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Metal Tears for the Tin Man (9/27)



Several hours later they emerged from the undergrowth, disheveled and sweaty. There had been no trace of the queen butterfly, but they had found several more dead animals and four more cocoons. "At least we're keeping the population down," Ianto commented as they carried the containers back to the SUV. "And Tom's back from the morgue, so he's getting started on the cocoons we have at the Hub; he'll transmit data as he gets it.

"One thing though... considering the size of the one that came after you, there should be more dead wildlife around. Now maybe it dissolves them as it feeds or something, but it doesn't make sense from an ecological standpoint."

"Could be cocooning them, creating a food cache for its young," Jack suggested as he walked along next to Jones', carrying his own containers. "Which isn't creepy at all, is it?"

"Depends how like our butterflies it is," Ianto murmured as they reached the SUV. "It's the worms that spin the cocoons there, to house them while they metamorphosize. The butterflies, really, they just exist to procreate and lay eggs."

"I don't even want to think about the size of those caterpillars!" Jack grimaced. "Like alien tapeworms - not pleasant! But seriously, our butterflies drink nectar, correct? So far we only have bodies - animal and human, but I haven't seen any creepy crawly critters. Which begs the next questions - what do alien caterpillars eat? Maybe they're the carnivores. I think we're food. I think we're dealing with alien vampire butterflies."

"Why can't the ones that come through ever just be pretty and benevolent?" Ianto sighed as they reached the SUV and he opened the rear hatch so they could load their samples inside.

"Now where would the fun be in that?" Jack laughed as he added his own cases next to Jones'. "Where's your sense of adventure, Jones? Isn't this better than a desk job?"

"Anything would be better than that," Ianto gagged, slamming the hatch and walking around to the driver's side, unlocking the doors before climbing in. "Desk job." He shuddered at that. "Just kill me if that ever happens."

Jack felt a chill chase its way down his spine, and he had to fight to stop himself hyperventilating. Didn't mean it, didn't mean it, don't think about it, Jacko, just don't think about it, he ordered himself sternly as his hand trembled on the door handle. This wasn't his Ianto, and Jones had no way of knowing what Ianto's job function had been in Jack's universe, nor did he know the pride Ianto had taken in his work. All Jones really knew was that Ianto had been Jack's lover and now he was dead.

It didn't stop it from feeling like an eternity for Jack to get himself under control, but when he looked up, Jones was only just noticing that he hadn't gotten into the SUV yet. Pasting on Jack Harkness smile number 5, the 'I'm a big damned hero, look beneath the surface at your own risk' one, he climbed into the car. "So, back to the lab then and let the good Dr. Milligan have a crack at our little bastards?"

"And see what he's found about the bodies," Ianto nodded, starting the SUV and heading back to the Hub. "I'll also get in touch with the police and news outlets, issue a warning to stay away from the parks after dark."

"Oh goody, nothing like staking out Cardiff parks at night," Jack replied with insincere enthusiasm. "Just don't pair me up with Ross again. I may not live to see the morning, given the current state of his, shall we say, frustration."

"He's on Rift duty, so I think his not-quite virginal ears are safe from your comments," Ianto said dryly. "No chance on pairing you up with Jake, so if you want to go out, it's going to be with Tom or I. Not going to be out all night either way or we'll all be too fagged to think straight in the morning."

"Gee, thanks," Jack replied dryly. "Believe it or not, Jake and I do more than just fuck, and I'm pretty sure I can control myself on the job. But suit yourself, doesn't matter to me. I'm just the consultant, after all."

Ianto cut a sidelong glance at that. "Not talking about your control."

"Care to elaborate as to what you are talking about, then?"

Ianto sighed, his lips pressing into a thin line at having to explain the situation. "Jake is in lust, and keeping him away from temptation is the easiest way to deal with the situation."

"While I'm more than happy to take the compliment, Jake and I are just friends with benefits, as the saying goes," Jack said after a few moments. "He's just acting like a dog in heat to yank chains. Honestly, we talk as much, if not more, than we actually sleep together."

"Glad to hear it." Conversation dwindled after that, and they drove the rest of the way to the Hub in silence. The group, minus Jake who hadn't returned from the police station yet, gathered in the office so Tom could go over what he'd found.

"The couple died from the same type of poison as our Roger did," he announced, bringing up a complicated looking chemical formula. "This is what was injected into the victims. It's nothing I've ever seen before, but it works by shutting down the circulatory system almost instantaneously. Toxic stuff; if I can get a sample of it, I'll work on an antivenin, but it would have to be administered within seconds of the bite to work."

"Well, that puts paid to my idea of using us as a food source," Jack sighed. "Why would you want to poison what you planned on eating?"

"Who's being eaten, then?" Jake piped up from the entranceway, a wide grin on his face.

"Didn't get much out of PC Andy and PC Gwen, I'm afraid, even on the ride back when they were out of earshot of the officials. Beat cops are being kept in the dark, and not even the detectives seem to know what to make of this. Their coroner's report came back claiming it was neurotoxin, which has the constabulary on very quiet high alert. I had to pull rank and tell them Torchwood was handling it and they were to continue keeping it hush-hush – no leaking it to the media and the public, or there'd be hell to pay from on high," he reported as he came to stand between Ianto and Jack, who were looking over Tom's shoulders at the formula.

"No one's being eaten," Jack replied before any further comment could be made. "PC Gwen… as in Gwen Cooper? Well, if anyone could dig up what was going on in the higher ups, it would be her, so if she can't get the dirt, they're really playing close to the vest."

"You knew her then?" Jake asked.

"Recruited her myself – I'd rather it wasn't done a second time around, if it's all the same to everyone. The less my worlds collide the better for my sanity. I'm quite happy with the status quo as it is right now. There are enough differences that I don't think about it most days."

"Right then, note to self – don't suggest PC Cooper gets recruited," Jake replied. "That what our poison looks like then?" he asked, looking at the detailed formula on Tom's screen.

"That didn’t take long," Ross commented as he studied the slowly rotating molecule.

"Analyzed it, still need to see what I can do with it," Tom answered. "Looking at our specimens will help."

"We've got some more for you," Ianto commented, glancing over at Jack as he spoke. "Found a dead sample of what probably comes out of the cocoons, and Harkness climbed a tree to get some more cocoons – also found what may be the primary infestation: big mother of a butterfly, seemed to want to hit on Harkness."

"Nah, not my type. I try to stay away from venomous life forms. Now if we were talking about an inhabitant from the Forest of Cheem... mmmm, what those sentient trees can do with their branches," Jack expounded, more to yank Ross' chain than anything else.

"Oh God, is he going on about sex again?" Ross groaned.

"With trees," Tom nodded.

"But apparently venomous bugs are beneath him," Ianto added with a small smile.

"Christ," Ross moaned before getting back to business. "All right, checked back over the records for the last three months, the pattern started showing up three weeks ago, centralized in one location first, then spreading out from there. It hasn't increased in strength, always staying low and in the background, but the quantity of signals has increased every two weeks."

"So what are we looking at?" Jack asked. "An infestation maybe? Our little buggy friends found a new hole to crawl into and ended up on this side of the Rift? Do we know it's the actual creatures coming through, or could it be a communication of some kind, like 'come and get it' signal?"

"But we've only had one big bug sighting," Jake pointed out. "You know, when it tried to eat your face. So maybe something else."

"But what?" Tom added. "We're still missing puzzle pieces. This doesn't make sense yet."

"So we gather data, hopefully try to catch one of them alive," Ianto mused as he straightened up. "Tom, after you get your samples, send some to London so they can work on the antivenin as well."

"Can I requisition a giant flyswatter?" Ross asked.

"Irradiated butterfly nets," Jack suggested with a perfectly straight face. "No, how about butterfly prods?"

Tom snorted even as he closed down the program he'd been running. "You'd find a way to do something sexual with it, so, no."

"Actually..." Jake began but then stopped at Ross's death glare. "Never mind – but it was me, not him, just to set the record straight."

Jack burst into laughter at that. "Jake, I think it's safe to say that that record is anything but straight!"

"Oh for fuck sake!" Ross growled. "Enough already! Please. I can't take the torture anymore."

Jake was about to open his mouth again when Jack laid his hand on the other man's arm. "Okay, fair enough. Moving on to other topics, according to the 'boss' here, Ross has Rift duty, so, Tom, looks like you have either Jake or me to partner with for our little midnight strolls through Cardiff's parks. Any preference?"

"There are six parks; wouldn't it be easier it we each took one?" Tom asked.

Ianto looked around the group, not saying anything for the moment.

Jack was almost ready to open his mouth but reined himself in last second. "Not my call," he said with a careless shrug. "I'm gonna call Rose and find out how things are going in London. Someone let me know what my assignment is, okay?" he said easily, knowing he needed to escape fast before he tromped on Jones' toes again and tried to take command.

Jake looked after Jack with a puzzled look on his face. "What was all that about?" he asked after a moment. "This have anything to do with your argument last night?"

"That was about keeping in contact. I'm going to keep him safe, not dictate how he wants to help. I'd rather have him paired with Tom tonight. I'll be at Rhia's, but I'll have my patch on if you need to get in touch with me."

"I'll keep him safe," Tom cut in before Jake could voice his opinion.

Jake shook his head but held his tongue. If the rest of the team was determined to think that Jack couldn't take care of himself - a fact Jack seemed to be supporting through his actions and attitudes, which was another thing that Jake didn't get - then who was he to interfere? If there was one thing his life had taught him, it was to roll with the punches, so roll he would.

"Right then, we split them in half, yeah? I'll take the west half of the city, and you two can have the east half. I'm gonna go and start loading the SUV; I'll probably head out a bit earlier just to be safe," Jake finally said with a cheerful smile. "Enjoy your time with the family, Ianto; give the rugrats a kiss for me, and tell that lout of a brother-in-law he still owes me twenty quid on the Man U game he bet me on."

"At least you didn't take his odds that he kiss your ass if they won," Ianto chuckled before growing serious. "If you find something, call me; I'll only be fifteen away, and we don't want to hear that you got mugged by a butterfly."

"Knowing Jake, he might like it," Ross snickered.

"Not bloody likely!" Jake retorted, smacking Ross upside the head. "And thanks for the offer, Ianto, but I've been taking care of myself longer than I care to admit. I'm not gonna get done in by a butterfly. But," he continued as his friend and team lead was about to open his mouth, "if I do find myself in a situation I can't handle, I will give you a shout. Okay?"

"Do that, or I'll have to kick your cold, dead arse around the park a few times," Ianto commented.

"And then you'd leave me to pick it up," Tom grumbled.

"Oi, no picking me up when I'm dead and can't enjoy it," Jake shot back with a cheeky grin then loped out of the room before Tom could get half out of his chair to retaliate.

"No matter how much we see, how much he's seen, he's still a bloody brat, isn't he?" Tom groused good-naturedly. "God help the poor bastard he settles on, having all that attention focused on him," the doctor said with a shake of his head as he stood.

"Well, I'd best go round up my partner and let him know we'll be working together tonight. Don't worry, Ianto, I won't let Harkness die no matter how invincible the good captain would like us to think he is."

"If you do, you can explain it to Rose and Doc," Ianto laughed, "and don't forget to watch your own back; I'm not having Martha come after me!"

After Tom left, Ianto turned to Ross. "I won't bother to tell you what you already know, but if something shows up, let me know."

"So Rhia can kick my arse for disturbing your family dinner?" the younger man groaned.

"Would you rather I kick it?"

"Good point," Ross grinned, "now go play Uncle Ianto, and spoil those kids, so she takes her ire out on you," he ordered his team lead, shooing him out of the office cum monitoring station so that Ianto could go get ready.
As he changed into civilian clothes and gathered up the presents he'd brought for his niece and nephew, Ianto switched gears mentally, putting aside the job with the same ease he would pick it up again at the end of the evening. After a final check with Ross, who simply yelled at him for bothering, Ianto headed out, whistling down a cab and giving the driver the address.

***

Two weeks later they were no closer to catching the killer butterflies though at least there had been no more deaths. Tom was on Rift duty, and the others were all asleep when the sudden sharp blare of the alarm sent them tumbling from their beds, throwing on clothes as they raced toward the monitoring room, almost colliding with Harkness as he barreled down the stairs.

"Big spike," Tom explained before anyone could ask. "Near where the initial pattern started."

"Right, gear up and let's get out there; we can monitor the status as we go, nip this in the bud," Ianto announced before looking over at Jack. "If that's all right, boss," the last was thrown in coolly.

Jack sighed and cursed inwardly. Donna was one hell of an assistant, but that mouth of hers was going to be the death of him. "I told you before, Jones, this is a field op; we're in the field; and you're lead field agent. I haven't even signed a contract yet, so guess what, you're still in charge," Jack replied stiffly.

"However, if it makes it easier for you, I'm staying here to monitor the Rift. Go and be big damned Alpha team heroes or whatever it is you do. I have paperwork to take care of." With that Jack spun on his heel and stalked from the room, making a bee line for his room and the files that were waiting there for him in the small office area he'd set up there, the door slamming shut behind him.

He wanted to go. Fuck, he wanted to go so badly he ached, but he didn't need the attitude either. So they could handle it themselves, and he'd stay here and stay out of it. Forcing himself into one of the club chairs in the small sitting area of the room, Jack grabbed the first folder off the top of a box of files Rose had sent up for him to familiarize himself with and determinedly ignored anything going on outside his door, no matter how much his instincts were screaming at him to be involved.

"Ianto..." Jake began, making the other man curse.

"Fine, I get it, handle it." He stomped after Harkness, rapping firmly on the door to Jack's room and ignoring the loud 'go away' he heard from inside.

"Ross is staying here to monitor the readings; he can feed us the info we need, so it looks as if we need a fourth, and it looks as if you need some field time. We're leaving in five."

"Don't do me any favors, Jones," Jack growled. "You and your team are quite capable of handling things without me, and we both know it."

Why did it bother him so much, the fact that Jones had done a Jekyll and Hyde just because he'd found out about Jack's promotion? Rank and position had never mattered to Jack; titles were just that – titles – and ultimately unimportant in the grand scheme of things. That's how it had been with his team… but this wasn't his team any more than it was his world, really. He was the outsider. End of story.

And yet… the cool looks and frosty tone of voice that Jones had been using on him still bothered him more than he either liked or wanted to admit. Fuck, how had the arrogant son of a bitch gotten under his skin so fast? It was like he was in cosmic freefall and heading straight for a gravity well; he could no more resist Jones' gravitational pull than he could the black hole. And the end would probably be exactly the same – he'd be completely destroyed and be forced to rebuild himself millimeter by painful millimeter thanks to his particular affliction. What was it about Ianto Jones that Jack felt the unerring pull towards the man time and again, no matter what the universe nor what the previous outcomes had been?

"You've made nice; I've turned you down. You're relieved of the burden of playing nice. Now don't you have some alien to hunt?"

Fed up with talking to the other man through the door, Ianto pushed it open and lounged in the doorway. "I don't make nice, Harkness; I state facts. Now are you coming, or do you want to sit and wallow? You say you want to see what the team can do; this promises to be more active than this damn butterfly hunt we've been on."

"That depends," Jack replied after a moment. "You gonna keep acting like a complete dick just because I let Rose and Doc talk me into doing a job I'm damned good at? Oh, and let's not forget the whole treating me like a damsel in distress thing, either - that definitely has to stop," he continued, watching Jones for a reaction.

"That depends," Ianto said easily, "you going to let us find out important news through the gossip chain rather than from the source?"

"I had my reasons this time," Jack replied honestly, if evasively. "But in the future, no, you'll hear it from me first. Good enough?"

Ianto nodded at that. "Good enough. Now are you coming with us or staying back with the paperwork?"

Jack knew he should stay out of it, let the Wild Boys do their thing and pull back; after all he was trying to change the path of his life and all that shit but... "I fucking hate paperwork - always have. Let's go," Jack grinned, grabbing his coat from the stand and ushering Jones out ahead of him.

Comments

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
tartan_tarte
Nov. 29th, 2009 03:59 pm (UTC)
Yay! Another great chapter. Always look forward to your posts! :)
rina_angyl
Nov. 29th, 2009 04:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much!
nicolec78
Nov. 29th, 2009 06:08 pm (UTC)
This update made my day! Another wonderful chapter. You are writing these characters so well. I can't wait for the next chapter.
rina_angyl
Dec. 1st, 2009 05:49 pm (UTC)
More is definitely to come - Angyl just has to get through the chapters so our beta can read them over LOL she keeps pushing for more too, and she's 4 chapters ahead of what we've posted!

Thanks!
traciaknows
Nov. 29th, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC)
Good stuff folks! I'm still loving everything--- can't wait for the next update.
rina_angyl
Dec. 1st, 2009 05:50 pm (UTC)
Aww thanks!
100px_x_100px
Nov. 30th, 2009 05:57 am (UTC)
I was so glad to see your post.

I just love this dance Jack and Ianto are doing, It seems to be some form of Apache Dance. Hopefully, it will be morphing into the Tango soon.;)
rina_angyl
Dec. 1st, 2009 05:51 pm (UTC)
Mmmm, those descriptions just sent my mind to very pretty places! Of course considering my mind is on serious cold meds at the moment the visions could quickly turn strange ;)
rina_angyl
Dec. 4th, 2009 03:51 pm (UTC)
Hehehe - with these two it'll be more of a salsa (or a samba or pasodoble) - hot, steamy, and seriously sensual! purrrrrrrrrr!
kasu_chan
Nov. 30th, 2009 06:50 am (UTC)
Oh, I loved the chapter. Angry!Ianto is always amusing... I'm looking forward to the next one :)
rina_angyl
Dec. 1st, 2009 05:53 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! Glad you're enjoying growly Ianto - you'll see more of him in the future!
rina_angyl
Dec. 4th, 2009 03:53 pm (UTC)
Angry!Ianto always gets Jack hot and bothered - hey, the man gets turned on by a gust of wind if it hits him right ;-) ::laughing::
owensheart
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:04 am (UTC)
Oh excellent chapter, cant wait for more.
rina_angyl
Dec. 1st, 2009 05:54 pm (UTC)
Glad you're hanging with us!
rina_angyl
Dec. 4th, 2009 03:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! Much more to come, we promise!

~Angyl at work~
amalee1
Dec. 1st, 2009 01:53 am (UTC)
*sighs* I'm totally addicted to this story
rina_angyl
Dec. 1st, 2009 05:55 pm (UTC)
I hope you consider it a good addiction ;) We'll try to keep it fed regularly ::looking over at Angy and the list of chapters she has to go through::
rina_angyl
Dec. 4th, 2009 03:56 pm (UTC)
Ooooh! I've never been the cause of an addiction before - is it wrong that this pleases me greately? ::laughing::
Glad you're enjoying the story!

~Angyl at work~
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )