AN: This story takes place in the 1970s, before either "Buffy: the Vampire Slayer" or "Torchwood." Captain Jack Harkness had already met the Doctor and now works for Torchwood. Rupert Giles is in his 20s and is a junior Watcher with the Council.

The Flirt, the Watcher and the Warehouse

Chapter 1

An Odd Occurrence

Rupert Giles could kill Linton Travers. "Go to Wales, Mr. Giles. See what's going on, Mr. Giles." That arrogant ass should not be running the Council. He should be the target when the Slayer practices throwing daggers.

If it weren't for Linton Travers, Rupert would not be in the mess he was in now. He would be at home — with a tea, a good book, maybe a lady-friend. He certainly would not be being held captive in an abandoned warehouse that smelled strongly of urine and rotten seafood in Cardiff, Wales.

"Any ideas?" he asked the man bound next to him.

"Well, some," said the man, winking as he said it, "but none that would get us out of this situation … although they do involve the restraints."

Rupert rolled his eyes, remaining focused on the task at hand and not the overt flirting from the man next to him. The past couple of days had been … interesting. Between discovering the existence of aliens and warding off Captain Jack Harkness' advances, Rupert had had an exhausting two days.

And, when he thought back, all of that blame lay with Linton Travers for sending him to Wales. Travers had considered it a punishment — although, why getting to visit Wales was a punishment, was a mystery to Rupert — for Rupert's insistence that Travers' son was an incompetent fool. The man had clearly mistranslated that scroll and — rather than thank Rupert and fix the error—he sent Rupert away to chase leprechauns.

And now he was being held captive by aliens, in a disgusting warehouse, with a man who was doing everything in his power to get Rupert into the kip.

Two days ago, Rupert had been sitting in his cubicle in the Council basement, trying to decipher an ancient scroll that he believed just to be some profanities, but that his boss believed to be important, when Linton Travers had deigned to appear among the lowly junior Watchers.

"Mr. Giles," began Travers, always one to use proper titles, although his beastly son insisted on called Rupert "Ripper," a reminder that his past would never be forgotten. "I'm afraid I need you to go to Wales. I am dreadfully sorry about this, but the Watchers upstairs fully believe there to be some sort of Chaos spell at work in Cardiff."

"What kind of spell specifically?" asked Rupert, eager to help. Magic was something he knew very well. Perhaps they needed him to go to Cardiff and cast a counter-spell.

"Oh, we're not sure," answered Travers vaguely. "It's probably nothing."

"Oh," said Rupert, a bit deflated. "Well, what does seem to be the problem then? Young virgins being sacrificed? Animals slaughtered? A bacchanalia in the streets?"

"Nothing of the sort," said Travers, somewhat horrified by what the young Mr. Giles had thought up. No proper Englishman would allow such things to occupy his mind unless he must by the necessity of his job. Mr. Giles' job did not necessitate it in Linton Travers' opinion. "There have been hospitalizations, Mr. Giles. People eating strange objects. We believe that a witch in those parts perhaps marred a spell and it resulted in this. So, just pop on down there and see what it is."

"Yes, Sir," said Rupert, now recognizing this for what it was. A punishment. He was going to trek all the way to Cardiff, only to discover that there was nothing happening. Sometimes he truly hated all the stiff, tweed-wearing Watchers at the Council. Those ponces had even made him take out his earring. Because that's what the Council needs: more automatons.

