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Metal Tears for the Tin Man (7/27)



Abbreviations:
SOP: Standard Operating Procedure
COD: Cause of Death


***

It was the third park out of three search locations, not merely a coincidence any longer and not monitored by CCTV, how very convenient that. Tired of playing it safe, Jack had been out of the car before Ross could even put it in park, saying they'd cover more ground if they split up and to keep their comlinks open. Which was the reason why Jack was blithely ignoring Ross's grumbling voice echoing from his wrist strap as he poked around an isolated area of the park near the epicenter of the readings for this location.

"Trees, trees, and more trees," Jack muttered. "Oh look, a dog pissing on a bush and a dead owl, gross. Hunh. Dead owl." Owls were predators, so they usually only died of old age or when hunted by bigger predators. This one looked young, healthy and in its prime. So why was it dead? More importantly, why hadn't a scavenger already consumed it?

Going on instinct, Jack scaled the tree under which he'd found the owl, not sure what he was looking for but knowing he was on the right track.

"Harkness? Harkness!" Ross growled, easing through the trees in search of the other man, coming to a halt when he found himself staring at the barrel of a pistol. "Just me, mate. You went quiet on me."

"Yeah, well, I don't feel the urge to talk every waking second," Jack retorted. "We have any bag and tag equipment in the car?"

Ross nodded and tilted his head to the side, trying to see what was behind Jack. "What'd you find?"

"Dead owl and… something else, a cocoon of some sort, and it was definitely not made by local flora or fauna. Can you grab them, and let Jones know while you're at it? I'm going to climb a few more trees while you're gone to see if I can find another cocoon, and when you get back, I'll collect the sample I've found in this one."

"Climb – just don’t fall out on your head; you'd be hell to drag back to the SUV," Ross sighed as he turned to head back to collect the equipment and contact the rest of the team.

"Is the entire team made up of mother hens?" Jack asked, not expecting an answer. "Sheesh. I'm older than Methuselah, have died more times than the Doctor's regenerated, and still I'm being henpecked. I don't get it."

***

"Ross says that Harkness found something, some kind of cocoon and a dead owl," Ianto told Jake as they worked their way through the underbrush in an overgrown park area. "They're bringing them back to the Hub for – " He fell silent and held a hand up before pointing toward a hand sticking out from beneath a bush.

"I think we found something a little bigger than the owl," was Jake's only comment as he drew his sidearm and began to slowly walk forward, all senses on high alert. "No sign of movement in the surrounding area. Should we wait for Ross and Jack to back us up?"

Ianto gave a sharp negative shake of his head. "Too far away. Keep your eyes open, and I'll check it out." Drawing his own pistol, he prodded the hand with his booted foot, crouching down when there was no reactive movement.

"Deceased," he called out after checking the wrist for a pulse. "Not totally cold so it happened some time in the night." He pushed back the branches of the bush and frowned as he studied the shabbily dressed elderly man's body. "Looks homeless. He's got some kind of rash on his neck, not sure if it's related to the COD. We're going to have to bag him and take him back to the Hub, let Tom get a look at him."

“Bloody hell,” Jake groaned. “I hate bagging duty. It’s the reason I went into munitions, not medicine! Nothing left but little bits after things go boom.”

Grumbling half-heartedly under his breath, Jake made his way back to the car to get the body bag, gurney and gloves. As he did so, he hit the com to advise Tom of their discovery, figuring that Ianto would want to inform the other team himself.

Across the city Jack listened to Ross’s one-sided conversation with Jones, his attention sharpening when he heard 'body' and Ross asking if they needed back up. “I take it they found a stiff?” Jack interjected, tapping Ross’s arm to get his attention. “Tell them to carefully look in the trees in the surrounding area. They’ll be looking for a cocoon of sorts. They won’t be able to miss it – it'll look like a decoration from a parade float – brightly colored, translucent and almost crystalline in consistency.”

Ross rolled his eyes at being the ‘monkey in the middle’ of this conversation but did as Jack asked. “Ianto, Jack wanted me to ask you to look in the trees surrounding the body…”

“And tell them to wear hazmat gloves if they find one,” Jack interrupted again, making Ross shoot a fast scowl in his direction. Jack just grinned and continued on blithely. “That one I found was coated in a mild acidic compound. Ate the first couple of layers off my hand by the time I got down to drop it in the bag. Good thing I’m ambidextrous or that might have been an issue.”

The SUV swerved slightly as Ross took his eyes off the road completely to glare at Jack. “This is something I do not need to know!” he all but snarled at the other man. “And why the hell didn't you tell me when it happened? You might need medical attention!" Ross railed. "And it's bad enough I get this shite from my team, but if you start on me, Harkness, so help me…”

“I didn't tell you because it wasn't anything that wouldn't heal, and I was referring to the fact that I may need to relieve myself thanks to the three cups of coffee I had this morning. You’re a little tense, Ross; is there a problem?” Jack informed the driver far too innocently to be truly believed.

The younger man scowled, and after muttering under his breath about being surrounded by nutters who had no right to be getting more than he did, Ross relayed the message, keeping his eyes on the road ahead of them in the hope that Harkness would get the hint and stop nattering on.

The two teams made it back to the Hub, delivering their discoveries to Tom, who looked back and forth from the dead man to the three cocoons, Ianto and Jake having found two in the area around the decedent. "Which would you rather have me look at first?"

"The corpse," Ianto said, shooting Jack a glare when he started to speak at the same time. "Let's find out what killed him before we get into those buggers. They can go in the stasis chamber until we're ready so we don't get any nasty surprises."

Jack held up his hands in mock submission. “Far be it from me to interfere with what the boss says to do,” he replied, his voice full of barely restrained amusement.

“However, would it be possible for me to get a topical analgesic from Tom before he starts cutting into the body? My palm currently feels like it’s been rubbed raw, and while not painful, exactly, it’s kind of aggravating.”

“Harkness!” Ross groaned. “You said it wasn't bad. And would you knock it off with the innuendo, would you? Else I might be tempted to find out first hand if you really can’t die forever.”

"Wot the hell were you two doing out there?" Jake asked even as Tom grabbed a tube of the requested ointment and tossed it to Jack, who caught it one-handed.

Ianto sighed and shook his head as he carried the containers with the cocoons to the stasis chamber, set them inside and turned it on, keying the lock to open at his code only - with his luck Harkness would convince Jake to include them in some kind of sex game if he didn't secure them.

Jack burst into laughter, at both Jake’s reaction and Ross, who’d turned to bang his head against a nearby wall in frustration. “I followed my gut, climbed a tree and found a cocoon. Once Ross got the bagging gear, I grabbed it to bring it in. It started to itch right away, burn about halfway down, and by the time I’d put it in the container Ross had grabbed from the vehicle, I’d lost a couple layers of skin. Better that than dropping it,” Jack said with a shrug. “Besides, it’s already starting to scab over – which is why it itches like a son of a bitch right now.”

Jake sighed and, with a shake of his head, grabbed the ointment from Jack's hand. “C’mon, you daft bugger. You might be bloody talented with those hands of yours, but this time I think you’ll need a little help t’get the job done.”

“I thought we all were on duty?” Jack murmured quietly, eyes crinkling at the corners with suppressed mirth as he and Jake bantered back and forth. “Wouldn’t want the ‘boss’ to ream me out for not following orders.”

Jake bit back a moan, shook his head as if to clear it and took a reluctant step back. Leave it to Jack to step up the game and make him want things he couldn't have until his next night off. “Yes, we are on duty, and no, you wouldn’t want him to, considering you don’t do that,” he shot back with a shaky laugh. “C’mon – we’ll go into the infirmary to take care of this.

