it, then pulled out his mobile anyway. He didn't recognise the number.

"borrowed sams sons phone happy christmas old man"

He pictured in his mind's eye: Frank fumbling with and swearing at the keys to a borrowed mobile phone, a younger version of Frank's roommate leaning over to explain the buttons.

He texted back: "Same back at you, old man." Sam's son would show him the message. After a moment, Jack added another text: "Thank you."

He held up his mobile, showing the screen to Gray. "That's your nephew." Their family was piecemeal, and broken in places. Frank was dying. Phil had died either decades ago or last month. But Alice and Steven would bring him into their home in the morning, and in the afternoon, he would be welcomed at Rhiannon's house like another brother. The other members of the Doctor's quirky extended family were like beloved cousins. His team, rising again and again from the ashes, was the family he'd built for himself. It wasn't the life he'd imagined when he and Gray had been little kids, but it was Jack's, and it carried him through the dark nights.

With a few clicks, the text was saved, uploaded to his wrist strap so he would never forget. He leaned against the stasis chamber. He'd lost so much from his childhood, but certain memories remained, certain words could not be forgotten.

Jack started to sing in the language of their home, low and sweet in the cold room:

"The wind is here and you are there
The sun is rising
May it blow you back home quickly
The sun is rising
The waves have covered over your footsteps
The sun is rising
Come dance with me again on the sand
The sun is rising."

Jack's key turned in the lock, and Ianto smiled at the sound. When little things were all they had, those were what mattered, like the string of fairy lights draped over the curtain rod, or the single laundry hamper in their bedroom, or the grind and click of Jack using his own key to the flat's door. Ianto didn't get up from his spot on the floor, instead applying the last of the sticky tape to the package in his hands. David would destroy the paper in about ten seconds but the gift was neatly wrapped for tonight.

Now would be a good time to ask Jack what he'd been up to in the Hub, if he'd finished up some paperwork or given the Weevils a little treat. One glance at Jack's face forestalled questions.

"I picked up sandwiches from that place you like," he said instead. "I've got two more presents to wrap and we're set for tomorrow. The cake is in the kitchen."


Jack took off his coat and his boots, and he removed something from a deep pocket. For a moment, Ianto's heart quickened, thinking this was a gift for him, and then he recognised the shape of Gwen's present from earlier. She'd found the perfect gift for Ianto, as much as the joke was sharp between them, a reminder of their mortality. She'd also found the perfect thing for Jack: a new box to hold his photographs, this one small enough to carry, but fireproof and with a lock. When Jack had opened it at the Hub, they saw that she'd tucked in a snap of the five of them from a year ago, and printed their names on the back.

It was practical and thoughtful, and Ianto was only a little jealous that he hadn't thought of it first. He hadn't thought of anything. After the gifts from a few months ago, whatever he chose would be half-dressed with implications and accusations, and everything he considered forced him to wonder what Jack would think he was really saying.

His hands moved automatically over the next present as Jack set the new lockbox on the table, and with reverence, transferred the photographs from his old tin box into their new home. Cut, fold, press, add the tape to hold the edges, fold, fold.

Jack lingered over the photographs, as he often did. Ianto wasn't really watching, he told himself, but caught the flash of hands moving, and another snap moved into the pile, a pale black-and-white CCTV capture of Gray's mad face.

He closed his eyes, and reached for the last gift, some garish pink horse for Mica entombed in plastic and cardboard.

The room was quiet, just the sounds of papers shuffling in Jack's hands, and the slither of gift wrap in Ianto's. "It's a lovely box," Ianto said to break the silence. "Gwen went for the six-hour fire resistance, she said."

"Yeah." A thumb brushed over the smooth, thick plastic. "Did you help her pick it out?"

"No." He had mentioned the tin box to her, and she had pushed him for details. He'd thought she was angling for more information about Jack the way they both did, and he had shared this scrap reluctantly, also as they both did, portioning out secrets about Jack between them like rare chocolates. Once, there had been others to gather tidbits and help share, and now just the two of them in what neither would ever say was a competition. (It wasn't. It couldn't be. Everyone involved had made their choices, and even if Ianto sometimes felt like he had been the choice of least resistance, that was still a choice. Jack could have anyone he wanted, but his address form listed this flat. Gwen went home to Rhys every night.)

He sighed inwardly. This was going to be one of the bad nights: too many memories of things they'd all lost and too much musing over what they still could.

Ianto set the last present aside. "Hungry?"

After food, and love, and some mindless telly, they half-sat, half-sprawled on the sofa together, Jack somewhere far away in his thoughts, Ianto content to be here and warm, his brain still pleasantly mushy from his last orgasm. Right now, before he came all the way back to himself, he could touch his memories of his first Christmas with Lisa without any pain, and remember the peaceful contentment. That hadn't lasted, not with the mind-controlled A-positives climbing to the rooftops, Lisa among them, but it had been nice.

The clock ticked over to midnight.

Jack watched the numbers on the digital readout. "Place your bets on this year's invasion."

"Chickens," Ianto said after a moment's thought. "Giant, fluffy chickens from outer space. When we defeat them, it'll be roast chicken for everyone and solve world hunger with one blow."

"You're a strange man, Ianto Jones."

They settled in together this way. The fairy lights provided a little illumination, and the candles Jack had insisted on added more, making a warm glow. No tree, no fireplace, but Ianto felt Father Christmas would show up any minute. That or they'd fall asleep here, mostly naked on the sofa and stiff in the morning from the awkward angle.

As the buzz in Ianto's head faded, he noted the shadow still on Jack's face. "What are you thinking about?" Normally he wouldn't dare to ask. Normally he'd be afraid of the answer.

"A lot of things. It's been a weird year."

Ianto made a noise of assent, if they defined 'weird' as 'hard, heart-rending, and other synonyms for painful as fuck.'

"We should get to bed or your neck is gonna be hurting tomorrow." Jack extricated himself from where they sat. He said something quietly in a language Ianto didn't know before puffing out the candles, but left the lights as he stretched out a hand to help Ianto up and into the chilly bedroom.

They shivered heat into each other under the covers, warming the cocoon of their bodies into something more comforting. Ianto began to drift off again. Jack's hands were on him, but weren't trying to stroke him into excitement, merely to hold him as he might something prized, something tender. Ianto found Jack's lips and kissed him sleepily before rolling onto his side so Jack could spoon up behind him with all his good heat.

"I was thinking about the Doctor," Jack said softly into Ianto's shoulder, "and about Gwen." All the warmth drained away. It was one thing to consider that he might be Jack's second choice. It hurt whenever he let himself consider he might be third. He shouldn't have asked.

He made a quiet noise like he was falling asleep, instead of wired back awake by the unhappy shot of adrenalin from Jack's words. If Jack noticed, he didn't show it.

"I need someone to be disappointed in me," Jack said. "I need someone to tell me they don't like how I do things, to tell me when they think I'm wrong. It's so easy to let myself think that I'm doing okay, that I've done enough, that I'm a good person."

"You are," Ianto said in a whisper, and Jack kissed the skin he was speaking into.

"I'm not. And if I don't have someone there standing over my shoulder telling me I've screwed up, I get worse. The Doctor was the first person since my parents to think I was important enough to scold. But he also understood me, and he'd show it in the most amazing ways."

Ianto could imagine, though he tried not to. This wasn't how he wanted to spend tonight, or any night. But Jack needed to talk, and Ianto had asked.

"Gwen does the same thing. Even when I'm making the best decision I can, she'll tell me when I've done it wrong, not because she wants to punish me, but because she thinks I can do better. And then she'll do something like the lockbox, and I know she's paying attention to the things that matter."

The annoyance came back, that he hadn't found a gift for Jack, that there hadn't been a single present that seemed right. Outside the window, a lone car shined lights over the curtain and was gone again.

"You asked me once why I came back after I found the Doctor."

Pretending to sleep wasn't working. "You said you came back for all of us."

"I lied." Not a surprise. "I couldn't stay around him anymore. All those years I waited, I thought it would be like old times, but it turns out, without Rose there, all he had for me was the disappointment. I could probably spend the rest of forever trying to live up to his expectations, but it wasn't worth trying."

But Martha had been there, hadn't she? "What about Martha?"

"Martha's not Rose. I love Martha, but she and Rose were so different. Martha liked me. Rose believed in me. Did I ever tell you that?"

He had. When Jack was feeling maudlin, he told stories about Rose to cheer himself up. Perhaps that was what he needed tonight. Jack was rambling because it was Christmas and a time to reflect on everyone lost. Rose was a bright spot in his tales, a name that always made him smile.

"Tell me again."

"Rose thought I was a good person, even when the evidence was right in front of her that I wasn't. Any time I screwed up, she'd shrug it off as a mistake. When the Doctor stood there looking at me like I was something stuck to the bottom of his shoe, she'd just smile, and I'd want to be a better person because she already thought I was. And without her there, without her faith in me, I just … I couldn't stay."

"She was there in the TARDIS when the Daleks came." You could have stayed with her, with them. You came back to us.

"Yeah. And she's gone home to that other universe, and I don't think I'm ever going to see her again." His voice was thick, and sad, and it was another loss piled on in a year of loss. A small, mean part of Ianto whispered in his head that the one thing worse than being the third choice was finding out that you were really somewhere around fourth and dropping quickly.

"I'm a mess, you know I'm a mess. You know I'm a fake and a fraud and a liar and a thief, but you believe in me anyway. You think I'm a good man even when you've seen that I'm not."