After that lackluster meeting with Travers, Rupert had gone to Martha, Travers' secretary, and gotten the file. Although the case was nowhere near as dramatic as Rupert would have liked, it did catch his interest. So far, there had been seven hospitalizations in Cardiff. The first man had been admitted to hospital after he began vomiting blood. Upon further investigation, the doctors had discovered that he had been compulsively eating paperclips for the past five or so days. The second man had been eating paste non-stop and refusing to eat anything else. The third man had spent a night in jail after his wife rang the police, telling them that her husband had assaulted her. He just couldn't stop eating his wife's hair. After observing him for 24 hours, the police transported him to hospital, having come to the conclusion that the man was positively bonkers. The fourth victim, a woman this time, was eating strike-anywhere matches, which had caused some pain and smoky burps. The fifth man had died after drinking bleach. The sixth woman had been apprehended by police in the park as she ate pinecone after pinecone, scaring the locals; and these were people who had lived through the drug-fueled previous decade. The final victim, a teenager, had died after ingesting copious amounts of phone directory pages, completely plugging his innards.

The case had a certain touch of the macabre that spoke to Rupert. He had always had a bit of a dark side and he found that side stroked by this case. Also, he was just happy to be let out of the basement. If he could prove himself doing small tasks like this, the Council would see how clever and proficient he was, and they were certain to make him Watcher to a Slayer. He knew that the chances of that happening were slim, as there were far more Watchers than there were Slayers, but a man could dream.

Rupert rushed home to his small flat and packed a bag. He didn't have a car, so he would have to rely on public transportation. He spent the entire train ride poring over the file until he practically had it memorized. First things first, he would go speak to the first victim, who was still in the hospital.

Afan Smith was perfectly genial. He welcomed Rupert to his hospital room and had a rather pleasant chat with him. Afan didn't seem crazy. He knew he had been eating paper clips; he simply did not see anything weird about it. "Some men drink themselves to death," he explained to Rupert, "and some men eat blowfish, knowing it could kill them. What is so odd about eating paper clips?"

"Well," answered Rupert, "alcohol and blowfish could be considered food. Paper clips really couldn't." Afan harrumphed at that, so Rupert switched the topic slightly. "So, have you always enjoyed eating paper clips?"

"It's the strangest thing," replied Afan. "I had never even considered eating a paper clip before this week, but now that I've had them, I can't imagine not eating them. They're just delicious."

"What made you start eating them?" asked Rupert.

"I really don't know. I was just sitting in my office, about to use a paper clip, when it just looked really appetizing. So I figured what the hell?"

Choosing his words carefully — although not carefully enough — Rupert asked, "Have you ever participated in Satan worship?"

"What?" asked Afan, outraged. "I am G-d-fearing Christian, I'll have you know."

"So, no witchcraft?" asked Rupert as he backed out of the room. "Or pagan worship?" He ducked out just as a tray came flying at his head.

Rupert heard pretty much the same story from the four other surviving victims. Whatever was affecting them was being caused by some external force. They had nothing to do with it.

Rupert returned to his motel room and began to research demons and spells that could cause obsessive-compulsive eating behavior in their victims. He was coming up empty, but did not want to call the Council and let them know how miserably he felt he was failing. He wouldn't give them the satisfaction.

He was just starting on his twelfth book and his sixth Anacin when the police scanner he'd left turned on finally spewed out something useful. Rupert grabbed his windbreaker and headed back to the emergency wing at the hospital.

When he got there, he found chaos. The doctors were carting a man, who was vomiting blood, into surgery and a woman — possibly his wife — stood looking at him fearfully and sobbing. After the man disappeared behind the O.R. doors, Rupert was going to approach the wife on the pretext of comforting her and actually question her.

Unfortunately for him, someone else got there first. The man was tall, with piercing blue eyes and wearing a long, WWII military greatcoat. The man moved with the easy confidence that usually accompanied undeserved arrogance. He just swished over to the woman, placed a comforting arm around her and began to lead her away.

Rupert could not let that happen.

After fetching a cup of water from the cooler, Rupert rushed over and placed an arm around the woman while also pushing the man's arm off of her. "There, there," he soothed, handing her the water. "I'm here now, don't worry," he said, pretending to know the woman. Turning to the man, he said, "Thank you so very much, but I have it from here."

The man tried to protest, arguing that he should come with them and help. Rupert was shocked to hear that the man had an American accent. "No thank you," said Rupert kindly but firmly. The man was left frozen in place as he watched the woman be led away from him.

Once Rupert got the woman away, he led her to an empty area in the emergency ward, sat her down on the edge of a bed, and pulled the curtain closed around them. "I'm a Special Constable with MPS," said Rupert, lying through his teeth. If she asked to see some identification, he knew he was smoked. He just hoped that his years of being a juvenile delinquent had taught him how to lie adequately enough that she wouldn't think anything was amiss. Clearly she didn't, because her eyes just widened and she silenced her crying enough to be able to hear him better.

"How c-can I help you, Constable?" she asked, less hysterical but more frightened now.

"We are investigating a number of odd incidents here in the United Kingdom and our inquiries have led us to Wales. Can you tell me what happened?"

"I don't understand," she said. "What would London police be doing here in Cardiff, especially for Gareth?"

"That is what I am trying to find out, dear lady. Now tell me what happened to Gareth." The woman's jaw clenched up at the order. Seeing this, Rupert altered his tack. "You see, my boss sent me to find out if there is a Cardiff connection to his case and I honestly don't even know what I am doing here. Could you please be a dear and just help me out, Mrs. …"

"Parry, Bethan Parry," supplied Bethan, with a slight purse to her lips, as if she did want to help the nice young constable, but still felt she shouldn't.

"Thank you, Bethan. May I call you Bethan?" asked Rupert, pouring on the charm.

"It's my name, isn't it?" she answered.

"So, Bethan, what happened to Gareth?"

"I don't know," she said, beginning to cry again. "He was fine yesterday, but then this morning I noticed that a bunch of my plants were missing."

"Your plants?" prodded Rupert.

"My orchids, my peonies, my oleanders! I've won prizes for them, you know. But this morning they were gone. I looked everywhere for them, but I couldn't find them." She paused here and sniffled. "So then I asked Gareth. I admit, I thought maybe he threw them away. He was always complaining about the orchids, thought they were pretentious." She stopped here and just gazed off into space.

"Well, did he throw them away?" asked Rupert, already knowing the answer.

"No," she whispered. "He ate them. He told me straight out. But he's not crazy, he's not. He just … I don't know. Maybe it's a midlife crisis or something — you read about those in the paper."

"Why is he headed into surgery then?" asked Rupert. "Was it the oleandrin in the oleanders?" he asked, referring to the cardiac glycoside toxin found in the flowers.

"No," she said, crying harder now. "It was my cacti."

"Your cacti?" Rupert asked, now feeling faintly queasy.

"I begged him not to eat it, but he wouldn't listen to me," she said. "He was crying as the cactus spines dug into his mouth, but he kept chewing and swallowing. Then he started throwing up blood. It was horrible."

"And, has he ever displayed this type of behavior before?" asked Rupert, again already knowing the answer.

"No, I usually can't even get him to eat salad. He's never been much into plants," she said, then, catching herself, "well, spliff. But that was the '60s. Everyone was doing it."

Chuckling softly, despite his efforts to remain professional, Rupert quickly got hold of himself again and clarified, "I meant, has he ever displayed odd eating behaviors before? Eating non-food items?"

"No, never," said Bethan.

"Has he come across anything odd lately?" asked Rupert. "Any odd people or objects?"

"Why?" asked Bethan, growing suspicious again.

"Well," dithered Rupert, "sometimes odd behavior can be brought on by a chemical or some other foreign agent such as a germ or a parasite. Has Gareth traveled anywhere unusual for him recently?"

"No," said Bethan, after contemplating his question. "Nothing like that. I don't know why he's doing this."

"Well thank you very much," said Rupert soothingly. "Would you like me to walk you back to the waiting area?"

"No, I can find my own way," said Bethan, before pulling back the curtain just enough to squeeze out.

Rupert remained for a moment and took a deep breath. He hated having to talk to people for his job. He knew he was good at it. He could get anyone to tell him anything — but that was the point. It always reminded him of his days of irresponsible and destructive youth, when he was abusing drugs and demons. He had been incredibly manipulative then … and it had resulted in the death of a friend. He much preferred to remain behind his desk for the near future, but he knew he would never get a Slayer assigned to him if he only remained behind a desk. After taking another deep breath, he pulled back the curtain.

And saw the man from before standing there smiling cockily at him.

Rupert felt his hackles rise; he did not like eavesdroppers. "So, how long have you been standing there like that waiting for me to open this curtain?" asked Rupert conversationally but with a hint of danger in his voice.

Ignoring his question, the man said, "You're pretty good at interrogating witnesses, especially about the extraterrestrial." Extraterrestrial? wondered Giles, What? "But you're clearly not with MPS. You work with UNIT," stated the man confidently.

"And what in tarnation is UNIT?" asked Rupert.

That seemed to throw the man off a bit. He had been so sure that this pretend-copper worked for UNIT. Now he felt somewhat unsure of himself. Well, the man wasn't going to let this stop him. He wanted answers and he would get them, even if he had to charm the pants off of the pretend-copper in front of him … literally. Putting on his most charming grin, he extended his hand for a shake. "Jack Harkness, Torchwood, nice to meet you."

Rupert hesitantly took the man's hand. "Rupert Giles," he said, not offering any more information.

"And who do you work for, Rupert?" asked Jack.

"Whom," corrected Rupert absent-mindedly. It had become second-nature to him to correct people's grammar; he could never abide misuse of the English language and, in his estimation, Americans were the worst offenders.

"All right," said Jack gamely, starting to lose his patience a little. Patience had always been one of the virtues he lacked, making his immortality quite the hassle sometimes. "For whom do you work, Rupert?" asked Jack with a catch of snark.

"I don't see why that should be any of your business," replied Rupert. "I also don't see what allows you to think you have the right to eavesdrop on me and my conversations."

"It's my job," said Jack, shrugging, not offering more.

"Yes," said Rupert, "with — what did you call it? — Torchwood?"

"Yeah," bit off Jack. "And as your employment is none of my business, I don't believe mine is any of yours."

"Agreed," said Rupert, as he pushed past Jack and out of the hospital.

Jack was left standing there, wondering what had just happened. Usually he gained the upper-hand rather quickly, but this man had undercut him rather easily.

Rupert returned to his motel room and quickly called one of his buddies, Harlow, at the Council, cashing in a favor. Within a few hours he would know everything the Council knew about Jack Harkness and Torchwood.

~ x ~ x ~

Jack Harkness was in a foul mood. Who did that other guy think he was? Cardiff was Jack's territory. He had been doing this job for a long time — too long — and he didn't need some young punk to come in here and mess with him. And he would call that guy a punk, with his hair just a tad too long — still neat, but with a hint of rebellion. He had a mark on his earlobe that Jack could have sworn was an earring hole. And just the man's attitude.

As much as he hated to admit it, Jack was kind of turned on. He found the man arrogant, obnoxious, disruptive, and sexy. It was moments like these that Jack cursed his libido; couldn't he just be angry like a normal person?

Returning to the Torchwood headquarters, Jack headed over to the research department. "Hey, Andrea," he said flirtatiously to the woman who worked in records. They had been sleeping together for a few months now and, because of that, Jack always got the information he needed. The other agents did not understand why Andrea always gave Jack what he wanted without delay but always made them jump through hoops filling out paperwork … although Jack thought they were beginning to catch on. Agent Tolo had recently bought Andrea some perfume. "Andy, I need all the information you can get on one Rupert Giles. The guy sounds English — kind of a BBC accent."

"Sure thing, Jack," said Andy, smiling. "Can it wait a half hour though?"

"I guess," said Jack. "Why? What are you doing?"

"I think you mean: 'What are we doing?'" asked Andy, dragging Jack into a storage closet.

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