“Mmm, I always did have a thing for doctors…” Jack’s voice trailed off as he watched Jones walk back into the room, a scowl still firmly plastered on his face. It made Jack’s heart beat slightly faster, much to his consternation. That was another of those roads he wasn’t going to go down, dammit. Besides, he wasn’t a long term commitment kind of guy. It was hard to be when you never grew old and died while your partners did. And then there was the whole issue of this being Ianto Jones - nothing like falling for your dead lover's doppelganger to fuck with your head even more than it already was. Nope, Jack was definitely through with commitment, relationships and anyone named Ianto Jones. He might be lonely, but he'd be safe – and sane.

“However, for the good of the job, and Ross’s sanity, I’ll behave. Besides, I wouldn’t want to get you in trouble with the boss,” he drawled lazily. “C’mon, let's get me patched up and back out there so no one thinks I’m molesting you behind their backs.”

"Or in front of them," Tom commented between dictating notes about the body in front of him into the recorder.

"Ross, why don't you go over to the local constabulary, see if they have any information regarding any other suspicious deaths in the area," Ianto said, deciding the youngest member of their team needed a break. The locals were supposed to let Torchwood know about anything odd, but sometimes things slipped through the cracks.

"On my way," Ross breathed thankfully, practically racing out of the autopsy room.

"You'd think he'd learn that if he didn't react as much, Jake would tone it down," Tom chuckled.

"You'd think that, wouldn't you?" Ianto laughed, donning a spare surgical gown and gloves, then leaning against the wall and watching the taller man work. "Let me know when you need a hand."

Tom nodded absently, already immersed back in his work, calling Ianto over when he required assistance in removing the chest plate and various organs.

After Jake had finished washing, slathering and bandaging his hand and had gone to check on the armory stocks, Jack took a second to look in on the morgue where Ianto was busy with Tom. He didn’t stick his head in or offer to lend a hand because it wasn’t needed. The team worked well together and cohesively. It made him feel a little bit redundant, truth be told.

However, it also gave Jack some ‘alone’ time without one of the Wild Boys underfoot. Time enough to slip out and look in on one last team member before he called Rose and gave her his answer. Jack figured there was no sense delaying the inevitable. He wanted this, dammit, wanted back in the game even if it was only as a desk jockey.

Slipping quietly out a side door, Jack turned off his wrist strap and headed towards his last 'goodbye'. During his week in Cardiff Jack had spotted a nearby flower shop, and it was a rare, sunny day in the City, so instead of grabbing a vehicle, and quite possibly having Jake volunteer to go with him, Jack set out on foot. The walk to the hospital was an easy one, and the solitude would give him time to get his thoughts in order.

Stopping long enough to pick up a dozen pink cala lilies, Jack made his way to the Llandough Hospital and, after flashing his Torchwood badge, let himself into the catatonic patient’s room. “Hello, Suzie, my name is Jack Harkness, and once upon a time in another universe you and I worked together.”

***

It was past midnight when the proximity alarm beeped, letting Ianto, who had Rift duty that evening, know someone was approaching the Hub. He glanced up from the book he had been half-reading, watching the screen as Harkness walked into the building. There hadn't been any Rift activity that evening, and the samples Tom had removed from the dead man were still being processed, so he'd had plenty of time to contemplate just what tack to take regarding Harkness' disappearance. It didn't matter if the man was on his team or not; he was part of Torchwood, and that meant he was Ianto's responsibility whether they liked it or not. Vanishing without a fare-thee-well and then turning off all communications - that didn't go over well, not in the least.

Jack let himself into the Hub as quietly as he could. He probably owed Jake an apology for taking off like he had, but he didn’t really feel like explaining where he’d gone or why, so instead of heading to the barracks, he headed towards the upper level and the guest room he'd commandeered when Delta team had been evacced. Jack had come to Cardiff in order to let go of his past - a past no one but Rose and John truly knew about or understood - and he really didn’t feel like sharing all the gory details of how each member of his team had ended up dead save one with all and sundry, even if he was sleeping with one of them.