"You are." He rolled back over and kissed Jack, not least to get him to shut up.

Ianto would take it, would take second or third or fourth, as long as it meant these arms holding him, this clever mouth touching his. He'd take stories about people Jack had known and still loved, he'd listen to "Gwen is just like the Doctor and I need that," without flinching. It was all one with loving Jack for everything he was, and Ianto was long past the point where he could stop. And he had the note, which he kept in his pocket, Jack's scribble from some nebulous future where everything was all right. His number on the hierarchy of Jack's affections didn't matter, so long as he knew there would come a time when he mattered enough to Jack for him to leave that kind of gift.

The kisses slowed, and Jack drew Ianto close. "I just wanted you to know that."

"All right," he said, for something to say, and settled as if to sleep.

Jack's arms tightened protectively. "I need someone around to keep me focused on who I ought to be, but I really need someone to think I'm already there."

"You're saying I remind you of a blonde teenaged girl."

"Exactly," Jack said, in a relieved tone.

His thoughts drifted, not as peacefully as before, but towards sleep. When he was almost gone, he heard Jack whisper, "Because I'd've followed the Doctor anywhere, trying to live up to what he thought I ought to be. But I'd have married Rose."

December 25th

The message said to meet in a coffee shop two streets from her parents' house. Lois ordered for herself, and waited for Mr. Frobisher. Ten minutes later, she was joined, but not by Frobisher.

She'd only met Mr. Gloucester once. Her mouth was dry. "Sir," she said, and took a casual sip of not very good coffee.

"Do you know who this is?" He slid a newspaper clipping across the table to her. Lois scanned the photograph.

"Lucy Saxon." Lois had a weakness for the gossip rags, and had followed the stories of the beautiful young woman on Harry Saxon's arm, her rise to fame and her fall. She'd died in prison shortly after her arrest for her husband's murder, a suicide according to the police. Neat, and sad. There'd been no children.

"Last week, I received word that Mrs. Saxon broke out of prison and appears to have fled the country. Do you know anything about this?"

She licked her lip, tasting the bit of whipped cream left there. "Torchwood broke a prisoner out of gaol last week. I noted it in my report. The name we were given was Susan Foreman."

"Yes." Another paper was pushed over the table, a UNIT summary page.

Name: Susan Foreman
Species: Gallifreyan
DOB: unknown
Location: unknown
Notes: Known companion of the Doctor, suggested familial relationship, believed deceased

There was a picture that looked nothing like Lucy Saxon.

"While it's possible Mrs. Saxon was another regeneration of the alien known as Susan Foreman, I believe you were given an alias because the Captain likes his little jokes."

Lois nodded.

"Does he know you're here?"

"I am in London visiting my family," she recited.

"Remind me of why you do your job." She held her shiver; Mr. Gloucester was rumoured to be mildly psychic, one of the few outsiders trained under Torchwood London's program.

"For the safety and security of the British people, and the world." Her words were almost inaudible over the noises of the bustle in the shop, people coming in for their Christmas caffeine between visits to Grandmother and Aunt Sally.

"Lucy Saxon murdered the Prime Minister, and Captain Harkness is believed to be one of her accomplices. He freed her from prison and helped her escape the country. He flouts the law at every opportunity, and now he's released a murderess. Your reports have been clear on his problem submitting to governmental oversight, his flagrant disregard for orders, and even his willingness to subvert time itself for his own ends."

"In my report, I mentioned there were extenuating circumstances for the attempted time manipulation I witnessed."

"Yes, he was planning on returning to World War II and saving his son's life."

"That wasn't his intention." Jack had merely planned to be there at the end for him. Phil, who had Jack's laughing eyes, and who'd been Perry's friend.

"You've been working with the Captain. Would he have stood by and watched his son die when he could have easily taken the bullet for him and walked away from it?"

No. And that's why she'd prevented him from going. The risk had been too great. "No, sir."

"You have your own people in place?"


"Yet you didn't use them to seize control during the Captain's recent absence. He and Jones were gone. Cooper and the new man would have been easy for you to subdue."

She'd considered her options when she'd heard the announcement, and over the days that followed. "I felt it was too dangerous to attempt a coup while Harkness and Jones were on the loose. And my orders were to wait until Torchwood provided an immediate threat." They hadn't, even with the mishandling of the Ad'xtii situation, but then, she'd been kept out of the loop about Lucy Saxon. From both sides, she had noticed. What else were they hiding right in front of her that she'd missed?

Lois fingered the fringe of her new scarf.

"Then you have your orders, Agent." He took a long drink of the coffee and made a face. "It's time to put them into action. Take down Torchwood."

"Yes, sir."

The End

AN: My three favorite words are "I liked this." The next story in this series is "War Games."