A/N - the final chapter. Many thanks to all of those who've left reviews, they mean a lot to me. Sorry I've not been able to respond individually, but being back at school and writing exams for the exam board has kept me busy! This will be the last long fic I post here for the foreseeable future. Enjoy.
Jack cautiously kept to one side as the huge cog door rolled open, his gun in hand in readiness. A quick scan showed the area to be empty, with the exception of the pteranodon impatiently tearing pieces of dead blowfish from their corpses. Jack cringed a little, wondering how they were going to clear up the mess, knowing damn well that he wasn't going to allow Ianto to lift a finger to help.
"Jack!" Tosh yelled out. "It's safe – they've all gone. Not sure if they all got on the sub, but we can clear out any stragglers later. I sealed the corridor."
"Great work, Tosh." Jack grinned as he tucked his Webley back in its holster. "You should be able to track their sub now – I put a transponder on its hull."
Tosh smiled back and headed for her own workstation. She was finally beginning to feel there was an end in sight to the nightmare they'd been living through since the blowfish had first attacked Torchwood.
"Did you do it? Did you plant a bomb?" Gwen asked Jack.
"Yes, and don't give me that look." Jack raised his chin defiantly, not willing to be cowed by Gwen's stance of taking the moral high ground. "You're not going to make me feel guilty, not this time."
"You know what, Jack, I never used to believe you when you said you could be cruel when you had to be… but I do now."
"Where's Ianto?" asked Jack, deliberately changing the subject and subconsciously thinking of the one person who knew all sides to his character and yet still accepted him for who he was and not who they wanted him to be.
"With Owen – he wanted to check him out."
"I bet he did," leered Jack, determined not to let Gwen bring him down. Those blowfish had blown a hole in his base, kidnapped and tortured Ianto and then threatened to target Cardiff with more missiles. Petty criminal activity he could ignore, but they'd overstepped the line this time and he wasn't in a forgiving mood.
Turning smartly on his heel, Jack bounded away from Gwen, ducked through the archway and ran down the steps into the autopsy bay. He was greeted by the sight of Ianto stripped to the waist and lying face down as Owen leaned over him, carefully taping a fresh dressing to his back.
"Hey, that's my man you've got your hands all over!" he called out.
"Trust me, Jack – it's only in my capacity as physician that I'd contemplate laying a finger on him – he's not my type."
"You don't know what you're missing." Jack winked at Owen.
"Shut up, Jack – or I can guarantee that you won't be getting those shovels you call hands anywhere near me for the foreseeable future."
"That's telling you, Harkness." Owen sniggered as he helped Ianto sit up.
"Are they gone?" Ianto asked seriously.
"Yeah, as far as we know they all left the Hub. I'll do a sweep later to make sure there aren't lurking around the place."
"Good." Ianto took a slow breath in and exhaled slowly, hoping to disguise the shudder he felt in his muscles. "Shirt please."
Jack plucked the discarded shirt from the bench and passed it to Ianto, pretending he didn't spot the other man's hands shaking as he took it from him.
"Is he OK?" Jack asked Owen, not taking his eyes from Ianto.
"He's still sitting here – he's feeling fine," Ianto responded.
"He's still running on adrenaline – he probably does feel fine, now. Tomorrow I guarantee he'll be feeling like he's been playing rugby against a team of weevils."
"About the same as spending the night with Jack, then?" Ianto said nonchalantly. "No problem."
"Are you saying I play rough?"
"Oi! Stop it, the pair of you – I really don't want to know," Owen held his hands up scowling at the two men. "As for you, teaboy – if you can't stand the heat, stay out of his bed."
"Who said anything about bed?" Ianto raised an eyebrow.
"Enough - I'm going to find the girls." Owen shook his head as he caught Jack smirking. "He's all yours."
"I already told you that," Jack quipped before turning to Ianto and holding out a hand. "Tosh should be tracking the blowfish back to their base. C'mon, you don't want to miss the big bang do you?"
By the time Jack and Ianto made it back to the central area of the Hub, Owen was already peering over Tosh's shoulder watching a small red dot flickering as its course was superimposed over a marine chart of the Bristol Channel. Gwen was leaning against the side of Tosh's desk, absently chewing a fingernail, unable to tear her eyes from the screen.
"It's still moving, heading out into deeper water as predicted." Tosh pre-empted Jack's question and answered it before he'd had the chance to ask.
"Jack – how can you be sure it won't explode near civilian shipping?" Gwen asked anxiously.
"I'm assuming their base is away from the main shipping lanes. There have been no reports of incidents involving ferries or any other craft out there – this will be the closest we've ever got to detecting it."
"Exactly what parameters did you set for detonation?" Tosh asked, curious to know what Jack had done.
"The device was switched to standby the moment they powered up the engines. When they shut them down a sequence is activated, triggering a cascade reaction that detonates the bomb."
"Which means it shouldn't explode until they get back to base and dock their sub, right?" Owen checked that he'd understood what Jack had said.
"Exactly." Jack nodded as he held Ianto close to his side, not wanting to let go of him.
"What's stopping them from firing missiles at the Plass anyway?" Ianto rubbed his face, still worried about the threats made by the blowfish.
"They won't take a risk while they don't know what's happened to their matriarch."
"The ones that ran back to the sub would've seen her body." Tosh frowned as she tried to remember if the blowfish that had fled had actually seen that Clytemnestra was dead. "Wouldn't they have ordered a revenge attack?"
"She never responded to the call on her communicator, so they've not had orders," explained Jack. "They won't know for certain if she's alive or dead. They won't dare strike without her command."
"Then why are we doing this? Killing them all if they aren't going to attack?" Gwen demanded.
"Gwen – I thought you understood why we have to do this."
"Tell me again, because I'm really not getting it –"
"These aren't innocents. Those blowfish have infiltrated every criminal organisation in Cardiff and South Wales – they're behind almost every extortion gang and they run most of the drug trafficking in the city. They still have corrupt police officers in their pay – despite everything we've tried to do."
Jack was virtually growling with anger, he couldn't believe that Gwen was still questioning his authority.
"But can't we retrain them - ?"
"They cannot be rehabilitated!" Jack shouted, frustrated that Gwen was beign so obstinate about the whole issue. "They belong to one tribe – all directly descended from Clytemnestra. A single family, all of one mind. This is the only way to stop their influence spreading across the rest of Wales and then the rest of the UK – who knows where they'd stop!"
"What? Are you seriously telling me they're like the Mafia – that they could go global or something!" Gwen's voice rose with incredulity dripping from every syllable. "Do you have any idea how ridiculous that sounds? You're being paranoid, Jack."
As Gwen and Jack yet again squared off against each other, the remaining three exchanged looks that essentially expressed the same reaction of 'here we go again'.
"No I'm not – I know exactly what's at stake. I've lived here for over a century!" Jack spat out, baring his teeth. "I've seen what can happen. Those policemen who nearly killed Ianto that time? They were in the pay of those damn blowfish!"
"What?" Gwen's jaw dropped at the same time as the penny finally dropped and suddenly she understood Jack's philosophy regarding this particular group of aliens. She clamped her hands over her mouth as the enormity of her betrayal hit home.
Jack picked up immediately on Gwen's unguarded reaction.
"What have you done?"
Gwen just shook her head slowly, fearing how Jack would react if she told him the truth. Her previous certainty of his forgiveness having deserted her as he'd spelt out to her the reasons for his extreme response.
"Tell me – just what the hell have you done?" Jack's voice was deceptively calm as he glared at Gwen, but the fury in his eyes was unmistakeable.
Before Jack could insist on an answer Tosh called out urgently.
"The signal – it just disappeared!" Tosh was frantically adjusting the sensitivity of the instrumentation she was using.
"Had it stopped moving?" Jack demanded.
"No. It was still moving steadily at a constant speed, not even slowing down." Tosh sounded frustrated, her area of expertise not providing the answers they needed. "I don't understand – I can't find anything wrong."
"Perhaps it fell off – the transponder that is," Owen suggested, trying to placate Tosh.
"Impossible," declared Jack. "And even if it had we'd still be picking up the signal."
"Hang on, there's been an underwater explosion. Here." Tosh pointed at what looked like a seismograph trace, with a sharp peak, represented by a jagged line. "It must have blown up before reaching their base."
"Can't have happened." Jack insisted, shaking his head angrily. He'd deliberately used a device that wouldn't detonate until the sub docked. "Damn it – I need to know where they were holding Ianto. We've got to put a stop to what they've been doing!"
Whilst Jack and Owen were peering at the display on the monitors, desperately trying to work out what had happened, Ianto was watching Gwen. She had one hand, clenched in a fist, held to her mouth, her eyes filling up with tears. Then it dawned on him what must have happened.
"It must have been taken out by their own people," Ianto said quietly. "They must have found out. Somebody warned them."
Jack's back tensed up and as he straightened to face Gwen, his expression was unreadable.
"Gwen – do you have any idea what you've done?"
It actually come as a shock to all of them when Jack suspended Gwen, without pay, for three weeks. 'Insubordination' was the reason that Jack chose when he filled out the relevant form, before handing it to Ianto for filing. That was before shutting himself away in his office and refusing to talk to anyone for the rest of the day.
Although Ianto had wanted to wait for him to come out, but Owen had pulled rank and taken him back to his flat for the night, leaving a note for Jack explaining that there was no way he was taking Ianto back to the 'shitty safe house' and that he needed some sleep even if Jack didn't.
Rhys had been instructed to collect Gwen and take her home. Ianto had expressed his gratitude to the man for keeping an eye on his sister and her family, forcing him to take a bundle of notes to pay for the food and beer that Rhys had paid for. Rhys had tried to object, especially when he saw the thickness of the wad of notes, but when Ianto had said it was Jack's money he'd quickly changed his mind.
Not only had Jack sent Gwen home, he'd also insisted on Ianto taking a week off to recuperate. He'd visited every day, but not stayed over. Jack said it was because Ianto's injuries needed to heal properly and that he had to be on duty overnight, especially with two staff down. But it felt as if he was paying penance for his sins by denying himself the pleasure of Ianto's company. He also wanted to do whatever was in his power to avoid taking out his anger at Gwen's betrayal on Ianto ever again. He'd nearly lost him for good because of his actions and even Jack knew that something had to change if Ianto wasn't going to leave him of his own free will.
Three weeks later and Gwen was back at work, subdued and quietly resentful. The atmosphere in the Hub was so awkward that Ianto had withdrawn from the Hub to inspect the state of the Tourist Office for the first time since the incident that had almost cost him his life. The walls had been rebuilt and the floor reinstated – both reinforced. The workmen had departed, along with a section of their memories, leaving an empty shell ready to be restored. There was a counter installed and Tosh had wired in the phone which sat alone on the pristine bench top.
As Ianto stood there gazing at the phone as if waiting for it to ring, the hidden door slid open and Jack appeared.
"Last time you were in here I was about to take you to lunch."
"I was trying to apologise."
"Would it have worked?"
"It might have helped," Ianto smiled sadly.
"How about now?"
"I got over it. So much has happened since then – put it in perspective."
"How about that new French place in town?"
"They charge a fortune."
"You saying I'm not worth it?"
"Never!" Jack responded with feeling.
"Can we get out for a while?"
"Yeah - I was going to suggest it. The rift's quiet and Owen's keeping an eye on Gwen."
It went without saying that Jack no longer trusted Gwen. He'd told her she was on a month's probation. If she let him down once more, he'd have to let her go. There had been a time when he'd never have contemplated that, but he realised he could live with it, especially if it meant the rest of the team were safer.
As they walked in silence towards the car park, each adrift in their own thoughts, Ianto let Jack take his hand.
"How's your sister? Talked to her yet?" Jack asked, his thoughts having led him to remember that others had also been in danger.
"She gave me hell – said I shouldn't get involved in state secrets and that she never knew it was so dangerous being a civil servant."
"She's got a point." Jack shrugged as he wondered how Ianto would take it if he suggested he leave Torchwood.
"I've got surveillance cameras on their house and the kids' school. Got Tosh to put a tracker on their car."
"Sometimes if something fishy is going on, it isn't always a red herring," Ianto said, squeezing Jack's hand tightly.
Jack stopped, gathered Ianto into his arms and pressed a gentle kiss to his soft lips. A promise for later, one that was accepted as Ianto opened his mouth and returned the kiss with interest. However much Jack wanted Ianto safe, he also realised that he didn't want to let him go, even if that was selfish.
Finally Fin …ished (with the word 'fish')
A/N - that's all folks - no more in the store room of long Torchwood fics from me, I hope you've enjoyed reading these ... many thanks for all the lovely reviews along the way, sorry about the cliffhangers and for causing a few of you to yell at me on occasion :-)
"It was good, yeah?"