Besides, it had been a rough day, and Jack was feeling more unstable than he had since first arriving in this universe. It had been rough, seeing Suzie and knowing that even without his involvement she had still found her way into Torchwood and she'd still allowed her obsessions to control her. It seemed that some people truly couldn't be saved no matter what the circumstances.

Then again, some things did, Jack thought with a smile as he thought back on the conversation he'd had barely an hour ago. After leaving the facility where Suzie would spend the rest of her days, Jack had wandered the city for hours, lost in thought. He hadn’t even noticed the setting of the sun, and it had only been when his stomach rumbled that he realized he’d been gone for the better part of the day. Parking himself in a local fish and chip shop, Jack had ordered dinner and called Rose.

***

“Rose Tyler-Smith's office,” Donna’s voice had sounded in his ear.

“Hey, Red, why are you still at work?”

“Jack! How are you, beefcake? Things all right? I’m working a bit late because Ru’s taking me on an extended weekend to meet his family – not a word out of you!”

“Wouldn’t dream of it. At least tell me he’s good in bed.”

“Ooooiiiii, watchit you!”

Jack chuckled at that. “Patch me through to Rose, will you, Red? And have a great time.” Jack listened as the phone clicked over and then was picked up again. “I’m in. Start the ball rolling, beautiful. You have yourself a new head of Field Operations.”

"Paperwork went out yesterday, you prat," Rose laughed. "We knew you wouldn't say no."

"Please don’t tell me I'm getting predictable in my old age," Jack groaned.

"No, we just knew you wouldn't be able to resist that particular carrot, which was why we dangled it," Doc chimed in. "Torchwood is in your blood, Jack, as is protecting people. And you're good at it. You just needed time to realize that and to heal. Now you can start saving the world again and let Rose and I get back to making babies…..OW!"

"Jack, I'll call you tomorrow. Right now I need to have a talk with my husband," Rose growled in the phone before disconnecting the call.

***

And so it begins again, Jack thought to himself with a wry chuckle as he made his way up the stairs to his room. At least Rose would give him some breathing room to adjust to the idea – as well as give herself some time to break it to the teams – but by the time he went back to London, everyone would know that Torchwood was now led by three people – John and Rose Tyler-Smith and Jack Harkness. Drumroll please.

"Next time you take off, leaving your communications program open would be a good idea," Ianto commented mildly from the doorway to the monitoring room.

Jack pulled up short at the sound of Jones's voice, sucked in a sharp breath and schooled his expression into the laid-back mask he wore when he didn't want people to see anything but the surface. "Well, technically now that you've assumed command, I'm back on vacation agai…" Jack's words died in his throat as he finally looked up and caught sight of the other man leaning casually against the doorjamb. Jones' arms were crossed over his chest, and he'd crossed his legs at the ankles too, his hip and one leg bearing his full weight. The fatigues were standard issue for this Torchwood, although his were a little too snug to be truly decent, and his t-shirt was also standard issue black – except it looked about a size too small and highlighted every muscle on the man's torso from his rock hard abs to the bulging biceps and… holy fuck, was that a tattoo on his right one? Not good. So very not good!

"You're here, that means you check in, unless you want to... give up on our little mystery," Ianto shot back, his tone still even.

"I did check in," Jack replied, his voice going positively laconic. "With Rose and Doc. Had a long conversation with them too. Donna's meeting Ru's family his weekend, by the way. Looks like it's serious."

"Good for them." A hint of frustrated tension crept into Ianto's voice. "Check in with the team where you are; it makes life simpler and saves me having to waste manpower sending someone out to find you."

"Did you ever consider that maybe I didn't want to be found for the short span of time I've been gone?" Jack was starting to get annoyed now. "I came here to take care of some personal business, and while I'm all for helping out where I can, I'd already delayed my plans once thanks to Delta's pizza fiasco. Don't get me wrong, I'm having a blast doing fieldwork again, but this was none of anyone's business but my own. Now that it's done, the communicator stays on for the duration, but today was non-negotiable. Now if that's all, Mr. Jones…"

"Actually, it isn’t, Captain Harkness," Ianto snapped, straightening up and stepping out of the doorway. "I have no desire to snoop after your gallivanting, but you will leave us a way to get in touch with you, do you understand? If that’s too much trouble, I would suggest you head back to London and run around there."

Jack's fists clenched as he went from being mildly annoyed to fucking pissed in the space of a heartbeat, and he had to force himself to relax, let the tension drain away and shut himself down. "I was at Llandough Hospital visiting a woman who in my universe had been my second in command." Jack's tone was pure ice. "She's in the Lalanfair Unit – feel free to check; it's a Torchwood Psych Ward. I used my ID to get in to visit. Patient name is Suzie Costello. Apparently she played fast and loose with some alien tech and ended up catatonic. I spent most of the afternoon with her, and surprisingly enough after watching such a brilliant woman lie there, nothing more than a drooling, empty shell, I really didn't feel like going out and fucking the first thing that moved. A miracle, I know. Now if you'll excuse me."

"Christ, Harkness, all it would have taken was a few words, a note, something and to leave the fucking com on. You didn’t have to answer it, hell, I don’t think anyone would even have called you, but we would have been able to fucking find you if we needed to!" The volume of Ianto's voice had risen even as the tone turned harsh.

"Message received loud and clear – hell, I think they heard you in the barracks. Good night, Jones!" Jack growled as he stalked past the younger man, tired of politely waiting for the conversation to be over.

"You are such a fuckwit," Ianto growled, looking as if he was torn between strangling Jack and something else.

"And you're an overbearing pussy, so what's your point?"

"If we're all so fucking useless, why are you hanging around? Why are you staying here? You could have come to Cardiff, and no one would have been the wiser."

"I didn't say you were useless," Jack retorted, surprise killing the annoyance in his voice. "I said you're an overbearing pussy. I actually happen to think you've got a great team with amazing instincts. I'm the one who's feeling useless right now. As for why I didn't just come to Cardiff – I don't want to be in Cardiff. I came here to bury the past; why the fuck would I want to try and resurrect it?"

"I meant to visit, not to stay," Ianto pointed out, regaining his hold on his temper as well.

"I hate to break it to you, Jones, but I was staying somewhere else in Cardiff. Donna was the only one who knew where I'd gone, and when Delta went down, she told, and Rose called me. Donna was my way of making sure that Rose and John didn't worry. They tend to do that when I disappear. Anyway, when Rose called and briefed me, I checked out of my hotel and came here to keep an eye on the Rift."

Ianto drew in a deep breath and ran his hands through his hair as he blew it out. "I understand that this situation is difficult for you, and I'm not trying to add to it, but we need to be able to get in touch with you. If you need privacy, just let someone know, and the only thing that will make us call you is the impending explosion of the Rift. Is that acceptable?"

"Not as difficult as I thought it would be," Jack said with a shrug of his shoulders. "And the last bit of business is taken care of, so I won't be disappearing again. You've got my undivided attention. I'll be a good boy and follow the rules from now until we get back to London. You're the boss," Jack finished with just the faintest bit of malicious amusement in his voice.

Jack had a sudden vision of the shit hitting the fan once Rose told Jones about his new role in Torchwood; however, he really did want to see the Wild Boys handle the situation with Jones calling the shots. Chances were that if he told the younger man of the new change in command, then Jack wouldn't have the chance to find out just what this team was capable of on their own.

"So glad you realized it, now get some rest, Harkness. Briefing at 0600."

Biting back the urge to laugh as Jones ordered him about, Jack threw a mock salute towards the younger man and made his way into his room before he could give in to the urge to laugh. Jack could already predict the coming explosion and, oddly enough, was looking forward to seeing it. "Definitely not my Ianto," he murmured with a bittersweet smile as he closed his bedroom door behind him. "But I'm learning to live with that. And I'm sure as hell not forgetting you, Ianto, I promise."

Out in the hall, Jake, Ross and Tom relaxed slightly as the situation seemed to defuse itself below them. True to Harkness' words, the yelling match had made its way into the barracks, and the three men had come out to make sure things didn't get too explosive. "Oil and bloody vinegar, those two," Ross muttered with a shake of his head. "Actually more like plastique and a detonator. It's almost impossible to accept that in his universe Ianto was Harkness' lover."

"Oh, I don't know about that," Jake replied quietly. "You know what they say about opposites attracting and all that. I have a feeling that Jack's the sort of guy that you want to stick around – even if it's just for his prowess."

"Again with the sex talk," Ross groaned. "Prick, you know I'm not getting any!"

"Hit the rack, you lot," Ianto yelled in their direction, his volume much lower than he'd used before. "It's not the bloody Eastenders in here."

"No, it's Queer as fucking Folk!" Ross yelled back with a chuckle. "Drama queens and divas everywhere. And our very own pretty princess with his very own tiara."

"Die, Jenkins," Jake snarled, rounding on his friend in order to kick his arse, only to have Ross dance away and make a beeline for the barracks. "You're Weevil meat, you bastard!"

"Christ, can I go sleep in one of the SUV's?" Tom sighed as Jake tore after Ross, the two of them making more noise than Ianto and Harkness had at the height of their argument.

"Drug them," Ianto snorted, sending Tom off to try to get back to sleep and turning to go back into the monitoring room, his mind whirring with questions he knew he wouldn’t get answers to.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
100px_x_100px
Nov. 20th, 2009 11:05 pm (UTC)
LOL! It's amazing how well you've managed the "guy talk". It's one of the many things I love about this story.

You've got Jack down so well and Ianto is intriguing. If he had been in a filed position and in charge of others this Ianto is very well the one we could have seen on our screens.
rina_angyl
Nov. 25th, 2009 06:13 pm (UTC)
Aww thanks!

Angly does do a mean Jack and I've tried to develop Jones with the idea of what Ianto must have been like before the mess with Lisa (and with the need for adventure )

Rina
traciaknows
Nov. 21st, 2009 02:22 am (UTC)
Is it wrong that I want to hear more about Jones' tattoo? lol!

I'm still loving this... I like how there's a battle of attraction on both Jack and Ianto's parts. It would have to be so difficult to deal with a situation like the one that they're in. I really like that Jack still talks to his Ianto.

As always, I can't wait for more. :D
rina_angyl
Nov. 25th, 2009 06:15 pm (UTC)
More details about the tatto(s) will come

Glad you're enjoying it, Angyl and I had long conversations about just how Jack would react to another Ianto and vice versa, especially one who knew of his past.

Thanks so much!

Rina
nicolec78
Nov. 22nd, 2009 04:05 am (UTC)
I love the latest updates. I'm completely addicted to this story. I can't wait for more.
rina_angyl
Nov. 25th, 2009 06:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! More is coming soon, maybe for Thanksgiving ;)
hab318princess
Nov. 23rd, 2009 10:52 pm (UTC)
I'm really enjoying this... great twists
rina_angyl
Nov. 25th, 2009 06:16 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Glad you're enjoying it!
owensheart
Nov. 25th, 2009 03:00 pm (UTC)
Just caught up these last two chapters, great as usual.
rina_angyl
Nov. 25th, 2009 06:16 pm (UTC)
More to come soon too, thanks!
amalee1
Nov. 26th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
This is one of my favorite fics. I love your Ianto and the Wild Boys in general. There interactions are wonderfully male! Can't wait to see more updates!
rina_angyl
Nov. 27th, 2009 01:35 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! The boys are a blast to write (can you tell that I live in a houseful of males and Angyl has three brothers?) and we're glad you're enjoying them and the story!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )